At the beginning of the wrestling season, Spring Lake senior heavyweight Billy Belcher said he didn't expect the Lakers to be in prime position to take home the Lakes Eight Conference championship, considering he was the only returning conference champion and state qualifier in the lineup.
More than two months later, just look at where the Lakers are at today – on top of the league standings with a flawless 6-0 record.
Spring Lake completed its perfect regular season against league opponents on Wednesday, as the Lakers polished off Tri-County, 45-24, and then did the same to Fremont, 47-20, at a quad meet at Spring Lake High School. Orchard View was also in attendance, however, the Lakers already have defeated the Cardinals.
Belcher said it's just the first goal of many for the Lakers, with the next being capturing the conference tournament and the outright title next weekend at Orchard View.
“We're a scrappy team,” said the 6-foot-5 Belcher, who towers over everyone on his squad. “These guys came in from Day 1 and really set out to accomplish great things. A lot of guys had that potential and they've been working hard at realizing that.”
Spring Lake coach Dan Robinson said his team began to realize its potential weeks ago.
“The guys are buying into what we're teaching,” he said. “The team seems like it's beginning to gel. We had a few big wins earlier, one being against Fruitport, which is always such a fierce rivalry. We won by just two points and after that, I think it sort of got the guys thinking that there's a possibility that we could do this.”
It's been a team effort during the 6-0 start for the Lakers, but Robinson always likes to highlight his seniors, including Belcher, who improved his season record to 25-2 on Wednesday. He's the fifth-ranked heavyweight in Division 2. He had a quick first-period pin against the Vikings and then won via void against the Packers.
“I had two wins my freshman year, 18 or 19 my sophomore season and 41 last year,” he said. “It's all about hard work. In wrestling, you don't need a shred of athletic ability, it's all about hard work and dedication at making yourself better.
“In practice, I don't wrestle my teammates. I go against our three coaches, guys who can push me. That's how I get better.”
Spring Lake's upper weight classes shined against the Vikings and Packers, as Shane Skorupski had a pin and 4-2 decision at 215 pounds; and 189-pounder Jared Marod rebounded from a heartbreaking 4-3 loss to the Vikings with a second-round pin against Fremont.
Spring Lake also had Gabe Giddings pick up two wins at 152, Zack Kennedy go 2-0 at 160, and Mason Dial win his lone match against Tri-County at 171.
“Guys like Mason and Gabe, they were either not in the lineup or spent part of the time in the lineup last year, but they've stepped up and have looked really good,” Belcher said.
Spring Lake opened both matches with wins by 119-pounder George Nietering, and also had a pair of wins by Maxx Kriger – once at 130 and once at 135. Both have had older brothers, cousins or both recently compete for the Lakers.
The Lakers voided at 103 and 112 in both matches, but Robinson has more than enough weight classes to pick up the slack.
“Kyle Edwards has really done a great job at (125). He didn't have winning record last year and has had to fight through some struggles, but he's really come on. And Josh Stiffler, has been a surprise. If he didn't get a pin against Grant earlier this season, we might not have won that match.”
Edwards dropped nearly 25 pounds from football season to make his weight class.
“He's one of the hardest workers in that (wrestling) room,” Belcher said.
Spring Lake competes at the Shelby Invitational on Saturday.