The Spring Lake wrestling team has two seniors heading to the Palace of Auburn Hills on Thursday for the Division 2 individual state wrestling championship — one looking to make a dent in his first year at the competition, the other to win the gold in his fourth.
Sawyer Smith, a transfer from Montague who was a three-time state qualifier and two-time placer for the Division 4 Wildcats, said that Division 2 has been a step up in competition.
"This level of competition is a lot harder here," Smith said. "I usually go in at D4, D3, and there are guys that are .500, 50-50 records. You come here, and you have guys that are 50-1, 52-2. You barely have any guys over 10 losses. It's tough. It's a big change, but I think I can do it. It's just a matter of me showing up."
Smith has taken well to the step up in competition, boasting a 32-2 record on the season. Both losses were to No. 1-ranked Lowell's Kanon Dean, who beat Smith in both his individual district and regional championship matches.
"I beat myself both times I faced him in the finals of the district and regionals," said Smith, who is ranked eighth in his weight class by michigangrappler.com. "It was one of those things where I know I can compete at the state championship level — I've just got to get out of my own head."
While Smith will be making his fourth trip to the Palace, it will be the first for teammate George Nietering.
Coach Dan Robinson said the 125-pounder has improved remarkably in his stint as a Laker.
"When he was young, one of the things that got him in trouble, was he was more of a catch wrestler — he wanted to catch you in positions," Robinson said. "Now he's technically really sound, doesn't make a lot of mistakes, can score from anywhere.
"He's a very powerful 125-pounder. I think that catches a lot of kids off guard, he gets on shots and most guys can't stop it. He's strong enough to get through."
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