FRUITPORT TOWNSHIP – Hunter Leonard is one confident senior wrestler, and his get-it-done approach really came in handy for Fruitport on Wednesday night.
Leonard was the last guy up for the Trojans in a district championship dual match against Fremont, and everything came down to how he did.
Fruitport trailed Fremont 35-30 and needed a pin from Leonard in the 157-pound match to get six pounds and steal the win and the title.
Leonard delivered in a big way, aggressively attacking Fremont’s Beckett Newell and pinning him with 1:05 left in the second period, giving the Trojans a thrilling 36-35 victory and a Division 2 district team championship in their own gym.
Fruitport, which won its first team district title since 2016, will now advance to regionals next Wednesday against an undetermined opponent.
‘It was a close match, I needed to get a pin and I got it,” Leonard said. “Once I felt him go on his back, I knew I had it.
“I was determined to win. There was a lot riding on it. We were in front of our home fans, and I wanted to make our coaching staff proud and the whole team proud.”
Fruitport head coach Chad Johnson said Leonard was the perfect guy for the big moment.
“Hunter was ready to go,” he said. “We had faith in him. He’s a senior and he’s carried us a lot this year. We’re proud of the way he executed. That was a big spotlight for him to be in.
“He’s been working hard all season long, so for him to get a win like this, in front of a crowd like this, is a blessing.”
The championship trophy was a big reward for Fruitport, which has been good all season but hadn’t won any titles as a team.
The Trojans finished in third place at the very challenging GMAA City Tournament. They finished in third place in the very tough O-K Blue conference standings.
But they are the first-place team in their district after edging out a very good Fremont squad in a thrilling dual match that had the crowd on its feet at the end.
“We’ve improved so much, and I can’t thank the coaching staff enough, they’ve done a great job with the kids,” Johnson said. “We’ve been looking at this match for a long time and winning this was our goal. I’m so proud of the kids and what they did.”
Both teams won seven matches, but Fruitport had a 4-2 edge in pins, which made a huge difference in the final score. Teams get three points for a regular win, but six points for a pin.
Leonard, Trace Pider, Caleb O’Neal and Kaiden Bell all registered pins for the Trojans, providing 12 extra points for their team.
“That’s what we preached before the match, that getting pins and not giving up bonus points was going to be huge,” Johnson said.
The match was back and forth from the beginning.
Pider started things off with a pin of Fremont’s Kolton Balmarez at 165 pounds, giving the Trojans a 6-0 lead.
The Trojans forfeited at 175 pounds, then suffered a pin at 190 and trailed 12-6 after three matches.
Fruitport got back on track in the next two bouts when O’Neal pinned Fremont’s Khai Noordyk in the first period at 215 pounds and Bell did the same to Fremont’s Chance Crawford at 285, putting the Trojans up 18-12.
Fremont won at 106 pounds, then Fruitport’s Davis Johnson beat the Packers’ Chance Montague 9-4 at 113 pounds and Roan Cooper beat Fremont’s Kashton Atwood 11-5 at 120 pounds, giving the Trojans a 24-17 lead.
The Packers roared back and won the next three matches at 126, 132 and 138 pounds to grab a 29-24 advantage.
Fruitport forfeited at 144 pounds, giving the Packers a 35-24 lead with two matches remaining, then the Trojans had a bit of luck.
A Fremont wrestler reported to the table at the wrong weight before the 150-pound match, causing an automatic forfeit victory for the Trojans and cutting the Fremont lead to 35-30.
That left one final match – Leonard vs. Newell at 157 pounds – and the aggressive Leonard jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead after one period, then got the pin in the second to secure the championship.
While Leonard got the spotlight at the end of the night, there was a lot of credit to go around on the team.
Several Trojans who lost their matches helped in a big way by avoiding pins and saving precious points.
Kyle Holt only lost by a point at 126 pounds. Blair Zimmer only lost by five points at 132 pounds. If either of them had lost by more than eight, or had been pinned, the outcome could have been much different.
One Fruitport wrestler was an unsung hero by saving a single point.
Phillip Stone-Tyler lost his match at 106 pounds by a 17-1 score, and Fremont gained five points by technical fall. But Stone-Tyler refused to be pinned, stubbornly keeping his shoulders just inches off the mat until the match was over, and he saved his team one point by doing so.
That one point was obviously everything in the 36-35 victory. If Stone-Tyler had been pinned, the best that Leonard could have done was tie the match with his pin.
“Phillip has come came a long way from where he was last year,” Coach Johnson said about Stone-Tyler. “He’s a fighter. He’s all into our program. He brings a lot of energy and the other kids feed off that.
“That one point he saved made a huge difference tonight.”
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