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Fruitport wrestlers back on top, despite being a few down

Duncan MacLean • Feb 9, 2017 at 12:23 AM

FRUITPORT — For the first time since 2014, the Fruitport wrestlers are district champions.

The Trojans took on their Division 2 district bracket at home on Wednesday, first defeating Kenowa Hills, 47-27, then downing Coopersville, 54-24.

“It feels really good,” Fruitport head coach Rick Sykes said. “I’m really proud of these guys, they fought through quite a bit of adversity over the past couple weeks, so I’m really proud of them.”

Sickness descended on the Trojans like an ill-timed plague as they approached the postseason, limiting participation for some wrestlers and eliminating others from district competition all together.

“It’s an energy draining sickness that is just running through my team right now,” Sykes said. “It was rough out there at times, but they pushed through.”

The holes in the lineup proved to be manageable, with young wrestlers adapting to high-pressure playoff spots.

“You get used to one thing, and now you are trying to get used to new people in the lineup that aren’t normally there,” Sykes said. “We talked about that next-man-up mentality. You have to come up and do the same job, that is why we practice on each other every day, to make each other better, so if something happens it is next man up and fight on.”

Despite the killer mindset, Fruitport nearly didn’t get the chance to fight on. The Trojans began the night trailing Kenowa Hills, 5-15, in the opening round.

The Knights took a pinfall victory at 103 pounds over Connor Sykes to kick off the district tournament. A forfeit to Zachary Sykes evened the score before a gap in Fruitport’s lineup put them down by six.

David Ross of Fruitport fell by minor decision in the 125-pound fight to put the Trojans behind the eight ball.

The turning point came at 130-pounds with Christian Straley.

“I was a little bit worried,” coach Sykes said of the Kenowa Hills match. “I thought the big turnaround match was at 130. Christian Straley against one of their top guys. I thought that really got us going again.”

Straley’s pin victory spurred the meat of Fruitport’s lineup back into winning form. Dominic Dault took the next match by fall before Bailey Lynn picked up six forfeited points to put the Trojans right back in the mix.

The rest of the first round passed without issue. Chris Hutson took a pinfall at 152 pounds and Levi Six picked up a forfeit before Crue Cooper nabbed a pin at 171 pounds. Derek Monje and Dallas Rodgers finished off the match with forfeit wins in the heavyweight fights.

After dismissing the Knights, the Trojans earned a bout with Coopersville in the title round. The second match would prove as tough a beginning as the first for the depleted Fruitport roster.

Zachary Sykes took the first match with a pin, but the Trojan lead would halt there.

Coopersville would take the second match by forfeit and the third by pin, putting them up, 12-6. Straley and Dault took forfeits before Deven Kirsch fell in the 140-pound fight, tying the match up at 18 apiece.

Once again, a narrow Trojan victory was enough to spur on the rest of the lineup.

Bailey Lynn took a 6-3 victory at 145 pounds, kicking off a second-half shellacking of Coopersville. The Trojans would take six of the final seven matches by pinfall with Hutson, Six, Cooper, Monje, Rodgers and Connor Sykes picking up wins.

Six, Fruitport’s standout senior, said the momentum shifts were huge for his team.

“It helps a lot, if you have your team in a match with you, it really helps out,” he said. “There were a couple matches, like Christian Straley against Kenowa, that really turned the momentum and got the team going.

“It feels really good. We have being working at it all year. We came up short in our conference championship goals so it feels good to get it done here.”

The Trojans will now turn their attention to getting healthy ahead of this weekend’s individual district tournament and next week’s team regional competition against Lowell.

Spring lake wrestlers compete at district championship

The Spring Lake wrestling team also took on the district tournament at Fruitport on Wednesday night, facing off with eventual runner-up Coopersville in the first round. The Lakers would fall by a final score of 28-51.

Spring Lake’s wrestling program has endured adversity of its own, with a coaching change coming mid-season amidst dwindling numbers.

The Laker grapplers represented well at districts, despite giving up 24 free points.

“We are giving up a lot of weight classes with a young team, said the Spring Lake head coach. “I’m happy with a lot of the stuff from these guys.”

Schafer Bailey and Caleb Swenor took wins for the Lakers at 119 and 160 pounds, the rest of Spring Lake’s points came by forfeit.

Josef Hissom, the Laker’s standout senior wrestler, was among those to grab free points. Hissom and his teammates now turn their attention to the individual district tournament this weekend.

“I’m expecting some of our upperclassmen to have good weekends,” Spring Lake’s coach said. “Josef (Hissom), Hunter (Rose), Caleb (Swenor) and Jamie Holt. Those guys are wrestling really well right now. Some of the guys in the middle are wrestling well too, so I’m expecting them to wrestle well on Saturday.”

With dwindling numbers, team success is not within reach for the Lakers, but stressing the lessons learned on the mat and self-improvement are paving the way for a victorious future.

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