The Spring Lake and Fruitport wrestling teams took on the team district tournament at Fruitport High School on Thursday, along with Muskegon and heavy favorite Reeths-Puffer.
The Trojans fell in the opening round to the Rockets, while the Lakers handily defeated the shorthanded Big Reds. In the finals, Spring Lake faced their own roster issues, giving up four empty weight classes in the meat of their lineup. The open matches combined with Reeths-Puffer’s overpowering talent added up to a 67-12 loss for the Lakers, but just fighting for the title was prize enough for the young squad.
“For the seniors, they have never gotten past the first round, so to wrestle in the district finals is a big deal,” Spring Lake head coach Dan Robinson. “I preach to these guys that they should get used to wrestling at this stage now. In the next few years, I want us to win a few. This should be the new norm.”
“It feels really good to get here,” Spring Lake senior Hunter Rose said. “It feels like the wrestling program is really growing.”
The finals got off to a tough start for Spring Lake, as the Rockets took pins over two of their top wrestlers in Caleb Swenor at 171 pounds and Hunter Rose at 289 pounds to go up 12-0.
Sam France hit the mat next with a vengeance, pushing Brett Thomas of Reeths-Puffer to his limit before falling by minor decision to give Thomas his 100th career victory and put the Lakers down, 15-0.
The Lakers responded heartily, as Dylan Henshaw took his second pin fall victory of the day at 285 pounds with a first-round downing of his opponent in 1 minute, 30 seconds for six points.
Jack Parker followed at 103 pounds, scoring another pin fall over Connor Bloomstrom in a blistering 20 seconds. The quick pin put Spring Lake back in contention, 12-15.
From there, the Rockets took over, scoring technical falls over Jacob Blawat at 112 pounds (20-4) and Jamie Holt at 125 (17-2)
Connor Montgomery at 119 and Schafer Bailey at 130 both fell by pin to bring the Lakers into the dead zone of their lineup.
Evan Driggs finished off Spring Lake’s day on the mat with a pin fall loss at 160 pounds.
“Going into the 122 match, we are right there, 15-12,” Robinson said. “We are just a little short on numbers still. That isn’t to take anything away from Reeths-Puffer, they are a great team loaded top to bottom. That is probably the best team I have seen them have in my 16 years of coaching.”
It was a different story in the opening round, where the Lakers pulled off a 60-18 defeat of Muskegon, despite an early deficit.
After forfeiting 152 pounds to begin the match, Driggs fell by pin in a hard-fought 160-pound match. From there, the Lakers ripped off four straight wins.
Eric Dunlap got things started with an inspiring turnaround. After trailing 9-2 in the third round, Dunlap flipped the switch and pinned his opponent to get the Lakers on the board, 12-6.
Rose followed with a second-round pin in 2:35, before Sam France pinned his opponent in 3:09. Finally, Dylan Henshaw made quick work of his 285-pound bout, pinning his heavyweight opponent in 1:37.
The Lakers picked up forfeits in the next three fights before Jamie Holt put together another first-round pin at 125 pounds in 1:39. Schafer Bailey finished off Spring Lake’s opening-round effort with a pin in 1:49.
“We bring back from 103 through 140 next year,” Robinson said. “We have some young pups that are gaining experience and some guys in the eighth grade that will likely jump right into the lineup. The future looks good.”
Under the weather
The Fruitport wrestling team had to deal with big-bad Reeths-Puffer in the opening round, a team they have become quite familiar with over the course of the season.
“This was our fourth or fifth time seeing Reeths-Puffer this year, so we know each other very well and knew what to expect,” Fruitport head coach Rock Sykes said.
On top of their prior experience with the Rockets’ expertise, the Trojans brought a devastated lineup into the tournament Thursday, with nearly half of their wrestlers out with sickness or injury.
“We had five starters out due to injury or sickness. Very unfortunate timing,” Sykes said. “It would have been nice to have them and compete a little bit more, but we knew how good Reeths-Puffer is.
“I told my guys to concentrate on the matches we had filled tonight and to go out there and try to make some wins.”
The result was a 51-21 loss to Reeths-Puffer, with wins coming where they could for the Trojans. Right off the bat, Zechariah Richardson took it to his challenger at 160 pounds, earning a 4-1 decision to put Fruitport up, 3-0.
Three forfeits at 171, 189 and 215 pounds put the Trojans back behind the eight ball, 18-3.
Dallas Rodgers picked up six points for the Trojans with a Rocket forfeit at 285 pounds, before Connor Sykes put together a dominating performance at 103 pounds, pinning his opponent in 1:10 to bring Fruitport back into the match, 15-18.
The Trojans were forced to forfeit once again at 112 pounds, as Zach Sykes bumped up a weight class to get a look at a fresh opponent. The result was a 4-1 loss. Max Lundberg and Tyler Ranshaw followed with pin losses at 125 and 130 pounds as the Rockets blasted into the lead.
Dominic Dault put on the performance of the night with an inspiring turnaround pin fall. After falling behind 4-8 heading into the third round of his 135-pound match, Dault summoned his strength for a 5:08 pin and six points for the Trojans.
Fruitport finished the match with an open class at 140 and two pin losses for Zane Lee at 145 and Patrick Faltinowski at 152.
“Dominick’s match stands out,” Sykes said. “I have learned over my three years with him, he is never out of a match. Ever.
“We had guys step up to fill weight classes, we had guys moving around in the lineup and wrestle tough. Now, we turn our attention to Saturday.”
Despite faltering in the team tournament, both the Lakers and Trojans can look forward to Saturday’s individual district tournament at Lowell High School. There, each wrestler will take on individual weight class brackets in a quest for a medal, and a spot at the regional tournament. For both teams, the goal is simple — make it through.
“You just have to go out there and try your hardest, there is no going back,” Rose said. “I would love to place, I would love to get first, I would love to go to regionals and to state.
“You just have to give it your best shot all the time. It doesn’t matter their record or how good they are this time of year.”
Coach Sykes echoed the playoff sentiment.
“Now, it is all about attitude and believing in yourself,” he said. “It all comes down to grit to get through. Our division 2 district is one of the toughest around in my opinion.”
Matches kick off at Lowell High School at 10 a.m. Saturday.