November 23, 2014

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Wrestling: Lutheran West assistant OK after heart stopped

 If “heart” is one of the components needed for a good wrestling program, then Lutheran West should consider itself lucky it has such a strong one beating in the chest of assistant coach Harry Dennis.
Dennis, who lives in North Ridgeville, collapsed during the championship round of the Joe Searcy Memorial tournament at Bedford High School on Saturday and needed a defibrillator to get his heart beating again.
“I didn’t hear them say my heart had stopped until we arrived at the hospital,” Dennis said. “I thought to myself, ‘That can’t be right.’ I didn’t think I was out that long.”
The on-site trainer and physician immediately attended to the fallen coach and managed to revive him. He was then rushed to Bedford Hospital.
“The doctors at the hospital said that everything that could go right did,” Lutheran West head coach Dave Ressler said. “They said the trainers at the tournament did everything perfect.”
Dennis had just finished watching his son Colin, the Longhorns’ senior captain, win the 119-pound championship when everything went wrong.
“There wasn’t any warning,” the elder Dennis said. “I stopped to talk to one of our wrestlers, started to stand up and just passed out.”
The coach said the two men who rushed to his aid were also the instructors of a sports medicine refresher course he took recently at the Cleveland Clinic.
“So they obviously knew what they were talking about in that class,” he said.
Dennis said he is trained to use the machine that saved his life. It goes with the territory of being in the business for so many years. He ran the youth program at St. Clarence in North Olmsted for 10 years, winning a city championship, and was an assistant at Holy Name before coming to Lutheran West.
Dennis, who wrestled at Lakewood High and was a state qualifier in 1959, has moved from place to place in support of his son, whom he’s had a special bond with since Colin’s mother died when he was just a child.
“I’ve been his father, mother, cook and chauffeur since he was 7,” Dennis said. “So I guess (Saturday’s incident) did bother him.”
While the save went smoothly, the search to find out what went awry inside Dennis has come up empty.
“They can’t find anything wrong with me,” Dennis said. “They’re really baffled. They keep referring to me as ‘The miracle man.’”
Dennis, who expects to be released from the hospital today, said the doctors plan to treat his unknown ailment chemically.
“They’re going to give me pills like Lipitor, to keep my cholesterol down, and the usual stuff like that,” he said. “They’re going to give me a pill that makes sure my heart keeps its normal rhythm.”
Ressler said Dennis is already itching to get back into the coach’s chair. After all, the Longhorns were a big part of his recovery process.
“They brought the whole team up (to the hospital) after the tournament,” Dennis said. “They all wanted to make sure I was OK. That really lifted my spirits.”
Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or sbennett@chroniclet.com.