Former Indian Valley wrestler Loht wins D3 title
MECHANICSBURG – Extraordinary results require focus, attention and time.
Extraordinary results demand that you set a priority and act on it.
Extraordinary results rarely are happenstance. They come from the choices we make and the actions we take.
For Messiah College wrestler Kaleb Loht, his choices and actions led him to the pinnacle of his sport – a national championship.
Loht capped off an amazing junior campaign with a 6-3 victory over Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Matt Adcock in the 141-pound finals of the NCAA Division III National Championships, held in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, last weekend.
“There was a lot of emotion, but I didn’t have too much going on in my mind after I won. I could not comprehend it. That night, I couldn’t fall asleep. I was still hyped up,” Loht said. “Now that it’s sunk in, I don’t feel a whole lot different. I’m still the same Kaleb I was before this. It’s great winning the national championship, but I don’t feel it fills a void or anything like that.
“It adds a little bit of pressure for next year being defending national champion. I have to ignore that. I can’t look at it that way. The road to 2015 starts now. Winning the national championship has to be put in the past. I have to look forward to what’s coming in 2015 and try and defend my championship.”
In the finals, Loht’s goal was to get the first takedown and work from there. Mission accomplished – a late first-period takedown made it 2-0.
“He came out with heavy hands. He was amped up. I don’t know if his emotions got to him or not. I knew I needed to get the first takedown,” Loht said. “I got the snap down, go behind in the first and eventually got up 5-1. He got a takedown to make it 5-3, but I wasn’t too worried . I knew he couldn’t turn me. I definitely think it (the first takedown) was a big difference in the match.”
Loht finished the year 48-1 and his career record now stands at 117-12, fourth on the Falcons’ career wins list. He is only the second national champion in school history. Mike Helm won the title in 2000 at 157 pounds.
Loht began the tournament as the top seed and didn’t let the pressure of being the favorite hamper his wrestling.
The junior pinned Ferrum’s Logan Meister in 5:55 in their pigtail match. He followed that up with a 7-3 victory over Ithaca’s Dominick Giacolone in the first round and then scored a 9-5 victory over Matt Holmes of Loras in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, he took care of Michael Ferinde of Johnson & Wales by a 10-3 decision.
With the title in hand, Loht became the first Mifflin County wrestler since Warren Stewart captured the 142-pound Division II crown for Liberty University in 1988 to win a national title in wrestling. Stewart was a 1981 Lewistown graduate.
“It’s awesome to be a product of Mifflin County. I love Mifflin County and I love it that I could go out of the area and do something to bring honor to Mifflin County and the sport of wrestling,” Loht said. “I follow Mifflin County a lot. Coach (Kirby) Martin is a Messiah grad and he helps me in the summer, pushing me to get better. I hope to be an example to show that even if it doesn’t happen in high school there is always opportunity in college.
“I’d like to give a shout out to Mark Daubert. He is the reason I can go and compete in these situations. Mark took me under his wing and took me to all these different tournaments around the country, on his own dime. It’s the reason I didn’t get nervous on the big stage. I was prepared for it, thanks to Mark,” Loht said.
Loht came to Messiah after a stellar high school career at Indian Valley, where he compiled a 97-17 career record with three trips to the PIAA tournament, earning a sixth-place medal as a senior. Once at Messiah, he racked up a 38-6 mark as a freshman and 31-5 as a sophomore.
The hope for Loht is his success will bring more quality Pennsylvania kids to Messiah and eventually bring the Falcons a coveted national team championship.
“With Pennsylvania being a great state for wrestling, a lot of state place winners feel they have to go to Division I wrestling. Even though Division I is the best wrestling around, hopefully this will show some of the kids they have another avenue they can take,” Loht said. “Pa. wrestlers are what we need to build this legacy at Messiah and that’s what we need to do to compete with teams like Wartburg (2014 D-III Champs). We got third so we are going to try to take them down. We have a shot to do that next year.”
To improve his skills even more, Loht spent last spring and summer wrestling in Bulgaria. The experience he picked up wrestling out of the country was invaluable. Ironically, during the freestyle season, he faced off with Adcock, his future national finals opponent.
“Last summer, I went to wrestle freestyle in Bulgaria, He was on the trip with me. We were teammates. We wrestled in the finals in a tournament there and he beat me.” Loht said. “I’m fairly good on my feet, but I needed work on top. The trip over their helped my top. In freestyle, you have to do a gut wrench or leg lace and you need a lot of forward pressure to turn someone. That helped me this year with my riding and my overall work on top.”
Wrestling is a year-round sport, but Loht will take some time off before getting right back to work for next season.
“I’m on spring break right now, so it’s nice to get the week off after nationals. I have off the rest of March and then its right back at it again in April. I’ll be continuing to work with Coach Martin over the summer to stay in shape,” Loht said.
It took discipline, hard work, as well as years and years of wrestling for Loht to accomplish his goal. In the end, discipline and habit ultimately intersect. Though separate in meaning, they powerfully connect to form the foundation for achievement-regularly working at something until it regularly works for you.
When you discipline yourself, you are essentially training yourself to act in a specific way. Stay with this long enough and it becomes routine-in other words, a habit.
Kaleb Loht stayed with wrestling, disciplined himself, and where it took him was all the way to the top.
All the way to a national championship.