ALBANY — The transformation is complete. Wantagh wrestler Jonathan Loew is a state champion.
Loew used a crossface cradle to pin junior Jhordyn Innocent of East Ramapo in 1:13 to capture the 195-pound title Saturday night before more than 4,500 at the Times Union Center.
“It’s as great a feeling as I thought it would be,” said Loew, who finished his senior season with a 53-1 record. “I felt that all the hard work really showed in this tournament. It felt routine really. I hit the first takedown and got him to his back for the five-point lead. Getting that first takedown allows me to start to flow and have fun.”
The road to the top started for Loew as a tall and skinny seventh-grader in the 99-pound weight class. But as he said, “I was a seasoned seventh grader on varsity because I wrestled so much in the youth program.”
Loew’s career ended impressively Saturday night as he won four straight bouts in the state tournament.
“It’s an oddity, very unusual to see a wrestler move so many weight classes in his career,” said Wantagh coach Paul Gillespie. “But he’s grown so much over the years and he’s very athletic. He’s dedicated to the weight room, a real big weight lifter, and the bigger and stronger you get the easier it becomes.”
Gillespie, in his seventh year at Wantagh, also coached 19 years at Long Beach and said he can see Loew growing into a national title contender at Cornell.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a heavyweight in college,” Gillespie said. “He’s not finished growing by any means. He knows how to wrestle like a lighter guy. He’s so quick on his feet.”
Loew was not tested in the state tournament, winning by fall, injury default and cruising to a 10-4 win over fourth-seeded Johnny Santos of Fox Lane in Saturday morning’s semifinal round.
“I felt like I had the horsepower throughout the tournament,” said Loew, who will study business at Cornell. “I felt like I was faster than my opponents and just as strong. But I still look at every opponent the same way and go through anyone that stands in front of me.”
Loew, a two-time Nassau champion, earned three trips to the state tournament in his career. He was a wild-card entry as an eighth-grader. He finished third in the state as a junior.
“He climbed a little bit every year,” Gillespie said. “And he capped a wonderful high school career with a championship.”
Loew raced from the mat after the win and climbed the stairs to greet his Dad Irwin, for a big hug.
“I love my Dad,” Loew said. “He gave up so much of his time to drive me everywhere and spend all his money on my training. He’s as much invested in this as I am. Getting me out of bed on Sundays is not easy, especially in season when the body is hurting.”
Loew is Gillespie’s 11th state champion.
“What a great kid,” said Gillespie, whose team won the state team title. “Jon led us all season.”