Courtesy Photo / Katie Haynes
Garbed in all black sweats with only subtle baby-blue laces and coordinating Nike swooshes highlighting the ensemble, junior wrestler Kyle Horr weaves back and forth across the baseline of the Grand Valley State University Fieldhouse. He occasionally glances out across the two adjoined mats laid out before him like a red sea as he paces, but his gaze, a stern yet calm concentration, never lingers.
Saturday’s Laker Classic hosted 90 wrestlers, representing 10 different institutions and competing in 11 distinct weight classes.
Of the 15 GVSU club-wrestling participants, seven placed – Kyle Hillard fourth at 285, Frank Bastien and Gabe Stepanovich third at 235 and 157 respectively, Carl Worthy, Shane Crawford and Austin Geerlings second at 197, 184, and 165 respectively, junior Kyle Horr who took first place in the 149 pound weight-class bracket.
Wrestling up a class from his usual 141 pounds, Horr enjoyed the opportunity to not have to cut weight. He was happier still about his team’s performance at the meet.
“There’s a lot of stuff we need to work on obviously, but we got a bunch of placers, got a bunch of kids in the finals – I think that’s all we can ask for,” Horr said.
At least for now. The team, Horr included, have their sights locked on the national tournament which will be held on March 14 in Allen, Texas.
“We want to win a national championship,” Horr said. “As an individual you want that, it follows in to helping out the team. The better you do, the better the team does. All we need is six or seven guys to get up there on the podium and we have that caliber of a team.”
Freshman performer Bruce Rau, also wrestled up a class (from 165 t0 174) and went 2-1 in matches on the day.
“This weekend was a better weekend for me,” Rau said. “The past couple of weekends, there have been a lot of tough guys. A lot of Division I guys and I’ve been losing most matches lately. For me, to go out and get a two wins – I felt that I dominated both matches, doing a lot more things right that I wanted to.”
People, including GVSU head coach Rick Bolhuis, have noticed the work Rau has put in.
“Bruce Rau comes in everyday and works real hard and came through today,” Bolhuis said. “He’s always in matches and he’s only a freshman.”
Rau attributes much of his success to the guidance of more experienced teammates. Horrs and Rau, who share a close relationship, keep it light even during heavy competition, exchanging quotes from “Rocky” and “Key and Peele” before matches.
“Kyle’s really big in helping me,” Rau said. “Being a freshman, going out and wrestling tough kids, you get nervous a lot. Kyle and our older guys, Carl (Worthy, team president), do an excellent job of mentoring us and keep us at the mental state we need to be in.”
The team hopes for continued success in the future.
“Everybody’s goal here come March is not only to qualify, but to place high – we want to win the national championship,” Rau said. “I don’t think anybody will tell you anything different and if someone does, their mind’s not where it needs to be.”