FRUITPORT – Last season was huge for the Fruitport wrestling program.
The biggest moment of the year came in the Division 2 district tournament in Fruitport’s home gym, when the Trojans were in a tight battle with Fremont in the finals.
Fruitport trailed by five points with one match left, which meant the Trojans needed a pin (worth six points) to steal the victory and the district title.
Hunter Leonard got the job done, pinning Fremont’s Beckett Newell in the second period to clinch a dramatic 36-35 victory and the district championship.
Fruitport finished the season with a 14-6 dual record and had a lot of highlights during the season. Four Trojans w0n individual championships at the city tournament, three reached the 100-victory career mark, and five posted more than 30 victories.
It was the type of season that a team can build on, and head coach Chad Johnson says that’s exactly what’s happening.
Johnson has already seen numbers in the wrestling program shoot up after last season, with more than 30 kids out for the team this year. He attributes that to the positive vibe from last year’s team.
“What we did last year was kind of a program changer,” said Johnson, whose team will open the new season on Wednesday at Zeeland West. “We can build on that from the youth level to the high school level. We’ve gotten a lot of interest from some kids who want to be part of something special.”
The only drawback from last season is that the Trojans lost a lot of quality wrestlers to graduation, including eight starters, so the team will be young this year.
But Fruitport will be able to put together a full lineup with every weight class filled – which is more than a lot of schools do – and Johnson expects to have a pretty good team again.
“We have a handful of kids who are back from last year, and we put a lot of work in during the offseason,” he said. “We have been addressing the areas where we struggled last year, we’ve been having kids competing in tournaments all over, and I think it’s going to be a good season. We’re going to be young but solid.”
Johnson said there are a handful of experienced wrestlers who will play big leadership roles – sophomore Davis Johnson, who was 29-12 last season; senior Kyle Holt, who was 27-16; and sophomores Easton Fett and Blair Zimmer.
“Those are kind of our main guys right now,” the coach said.
One freshman who could make an impact this season is Zach Aardema, who has had a lot of success in youth and middle school wrestling and has a lot of potential to succeed at the varsity level, according to Johnson.
Overall the Trojans have 14 sophomores who are working and improving, which means the future looks bright for the program.
“We have a group of kids coming in after being JV guys who will be stepping into the starting lineup and will be getting their shot,” Johnson said. “I think we have a good group. They have been working hard at practice.”