LEROY – Looking to build off the success of its football program this fall, the Pine River wrestling team opens its season eyeing a repeat of the success of last year’s state semifinalist squad.
Winners of 16 district titles in the last 17 years and appearing in two consecutive Division 4 state quarterfinals, Pine River made history a year ago by upsetting second-seeded Decatur, 35-34, in a Division 4 quarterfinal.
"We are a fairly young team, when you look at the big picture,” said Pine River coach Tim Jones, who begins his 18th season at Pine River. “It’s a very well-balanced team, and I think that we’ve got some good experience, and we’ve got some good young surprises coming up.
"For us, it seems to be that we’ve got two to three very good lightweights, and several very good middleweights, and a few very good heavyweights. So, it’s a really good mix right across the board. We aren’t really strong in just one area. We’re right across the board, we’re pretty solid."
Although its football program made history of its own this fall by reaching its first state semifinal in school history, that extended season didn’t slow down a successful preseason for Pine River.
"Honestly, in that first week there, there were several people that weren’t on the football team, and some of them were newer wrestlers,” Jones said. “It was a real good practice session, and the boys, the other ones, were out doing their thing, so all around, it was a good thing."
Working in the defending Wolverine Conference champion’s favor this season is its depth across all weight classes.
"We missed a couple of weight classes last year, and that’s why we weren’t able to go further,” Pine River senior Joe Rigling said. “Now that it’s filled, we have a lot more potential.
"We’re still not there yet, I mean local teams are definitely aiming to take us down, but we’re still trying to fight for our spot down to states."
Pine River begins its quest to return to Mt. Pleasant by hosting a team district on Wednesday, Feb. 8. The four-team district features Manton, Forest Area and Evart.
"I want to go back there,” senior Raden Holmes said. “That was the greatest experience of my life last year, and I look forward to doing it again."
"If everything goes well, and as planned, and we all do our part, who says we can’t take the state title,” added Rigling.
The ninth-ranked Bucks continue their season Saturday at the Marquette Challenge.
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