Big Rapids wrestlers pick up win heading into tough stretch

BIG RAPIDS — Dan Sleeper wants to be excited.

As the Big Rapids wrestling team approaches the halfway point of the season, the Cardinals coach sees the opportunity to reach one of the goals he set for his team — to break the school record for wins in a season.

Big Rapids added a pair of wins Wednesday with victories over Morley Stanwood (75-3) and Newaygo (57-15) to go to 12-0. The Cardinals record stands at 23.

All of that is good, but Sleeper also knows the tough part of the schedule is coming up.

“January is the tough part of our schedule,” he said. “We still have Hesperia, we still have Chippewa Hills and they are the top dogs in the conference so we have to keep things in perspective. Nothing against the team’s we have wrestled, but January, we go up a couple of notches in competition.”

HEAD TO HEAD: Big Rapids’ Jared Worden (left) looks to take down his opponent during Wednesday’s high school wrestling action. (Pioneer photo/Bob Allan)

Sam Miller doesn’t believe the success has happened by accident. The senior said the team returns five state qualifiers and it also is able to fill all 14 weight classes.

That, along with winning some close matches early, has given the team some confidence.

“Confidence is a big part of wrestling,” Miller said. “If you come out with confidence, you are going to do better. It’s important (to have a good start), so you can have that confidence.”

Sleeper is happy with the start, but also recognizes work remains.

He said conditioning continues to be an issue and the wrestlers still are “a work in progress.”

“I see good things every meet and bad things every meet,” Sleeper said. “Jared Worden beats a good kid from Montabella (last week) and then he makes a mistake against Newaygo that nearly costs him. He didn’t lose, but I think overall we are a work in progress.”

Also a work in progress is Morley Stanwood , which had only five wrestlers able to wrestle. A couple of grapplers were out sick.

It has made for a difficult season for the Mohawks, who go into every dual meet knowing they are going to lose. But coach Jeff Davis believes the wrestlers he does have are getting better each day.

“It is an emotional drain on the team knowing they aren’t going to win, but they continue to work hard,” he said. “We work on the individual aspect of the sport and want to do our best at individual tournaments and in the state (tournament).”

Big Rapids is in action Saturday when it travels to the Farwell team tournament, while Morley Stanwood travels to the Chippewa Hills Invitational.

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