Ford II grapplers unite for success in 2010-11

By: Brad D. Bates | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published January 18, 2011

 The Utica Ford II wrestling team works out at practice Dec. 30 after placing eighth at the Macomb County Championship Dec. 18 at The Silverdome.

The Utica Ford II wrestling team works out at practice Dec. 30 after placing eighth at the Macomb County Championship Dec. 18 at The Silverdome.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

In his second season leading the Utica Ford II wrestling team, coach Scott Scalici is seeing his plan pay dividends.

After the Falcons finished 0-7 in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division in 2009-10, Scalici knew if his grapplers stuck to his message of perseverance and hard work, there was nowhere to go but up.

But he was surprised by how far and how fast the Falcons got there.

“It was a little more than I expected,” Scalici said of the Falcons’ eighth-place finish at the 2010 Macomb County Championships Dec. 18 at The Silverdome.

“Our goal was to be a top-10 team in the county, but we thought we would need several things to go our way to get there. And actually, we didn’t have a few things go our way, and we could have done better than eighth.”

The Falcons’ finish was impressive, but more impressive was that they did so without an individual champion.

“It tells us that our guys put the team ahead of themselves,” Scalici said. “We tell them to strive to be the best individuals they can be, and that’s the best way to help the team.

“A lot of it is the kind of kids we get here,” Scalici added. “We get great kids that really buy into the team aspect of the sport. Although most people view wrestling as an individual sport, we’ve got a real nice group that’s not only a wrestling team, it’s a family.”

Another factor in the Falcons’ start was the way their roster came together and made the most of offseason training.

“We had a really good offseason with about 14 guys that really bought into our program, and now we have 14 guys who are contributing this year,” Scalici said.

“By the end of last season, we could see the kids we had left were hard-working kids, so to have a good offseason wasn’t a surprise. Our whole message last year was to work harder to make that extra leap in the offseason.”

And with the amount of work and dedication that the grapplers put in, Scalici said, it was important for them to see it translate to early success.

“It would have been devastating for them to put in all that work and not see success,” Scalici said. “Last year was a trying year for them, and we told them all year long, ‘You have to keep working hard, and next year we promise different things.’ And it really helped that that came true.”

While team success is something Ford II didn’t experience up to the Falcons’ standards in 2009-10, senior 140-pounder Justin Zimmer qualified for the individual state finals.

On the heels of that success, Zimmer has led the way, as the 2010-11 Falcons accept any challenge that comes their way.

“Justin Zimmer is our returning state qualifier from last year, and our goal for him this year is to get a medal at the finals,” Scalici said. “This year he welcomes challenges more so than last year.

“If he has a chance to get a really good opponent, he wants to make sure the lineup is set, so he gets that kid.”

And Zimmer’s commitment to do whatever it takes to make himself a better wrestler has translated to his teammates.

“That’s how you get better is wrestling the best wrestlers out there,” Zimmer said. “A lot of the kids know about that this year. And when it comes time to go live against other kids in our practices, the younger kids are calling me out to get better.”

That is why Zimmer can’t wait to see how much higher his team can rise.

“This year, the chemistry is awesome, and everyone loves everyone and we push each other to do better,” Zimmer said.

“Last year, they saw that I was the only state qualifier, and they saw how my hard work paid off. And it made everyone step up and want to do the same things. That’s everyone’s goal in the varsity lineup is to make states.”