Numbers are up for all three programs. The Bucs feature a wealth of returning talent and a few promising newcomers, while the Trojans will look for redemption with a strong team of wrestlers ready to avenge a sour end last year. The Lakers feature almost exclusively underclassmen with their top guys returning from a year ago as part of that group. They will focus on individual goals in order to develop a huge team of potential.
Here’s a closer look at what to expect on the mats this winter.
Last year: 2-4 in conference, fourth place O-K Red, 7-11 overall, district champions
Key returners: Senior Cody Miller, junior Roley Rhone, junior Trevor Rademaker, Kirk Marsman, Elijah Copado, Zach Boersen, Alex Spangler, Kyler Spangler, Cam Mesler, Luke Rokus, Kaleb Butcher, Chance Heineman
Key newcomers: Ben Hanna and Brandon Hannah
The Bucs return a strong crop of athletes to lead their varsity team this season. Team captain and 2018 state qualifier Cody Miller headlines the group, while Riley Rhone and Trevor Rademaker return as regional tournament qualifiers from a year ago. Joining the ranks of the host of returning varsity wrestlers will be Ben Hanna in the heavyweight slot and Brandon Hannah at 189 pounds.
‘We are excited about the upcoming season,” said Grand Haven head coach Vincent Gervais. “We have a great blend of experience and youth. Our numbers are the best they have been in the past five years with 45 kids coming out and they are all working hard to get better every day.”
Conference contenders: Rockford, Hudsonville, Grandville
“Our goals remain the same every year,” Gervais said. “Each day, we look to get better than the day before and focus on growing our program. We are looking to climb the ladder in the O-K Red and repeat for the third straight year as district champion.
The Bucs kicked off their season at the Holland Quad on Wednesday of this week and will return to competition Saturday at the Allegan Varsity Tournament.
Last year: 13-19 overall, 1-5 in conference, sixth place in O-K Blue
Key players: Jack Parker, Max Montgomery, Jamie Holt, Nick Giddings
The Lakers return just a few wrestlers from a year ago on an overwhelmingly young roster. Jack Parker was their best athlete a year ago, making a trip to the individual regional tournament.
“We are really young, but I like what we have seen so far,” said Spring Lake head coach Dan Robinson. “We have a lot of guys who, although are young, have some big-time experience and we are leaning on those guys.
“We are expecting some strong individual performances this year from guys, and expect our returners like Jack, Jamie and Max to be state qualifiers. They put a lot of work in this offseason and you can see it paying off already.
“We are looking for Kaleb Kitchen and Jack Stuart to really improve upon last year and take that next step and for our two seniors, Nick Giddings and Jared Sielinski to be leaders for all of our young guys.”
Conference favorites: Sparta, Allendale, Comstock Park
Team outlook: “Our goals are individual at the moment,” said Spring Lake head coach Dan Robinson. “We are really young. Out of 20 wrestlers on the team, 17 of them are freshmen and sophomores. We are just looking for our youth to do the right things, trust in the process and improve as the season progresses.
“We have a lot of freshmen in the room to be excited about. From guys that have some experience like Tristyn Ball, Nate Derose, Jude Fetterly, Cam Legros and Ayden Nash to our new guys like John Tague, Luke Bialik, Christian Bilacic, Xavier Reedy, Ty French, Ty Tenbrink and Rex Chambers. We have been impressed with their drive and ability to push the pace.”
The Lakers kicked off their season Wednesday with a home quad and will return to action Saturday at the Forest Hills Eastern Varsity Tournament.
Last year: Fourth O-K Black conference
Key players: Crue Cooper, Connor Sykes, Karl Glydewell, Dominic Dault, David Cadena
Conference contenders: Reeths-Puffer, Jenison
Team outlook: The Trojans return a promising group of athletes from a year ago who fell on hard times as the postseason rolled around. Injury and sickness at the district tournament left them without five of their starters, limiting their postseason potential.
Individually, they have plenty of talent back under first-year head coach Mike Michelli and should contend with the best of them for the district and conference championships this season.
“Coach Sykes left the program in a good spot with guys returning like Dault and Sykes and Cooper,” Michelli said. “Those are guys we are looking to do big things for us this year.
“We have big goals. Of course, we have the conference, city and district championships on our list. That is already a lot. Especially when you have to go through teams like Reeths-Puffer and Whitehall. We have some work to do to be able to accomplish those goals, but they are realistic, I think.”