Both surfaced at the wrong time for the Fruitport wrestling program, as a depleted lineup hosted Fremont in the opening round of the team district tournament Wednesday, falling to the Packers, 52-25.
The extra holes forced drastic lineup changes, which, added with their already empty weight classes, dug an insurmountable hole to start the match. Despite winning five of nine wrestled matches, the Trojans’ team season came to an end.
“We got hit with an injury and the illness bug at the most inopportune time,” said Fruitport head coach Mike Michelli. “It may not have changed the whole duel, but it would have changed some of the lineup dynamics. Dominic Dault and Mason Brown are two guys we count on for 12 points and not having them today hurt us. They may not have gotten pins, but it would have changed the dynamic of the match.
“Fremont is a tough team, we knew that coming in. We had no choice but to line up what we had, but to walk in down 24 points was tough.”
Despite the immediate deficit, Fruitport’s leaders performed well, as captains Crue Cooper (171 lbs) and Connor Sykes (119 lbs) took dominant wins via first-round pinfall. Cooper took his in just over one minute, while Sykes wrapped up his match in 25 short seconds.
“That’s the leadership on the team, right there,” Michelli said. “I look for those guys to do just that. I don’t need a pin every time, but I need them to wrestle well and they consistently do. They are the guys the rest of the team looks up to, and they did well.”
Beyond the captains, the Trojans performed well. A gutsy 13-8 decision at 135 lbs by Karl Glydewell provided a needed momentum boost in the second match of the day, while a 12-1 major decision by Zechariah Richardson kept morale high through the middle of the match. Finally, Jayme Woodring brought things home with a first-round pin at 215 lbs to round out the Trojan winners.
Fremont’s top-to-bottom talent and Fruitport’s general youth were evident in the remaining matches. Three of the Trojans’ losses came via pin, the final in a 9-0 decision.
“We won more than we lost in the matches we wrestled and that was good to see, ”Michelli said. “In the others, we just didn’t wrestle well and Fremont is a good team. It wasn’t anything Fremont was doing in particular, we just had some inexperienced kids out there that made bad mistakes.”
The loss marks the end of the team season for the 2018-19 Trojans. It was, by all accounts, a successful one, as Michelli gets to know a young team of talented athletes.
“Me figuring them out and them figuring me out was probably our biggest hurdle,” Michelli said at the end of his first season as the Trojans’ head coach. “We will lose two seniors in Dault and Brown, which will hurt our lineup but, other than that, everyone is back. We are a pretty young group.
“They are dedicated. We didn’t lose a lot of kids as far as quitting goes, which is different from some other teams I have coached. We have a good foundation. We will be able to build on it with some offseason work. The future is bright.”
Those young stars and aged leaders aren’t quite done yet. With the team season in the books, the Trojans can throw their lineup concerns out the window as they turn to preparing for the individual district tournament coming Saturday at Fremont.
A top-four finish at districts Saturday earns a bid to the regional tournament. The same finish there equals a ticket to the state finals. Despite a tough draw, Fruitport has a lot to be excited about with two returning regional qualifiers in Dault and Cooper and a few more ready for their first extended postseason. Though, there are no guarantees in this district.
“It is a buzzsaw of a district,” Michelli said. “Up and down, it is all good competition. Good teams that are well-coached. But, it all comes down to that one day. Anything can happen Saturday; you have to bring your best. We are looking forward to it.”
The tournament is scheduled to kick off at 9:30 a.m. at Fremont High School on Saturday.