SPRINGFIELD TWP. Life hasn't been easy on the mats for the Springfield wrestling team this season.
That's a reality for most every high school wrestling team in a sport that is as tough and physical as they come, but the Spartans' challenges are above and beyond the simple rigors of wrestling. With a small roster and one light on varsity experience at that, first-year head coach Nick Porter and his squad have been fighting an uphill battle from day one.
"We are a young team with not a lot of experience. Having three holes in the line up and giving up 18 points right out of the gate is hard," Porter said.
Due to their smaller roster, the Spartans don't field a starter in the 113-pound, 220-pound and heavyweight weight classes, meaning they forfeit those points every time out in dual meet settings. Their 1-14 overall record and 0-6 Portage Trail Conference mark underscore the degree of difficulty this campaign has presented, but there have been bright spots amidst the tough times.
Several wrestlers have winning records, including senior Daniel Chapman, whose 18-5 mark entering this week is the team's best individual record. Junior Christian Alvarado is 8-7 on the year and the recent return of sophomore Dominic Hahn from a broken wrist that has kept him out for most of the year also gave the team a boost at the 106-pound weight class.
When asked to point to an individual bright spot for the season, though, Porter looked in an unlikely direction for a competitor who in many ways represents the fight Springfield has undergone this season.
"This past week we had one individual stand out ... David Dehisi, a senior, get his first career win," Porter said. "(It) doesn’t seem like much, but this was a huge team win. Everyone on the team was happy for him."
Dehisi competes in the 182-pound weight classes, often one of the toughest and deepest weight classes in local wrestling, and earning his first career win provided a thrill and a much-needed energy boost as the season winds down and teams begin to turn their focus to their respective league tournaments and the postseason.
For a group with just 11 varsity starters, staying healthy and in a good frame of mind is essential and to that end, Porter likes what he has seen from his young team.
"The boys come to practice everyday and work their hearts out," Porter said. "They are learning to fight at all times in their matches."
In fact, the buzz words for the season have been fight and improvement, both individually and as a team. The coaching staff has preached growth and progress regardless of a wrestler's win-loss record and has also insisted that wrestlers continue to fight and battle no matter the score and no matter the situation.
That can be difficult in and of itself for a young team that has to find a way to stay positive when the wins aren't coming and they consistently do battle with bigger, more experienced rivals. With the most pressure-packed portion of the season still ahead, the Spartans will have plenty more chances to test themselves and measure their growth against some of the area's best teams and wrestlers.
For freshmen such as Coby Watkins (120 pounds), Mitchell Davis (126 pounds) and Nick Holmes (138 pounds), those chances are invaluable as they keep an eye on getting better so they can come back in the next three years and try to become one of those experienced veterans making life tough on underclassmen.
Life won't get easier the rest of the way this season, but if they can look back at year's end and know that they're ahead of where they were at its outset, these young Spartans will be able to say that they've been able to accomplish some of the goals they set out to reach for the year.