The Fruitport wrestling team hosted a home quad Wednesday, taking on two local grappling teams with one match carrying post-season implications.
Before defeating Montague, 51-27, the Trojans took on fellow O-K Black leader Reeths-Puffer. Both squads entered the gym at 5-0 in the conference with equal rights to the regular season title, Fruitport left as the underdog for the conference tournament, losing 46-28.
The Trojans came into Wednesday’s quad a little banged up, with four wrestlers out of the lineup for rest, but head coach Rick Sykes made no excuses.
“They outwrestled us at the end of the day, it is as simple as that,” said Sykes. “They came in our house here and outwrestled us.
“Just like any other team, I’m sure, some people are banged up. We limped in here today.”
With the overall conference title decided by both regular-season dual meet records and success at the year-end O-K Black tournament, the loss on Wednesday night does not drop the Trojans from title contention in their first year as an O-K Black member.
“We didn’t come in here by all means surrendering (the)conference, our goal was to win it tonight,” Sykes said. “We will still try and do that on that Saturday in February. It did not necessarily derail those plans, just made it a little harder.”
Puffer, the multi-year defending O-K Black champion, jumped out to an early lead taking five of the first six matches. Tyler Skinner kicked off the evening with a decision victory over Dallas Rogers in the heavyweight bought, 4-0.
Zachary Sykes took six points by forfeit at 103 pounds before the Rockets launched three-straight pins over Connor Sykes at 112 pounds, Karl Glydewell at 125 pounds and Christian Straley at 130 pounds.
A pin-fall by Dominic Dault in the 135-pound division and forfeit to Bailey Lynn at 140 pounds gave the Trojans a mid-match lift, but the damage was done.
Fruitport managed just two wins down the stretch with Levi Six taking a major decision (14-1) at 152 pounds and Derek Monje taking a forfeit at 215 pounds.
Six, who earned All-State honors for his sophomore season, was sidelined for his entire junior year with a broken arm. Now in his senior campaign, he looks more than capable of making an individual post-season run.
His sights, however, are now locked onto Reeths-Puffer.
“I feel all right about the loss,” he said. “We had four or five kids out of the lineup. The post-season is a big thing for me, but I love this team, so I would rather have a conference championship.
“I think we can do better in the upcoming conference tournament. I think we can beat them.”
The latter match of the night saw a sigh of relief from the Trojan lineup. Battered and tired as they were, Fruitport easily defeated Montague, 51-27.
“I sensed that the pressure was off,” Sykes said of the second match. “They seemed to lighten up a little bit and went out there and took care of business.”
This time, Fruitport jumped to an early lead, and held it. With Zach and Connor Sykes taking forfeits to begin the match at 103- and 112 pounds, the Trojans were able to overcome a pin fall for Blaiyn Kulczski at 119 pounds.
David Ross (125), Christian Straley (130) and Dominic Dault (135) ripped off three-straight wins by pin, decision and pin, respectively.
Bailey Lynn and Chris Hutson took losses before Six took a forfeit at 152 pounds.
Crue Cooper avenged his loss to the Rockets with a first-period pin fall at 171 pounds.
The big guys, Derek Monje at 215 and Dallas Rodgers at 285, both grabbed early, destructive pins to finish off the match.
“I love my lineup,” coach Sykes said when it was all over. “There is a lot of good stuff there. Levi (Six) is coming along. He had 22 months off with a broken arm and is chipping away at the rust.
“Dallas (Rodgers) is someone who never wrestled before, he played basketball. I’m super hyped about Dallas Rodgers. He is strong and he’s fast. He just needs some more mat time.
“Sometimes you don’t know what you are going to get with Dominic (Dault), but he is a strong wrestler. People struggle with his strength. He went out and gave us another two great matches today.
“Things are coming together, all we need is a bit of rest, so I’m going to give them some, but not too much.”
With a little bit of rest and relaxation, it’s looking like this Fruitport grappling squad is destined for a O-K Black shakedown in their first year in the conference, and even a chance to run beyond the Ottawa-Kent wrestling scene come postseason.