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Published: Monday, 2/14/2011

Bedford grad Ortman grapples with success

He meets challenge at Eastern Michigan

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Alex Ortman, right, was Monroe county Wrestler of the Year as a Bedford senior. Alex Ortman, right, was Monroe county Wrestler of the Year as a Bedford senior.
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Alex Ortman arrived at Eastern Michigan University two years ago with a winning pedigree.

The Bedford High graduate claimed Michigan state wrestling championships as a junior and senior. The talented grappler completed a stellar high school experience with a 200-12 career record.

Ortman, who was named the Monroe County Wrestler of the Year for his senior year as a Mule, wants his college experience to reflect his high school experience.

Bedford coach Denny Brighton is in his 16th year coaching the Mules. He considers Ortman as one of the most exceptional wrestlers he's ever worked with.

"You don't get many over your coaching career like him -- a two-time state champion," Brighton said.

After finishing fourth in state as a 145-pound sophomore, he followed that by winning the 152-pound state championship as a junior before closing out his high school career by winning the 160-pound state championship.

Ortman completed his high school career and headed to EMU not exactly your conventional, textbook-style wrestler.

"Alex is probably my best pure athlete I ever had," Brighton said. "As far as his agility and balance, he could break the fundamental rules and still come out smelling like a rose."

The Eagles' 165-pound sophomore owns a 5-4 overall record this season, but his 5-0 dual meet record is tops on the EMU roster. He's one of only two Eagles wrestlers who have not been defeated in a dual match this season.

Ortman's high school coach hasn't been able to see him wrestle because the Eagles' and Mules' seasons coincide during the winter. He believes Ortman has the tools to be successful in college, but also recognizes Ortman's challenges are greater at the collegiate level.

"I thought he had a tremendous opportunity [attending EMU]," Brighton said. "But if you're not on your A game, it can be tough because the kids are so close in talent."

Ortman's first year at EMU resulted in finishing fourth at the 165-pound class at the MAC Championships. His freshman campaign included plenty of learning and adjusting to college-level competition. It also required making the adjustment to college life in general.

His first college season didn't play out the way he would have preferred, but he still managed to end the year with an overall 17-11 record, including a team-leading 3-2 showing against MAC competition.

EMU wrestling coach Derek DelPorto said Ortman continues to make strides as a wrestler and student athlete. He didn't wrestle in his first year at EMU and concentrated on his academics after arriving as a nonqualifier academically, which required him to sit out of athletic competition as an incoming student.

Ortman has had to adjust to wrestling against stronger and more skilled wrestlers during his first two seasons of being eligible for competition. He's not a starter, but serves as EMU's No. 2 165-pounder behind a fifth-year senior.

"He's done really well from that," DelPorto said. "It's a perfect example of how Division I college wrestling is so different from high school wrestling.

"I expect him to do pretty well in the next couple years."

Ortman has also filled in at times in EMU's lineup at the 175- and 184-pound weight divisions this season.

"He's not one of our starters right now, but he's doing well enough for us that we can put him in wherever we have to," DelPorto said.

Contact Donald Emmons at: demmons@theblade.com, or 419-724-6302.



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