That's why there was an air of accomplishment at the conclusion of Saturday's Division 1 individual district tournament at Grand Haven High School.
After key performers continued to fall in and out of the lineup and a lack of experience cost the team some early dual meet wins, the host Buccaneer wrestling team appears to be peaking at just the right time.
While Grand Haven will have to wait until Wednesday's team regionals to showcase their collective improvements, their individual growth was evident Saturday as the Buccaneers qualified five wrestlers through a loaded field of competitors at Grand Haven High School.
Colin Monsma (285 pounds), Daniel Guillen (130), Cody Miller (125), Riley Rhone (103) and Trevor Rademaker (145) all finished in the top four of their respective weight classes to advance to next weekend's Division 1 individual regionals at Grand Ledge High School and bring their state finals dreams one step closer to a reality.
"Overall, I thought we did fairly well as a team. We had four guys that lost in the blood round to qualify for regionals, which is tough," said Grand Haven head coach Vince Gervais. "At the same time, most of those guys were fairly inexperienced, so to even reach that point is a big achievement.
"They are obviously disappointed they didn't make it through as individuals, but the good thing is that they still have a chance to compete as a team Wednesday at the team regionals. That allows them to stay in the wrestling room next week, keep getting better and end their seasons on a high note. Their experience today will make them better down the road.
"I think having four guys reach the finals today is something to be proud of, especially for those guys. Those were guys that I expected to have big days."
Guillen (32-5) captured an individual district championship at 130 pounds after coming into the tournament as the top seed. He rattled off a pinfall win over Justino DeLaCruz of East Kentwood, a major decision over Evan Kaser of Rockford and a pinfall win over Zach Donahue of Mona Shores in the championship match.
Top-seeded Monsma (29-6) scored pinfall wins over Bennett Fischer of Rockford and Colt Stout of Mona Shores to advance to the championship match against Seth Hoonhorst of Hudsonville. In a tightly-contested match, Hoonhorst scored a narrow 3-2 win to take the district championship.
Miller (34-6) scored a pinfall win over Isaiah Alfaro of Howell and a major decision over Ian Abel of Forest Hills Central to advance to the championship match. Top-seeded and undefeated Anthonie Taylor of Grandville got the upper hand in the title match, 10-2, relegating Miller to second place overall.
Rhone (33-8) recorded a pinfall win over Brennen Bolen of East Kentwood and an 8-2 decision over Tyler Herrema of Grandville to advance to the championship match. Top-seeded Owen Norman of Caledonia eked out an 11-9 win over Rhone in the title match, but the second-place finish ensured Rhone would keep his season alive at next weekend's regional.
Rademaker (24-17) edged Cameron Stout of Mona Shores in the quarterfinals, before falling to top-seeded Jack Richardson of Rockford in the semifinals. Rademaker scored a narrow 11-9 decision over Connor Vachon of Jenison in the consolation semifinals to clinch a spot at regionals, before falling to Ben Lirio of Hudsonville in the third-place match.
"I thought Colin outwrestled his opponent in the heavyweight match, but just had a few things not go his way," added Gervais. "He'll see him again at Wednesday's team regionals and my gut tells me they will probably see each other again at next weekend's individual regionals, as well.
"Daniel wrestled really well and finally looks like himself again out there. Cody wrestled a really tough kid from Grandville in the title match and Riley keeps closing the gap on that kid from Caledonia. He's wrestled him four times this season and has gotten closer and closer each time. If we can get him to stick to high percentage stuff, I think he'll eventually beat that kid."
As excited as Gervais was for his qualifiers to keep their seasons alive, he was equally excited to see some of the younger performers be unphased by the big stage.
"Bronson (Jewell) was a match away from qualifying as a first-year wrestler. My 112-pounder (Kirk Marsman) had a great day, too," he continued. "Hunter Spangler is a senior who was a match away, and Zach Boersen is a freshman at 119 pounds that was close to qualifying.
"I wish we could have gotten all four of them across, too. The good news is that three of those four will be back next year, and this will serve as motivation for them. I feel bad for my seniors who missed the cut. They mean a lot to this program and have given a lot of time in the wrestling room and have already left a mark here."
As a group, the Buccaneers will now prepare for the team regionals on Wednesday at Grand Haven High School.
Grand Haven will host Hudsonville at 6 p.m. The winner of that matchup will face the winner of Rockford and East Kentwood in the regionals finals later that night.
"I'm extremely excited about the opportunity to host regionals," added Gervais. "We have a young team that is starting to mature. It's a fun process to be a part of now that those guys are seeing the positive results from all their hard work. It was a rocky start, but the guys continued to train hard and encourage each other. It's been a very enjoyable month or so as their coach to see them grow and get better out there."