Eisenhower wrestling continues to grow

Eagles strong start indicative of program growth

By: Thomas Franz | Shelby - Utica News | Published January 22, 2014

 Junior Connor McDill and sophomore Carlo Marceau wrestle during an Eisenhower practice on Jan. 15.

Junior Connor McDill and sophomore Carlo Marceau wrestle during an Eisenhower practice on Jan. 15.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — The wrestling team at Utica Eisenhower is off to a strong start with a 17-3 record, but it is unlike any other team that head coach Dave Drath has ever had during his 21 years at Eisenhower.

For the first time in his career, Drath has the fortune of having 10 seniors on his varsity roster, and that group has formed a core of leadership to lead the Eagles.

“We got a really interesting mix this year; it’s something that we’ve never had. Usually, by the time they’re seniors, we may only have three or four of them left. But 10 of them have stuck with it, some of them for six years now, and we’ve never had that before,” Drath said. “This is a really good group, and the juniors and sophomores are just tough as nails.”

One of those juniors is Connor McDill, who wrestles at 145 pounds. McDill placed seventh at the state finals his freshman season at 103 pounds, and he is leading the Eagles in wins this year with 22 already.

“I’ve grown closer with my team. It helps to take a lot of pressure off when you’re focusing on your team instead of yourself, and taking one match at a time,” McDill said. “Freshman year, I walked in over-confident. I was focusing more on myself than the team, and through the years, I think I’m leading the team now in every aspect and helping my team get better.”

That change in philosophy has helped McDill set his sights on a run at the state championship later this winter.

“I have a lot of tough kids in my weight class. … Everyone knows me as the 103-pounder from freshman year, and they haven’t seen me in a while. The goal this year is to take it one match at a time and get on top of that podium,” McDill said. 

Drath also pointed to a deep group of sophomores as being one reason Eisenhower is off to a strong start. The Marceau twins, Vince at 119 pounds and Carlo at 125, have combined for 39 wins so far.

“Most of the sophomores in here are second-year kids. When you look at this group, we’re going to come in next year with a group of kids that we can hit the ground running,” Drath said.

Vinnie Sarti and Jonathan Zajac are two of the seniors providing leadership for Eisenhower.

“What I like about the seniors is even though they’re not in the lineup as starters a lot of times, they’re here every day. They’re doing a great job of leading, they’re not complaining about anything, and they’ll do anything you want,” Drath said.

With 17 wins already this year, this should be the third consecutive year in which Eisenhower has improved its win total, a sign that the program is starting to make a name for itself.

“We’re really starting to come around, and the thing is that the level of dedication with this group of kids is very important to the sport. There’s the intangibles that you don’t see,” Drath said. “We never had a tradition here — we’re a football school — and that’s what we’re trying to build here is that tradition.”

Part of building that tradition has been the recent trend of graduates of the program coming back to help teach the current wrestlers.

“You get kids coming back, and that to me is the key, because if you wrestle the same guy every day, that’s like eating the same meal every day,” Drath said. “It’s taken a long time for us to get here, but that’s how the whole thing fits together.”

Eisenhower continued its MAC Blue schedule with victories against L’Anse Creuse North and Port Huron. The Eagles will visit Stevenson on Jan. 23.