As his hand was raised and he was announced as the regional champion at 215 pounds, Rogers City's Andrew Selke felt a strong sense of accomplishment; like everything he had worked hard for had finally come to pass.
With his regional win, Selke qualified for the individual wrestling state finals which begin today at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Selke will be joined by teammate Jake Sobeck and if he wins he'll be the Hurons' first champion at 215 pounds.
Selke's journey this season from helping the Hurons win a North Star League to becoming a district and regional champion to becoming a state qualifier has been a remarkable one. An injury robbed him of his entire junior wrestling season and he spent more than six months in rehab and trained during the summer to get back to top form.
News File Photo
Rogers City’s Andrew Selke (left) wrestles Mancelona’s Tristan Waters during in an opening-round match at 215 pounds during a Division 4 regional in Rogers City. Selke, the regional champion at 215, is one of several local wrestlers taking part in the state wrestling finals which begin today in Auburn Hills.
"It's been very rewarding. It feels really good, like a lot of my hard work is paying off," Selke said.
Selke remembers the moment he was injured like it was yesterday. It was Sept. 28, 2012 and the Rogers City football team was playing at Hillman. Selke was announced as part of the Hurons' starting lineup and ran out on to the field. He went up for a chest bump with a teammate, but when he came back down he crumpled to the ground.
Rogers City not only lost the game, but Selke's fall and winter sports seasons ended in the blink of an eye. He had torn the ACL and meniscus in his left knee and was facing a long period of rehab if he had any hopes of playing sports again.
Local wrestlers participating in the individual wrestling finals
- RJ Centala, Alpena140 pounds
- Andrew Selke, Rogers City215 pounds
- Jake Sobeck, Rogers City140 pounds
- Casey Watson, Onaway189 pounds
- Joe Traynham, Onaway112 pounds
- Isaac Nave, Onaway119 pounds
- Scott Blamer, Mio152 pounds
- Colton McGregor, Mio215 pounds
- Patrick Stephens, Mio103 pounds
Doctors told Selke he needed at least three months of rehab and once he completed that, Selke felt like there was more he could do so he put in another three months. Selke made a strong recovery and eventually got clearance to wrestle again. He spent the last part of the wrestling season doing some drills, but there was only so much he could do on a newly rehabbed knee at that point.
Perhaps the best training Selke received during his rehab process was sparring with former Huron wrestler Devin Pommerenke. Pommerenke won state championships at heavyweight in 2009 and 2010 and was on track for another state title as a senior until he ruptured a tendon in his knee.
If there was anybody who could sympathize with Selke's situation, it was Pommerenke.
"He was a really good workout partner and a good wrestler," Selke said. "He went through the same thing and he was somebody I could talk to because he knew what I went through."
Selke entered his senior season anxious to get back on the mat, but admits he was a little nervous before his first match. Whatever nerves Selke had didn't seem to affect him match as he won his weight class at the St. Ignace Lions Invitational and helped the Hurons finish second overall.
Having a wrestler like Selke as an anchor in the upper weight classes has been a huge benefit for the Hurons, especially in a weight class like 215 which is a spot with top talent on many teams. Rogers City's coaches kept an eye on Selke, especially early in the season, but they too have been impressed with his recovery and the season he's had.
"It (215) is a tough weight class. You have to get to a point where you're feeling comfortable and not wrestling with apprehension,"Rogers City coach Pat Lamb said. "Andrew's having a fantastic season. He's had a couple of glitches, but for the most part, he's been at the top of his game."
Selke (49-5) will wrestle New Lothrop's Dakota Clark in the first round today and if things go according to plan, he'll eventually reach a semifinal showdown with Laingsburg's Kevin Koenig, last year's state runner-up and the top-ranked wrestler at 215 this season. Selke is ranked No. 2 in 215 and he'll be among a group of 16 wrestlers that includes Detroit Loyola's Patrick Harbin, Hudson's Jake Morgan and Jonesville's Jon Rodriguez who are ranked Nos. 3-5 respectively.
It's a tough group to be sure, but with all that Selke has been through, he's just ready to go out and prove himself once again.
"I'm focused and ready to go and hit the mats," Selke said. "It's state level, so these guys are good and you can't look past anybody."
Regardless of how his high school career ends this weekend, Selke will be remembered by those in the wrestling program for his perseverance, dedication and commitment to his teammates.
"He's a team guy and just beloved by people that know him. He's very pleasant to be around. He's like the Pied Piper," Lamb said. "He's been a thrill and a joy to coach. I'm so happy for Andrew that he has the opportunity to be a state champion for Rogers City and for himself."
James Andersen can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews