BY BRIAN RZEPPA
Coming off a season that saw six members of the team make appearances at States and the team winding up as district champions, the Trenton High School wrestling team had momentum on their side heading into the 2017-2018 campaign.
“We ended the season 31-7 and won the district then went on to be runners up in the team regionals, so we were one of the top six teams at the Division 2 level. We sent six kids to state, with a couple of them placing within the top of their class,” noted Coach Tom Bluhm.
Despite the strong finish to last season though, Bluhm knew that expectations should be tempered considering the lack of depth on the roster. With only 15 students on the team, Bluhm knew they would be in a tough spot due to having to forfeit weight classes.
“We knew that we were going to lose three seniors, all of whom went to states last year, and that we only had 16 kids on the team last year,” Bluhm said. “If we get the talent we can produce a good team, but we knew that with the numbers down we’d have our work cut out for us because of having to void a couple of weight classes.”
The roster has quite a bit of talent littered throughout the weight classes, but the sheer lack of wrestlers has hurt the team to this point in the season. They matched their seven losses from all of last season by mid-December, though it’s not due to a lack of effort.
“We had a bit of a slow start to the season and we had reached seven losses pretty early on, which is what we had through all of last year,” he said. “We’re losing meets within the margin of the classes that we’re forfeiting so we have the skill, just not the numbers yet. Basically, we have a team that’s better suited for individual tournaments due to the talent on the roster.”
The top-end talent that the Trojans possess this year can match up well with just about any other team in the area, a point which Bluhm feels can be a solid point of motivation as the season goes on.
“We returned three wrestlers that went to states last year, sophomore Sam Rickman and juniors Tanner Smith and Ronald Rickman,” he said. “All three managed impressive undefeated streaks and have improved upon last year, and beyond them we have Chris Lavigne who was able to crack the lineup this year and Juette Peterson who is a real good wrestler.”
Despite the early-season struggles, there could be hope to be found on the horizon as an injection of talent should be coming in the middle part of this month.
“We have a transfer from Grosse Ile, Jacob Lanzini, that’s a two-time state qualifier that will be able to enter our lineup starting on Jan. 15, so him coming in should give us a bit of a boost from both the talent standpoint and the fact that we won’t have to forfeit another weight class.”
With Lanzini’s arrival, the team should improve from a talent standpoint and in the sense that it will be one less weight class that they are forfeiting. Even with the challenges that the team has faced, Bluhm believes that the experience that is being gained will be extremely beneficial.
“With some of the kids moving up weight classes, it can be a positive and a negative. It’s possible to beat someone that is bigger than you, but it becomes much more difficult when the bigger wrestler is also as talented as you. It can be intimidating, but the more time on the mat that these kids can get the better they will be as the season goes on.”
Considering that there is only one senior on the team this season the bumps that occur along the way should only serve to improve the program long-term. While the slow start was difficult, Bluhm feels that the team will still have more than a fighting chance as the postseason nears.
“We have a lot of balance in our lineup and we should hopefully be finishing in the top three at the Downriver League meet and we want to win districts again. We’d like to get four or five kids to states, too, which would be a pretty big accomplishment since we only have 15 kids. It’ll take some time, but I think we’ll be able to get on the right track.”