When Vermilion wrestler Mike Repko injured his elbow while practicing early in his senior year, the thought of even continuing with the sport — let alone landing a Division I scholarship — was the furthest thing on his mind.
But his decision to give it one more chance paid off. First, with a Cinderella run through the Division II sectional, district and state tournaments that found him competing for the 152-pound championship against Toledo Central Catholic’s Alex Mossing. Repko lost 3-2 to Mossing in the state final. And second, with his signing a letter of intent Tuesday to continue his wrestling career at Cleveland State.
“It’s been a crazy ride,” Repko said. “To go from training real hard with my coach and wind up hurting my elbow again to here doesn’t seem real. When that happened, I didn’t think I’d ever wrestle again. My parents convinced me to come back and not have any regrets, and it turned into a great decision.
“To even qualify for the state tournament was big, but to get all the way to the state finals and come within a point of winning the match was tremendous. A lot more colleges showed interest in me after that.”
Repko said that he had primarily gotten offers from smaller schools about playing football prior to his state run. But as soon as he stepped off the podium at Ohio State’s Value City Arena on March 1, he heard from a lot of wrestling coaches.
“I got a lot of letters and phone calls, saying they were at state and watching my run and how blown away they were by what I did,” Repko said. “I didn’t have any colleges talking to me about wrestling prior to that, mostly about football. But I fell in love with the sport all over again after going through the postseason. Now, I can’t wait to get started at Cleveland State.”
Repko, who plans on majoring in physical therapy, sports management or business at CSU, said the school’s size and proximity to Vermilion were big factors, along with familiarity. Head coach Ben Stehura wants Repko to wrestle at 157 pounds and doesn’t know if he’ll redshirt his freshman year or not.
“It was real close to home and there were coaches there I knew,” Repko said. “(Elyria graduate) Stevie Mitcheff is a post-graduate assistant coach there and I’ve known him for a long time. I also know a lot of the dudes that wrestle there. It’s just a great program that I wanted to be a part of.”
Repko wouldn’t be the only Lorain County native on the Vikings wrestling team. Lorain’s Amon Willis (junior heavyweight), Midview’s Zach Frambach (freshman 174) and Elyria’s Alex Parker (freshman 149) all return to the mats this winter. Repko said he’s friends with Parker, having wrestled with him while attending Elyria High.
Repko said the reaction from the Vermilion community and his family has been positive.
“They were all really excited for me, especially since it’s a D-I school,” Repko said. “From Vermilion, you don’t really see a lot of D-I prospects coming out of the school. My teammates and teachers were all very excited for me, so it was nice to have the support from them.”
Repko said Ohio University, Appalachian State and Mount Union were also in the mix.
Cleveland State finished fifth in the Eastern Wrestling League last season and went 3-11 in dual meets.
As far as his elbow is concerned, Repko gave it a clean bill of health.
“The elbow feels real good, better than it did before,” he said. “I was supposed to have Tommy John surgery, but I was like, ‘No way.’ I’ve just been resting it and taking care of it on my own.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.