David Helfrich signs letter of intent to wrestle at Lehigh University

SHHS senior David Helfrich Thursday signed a letter of intent to study engineering and wrestle at Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Penn.

The 18-year-old is the son of Ken and Marti Helfrich of Sweet Home and is one of 11 children.

“I’m excited about the opportunity,” Helfrich said, as mat coach Steve Thorpe looked on. “It’s a new start. I like the idea of designing structures and laying out things.”

Helfrich’s scholarship is worth approximately $35,000 per year.

Lehigh University is located 50 miles north of Philadelphia and 75 miles southwest of New York City. Its student body population is approximately 6,500 students. The university is private and its engineering program is highly regarded nationwide.

The school’s wrestling program is equally potent, currently ranked No. 7 nationally in NCAA division I.

Coach Thorpe said the combination fits Helfrich to a T. Coach Thorpe is also impressed with Lehigh’s head mat coach, Greg Strobel.

“He’s an OSU grad and coached the 2000 Olympic freestyle team,” Coach Thorpe said. “His assistant, Kerry McCoy, is an Olympian and placed fourth at the world tournament.”

As a freshman, Helfrich was taken under the wing of three No. 1 state ranked grapplers–T.J. Paul, Chad Zurcher and Tony Lopez–and their encouragement and training has paid dividends, Coach Thorpe said.

“They took David into their workout group. His work ethic comes from those guys and his parents,” Coach Thorpe said.

Helfrich qualified for the state tournament his freshman year behind Paul at 145 pounds. Although he didn’t place, he gained valuable experience and was a member of the state championship team.

“I told David his sophomore year that he needed to develop a strong takedown,” Coach Thorpe said. “He worked very hard at it all year and into the spring.”

That effort paid off.

As a sophomore he was a district champion at 152 pounds. That summer he was a Cadet Freestyle state champion at 167, placed fifth in Cadet Greco, fourth in junior freestyle, and was Cadet All-American in Greco.

His junior year, Helfrich was the district champion at 171 pounds, was named the Capital Conference outstanding wrestler and was a runner up at the state meet.

Thus far his senior year, Helfrich has posted a 12-0 record.

“David has become such an offensive wrestler that he doesn’t let his opponent get a chance to work his style,” Coach Thorpe said. “He’s a good person, a great leader and a great young man.”

Coach Thorpe said Lehigh University is familiar with the Husky mat program. They showed interest in former Husky heavyweight Andy Ellis a year ago. Ellis went on to Linfield College where he had a strong football season last fall.

This year, Lehigh flew both Helfrich and teammate K.C. Stokes back to Bethlehem for a campus visit. Stokes is looking toward Stanford University in California but Helfrich said he liked what he saw.

“It’s a beautiful campus,” Helfrich said. “The buildings are English Tudor style. Lots of ivy on the bricks and the leaves were beautiful.”

Helfrich takes a strong academic background to his new school, posting a 3.89 GPA thus far at SHHS.

“My family and friends have always given me great support,” Helfrich said. “Coach Thorpe has really helped me with not only wrestling but with getting to college.”

About Lehigh wrestling… Greg Strobel is in his seventh year as head coach. During his days at OSU, Strobel won two NCAA titles. In 2000 Strobel coached the U.S. Olympic team. He led the 2000 Lehigh team to an EIWA championship and finished seventh at the NCAA championships. The team finished 18-5. He was named freestyle coach of the year in 2000.

In six seasons, Lehigh has had 13 All-Americans and 10 national champions. In 1998-99 the team was ranked 8th nationally in the Academic All-American Poll.

In 1999 the team won the EIWA’s Good Sportsmanship Award.