Roseville wrestling program attracting more athletes

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published December 11, 2013

 The Roseville High wrestling team had such a great response at the outset of the season that it will field A and B teams. Pictured are seniors Jeff Fresch, right, and Tyler Petrone during a Dec. 4 practice.

The Roseville High wrestling team had such a great response at the outset of the season that it will field A and B teams. Pictured are seniors Jeff Fresch, right, and Tyler Petrone during a Dec. 4 practice.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

ROSEVILLE — Roseville High wrestling coach Davon Gray knows how good his wrestling program can be this season.

Gray, in his fourth year with the team, won state titles as a wrestler at Roseville in 1993 and 1994. In his first two seasons, Gray led the Panthers to district and regional titles.

Last season, Roseville fell in the district round. While he’s proud of what the program has accomplished under his watch, he is able to put things in prospective.

“Yeah, we got to the state (quarterfinals) twice, but that was with what (Roseville Athletic Director and former wrestling coach) Major Mickens left us,” said Gray, whose team went 8-5 last season, including a 3-2 mark in the Macomb Area Conference White Division.

Gray is alluding to Roseville’s performances prior to the state playoffs in 2010-11 and 2011-12. The Panthers finished last in the MAC Red in 2010-11 and fourth in 2011-12, but were able to peak at the right time.

“We were down a bit,” Gray said, “but we’re going to come back. Naturally, I have to want to do better than my predecessor.”

Gray said he’s taking a different approach with athletes this season, with the hopes of building a successful program and perennial state title contender. He said he’s trying to make wrestling as popular as sports such as football and basketball.

Gray said he’s talking to athletes who may want to wrestle.

“The motto I’m preaching this year is, ‘I need tough guys,’” Gray said. “Have a little pride in yourself and see how tough you are. The guys we have are responding to that.”

Gray said he had 57 prospective wrestlers come out to practice after the season started Nov. 18. The Roseville coach said 42 grapplers currently are at practice every day. That led to Roseville splitting up into A and B teams, as 14 wrestlers make up a lineup during a meet.

“That (number) is just the high school kids,” Gray said. “We still have our junior high program that isn’t factored into that. Every year, I feel like we’re going to hit a point where we have 100 kids come out and wrestling’s going to be a sport everybody wants to participate in.”

“I think we’re looking pretty good,” said senior 140-pound grappler Jeff Fresch, who qualified for the individual state finals last season. “The kids who have little to no experience are really catching on fast.”

Gray agreed with Fresch — a four-year varsity wrestler — that the group is coming along and striving to improve. The Panthers’ coach said his lineup isn’t where he wants it yet, with several wrestlers not making weight as of Dec. 3.

Gray said setting a lineup, which will include Fresch and senior 170-pounder Tyler Petrone, also a state finals qualifier last season, is not all that important right now.

Gray said he and his staff are working on teaching the wrestlers proper technique and form.

“Then, toward the end of the season, we’ll gradually get the lineup to where we need it to be and get the guys at the weight they need to wrestle at,” Gray said. “We’re not trying to come out of the gate with an all-star team. That’s not our focus.”

The goal, though, remains a return to the state finals, Gray said.

“Anything other than that, and I’ll be disappointed,” he added. “I’ve got a lot of kids who are going to surprise some people.”

Fresch said he and the other veteran grapplers are doing all they can to prep the younger wrestlers for the season.

“The young kids are doing a good job of listening to the coaches and older wrestlers, and they’re picking things up quickly, so I think we’ll have a good team.”

Roseville next hits the mat for a tri-meet with it’s A team against Birmingham Groves and Madison Heights Lamphere at 5 p.m. Dec. 12 at Roseville. The B team will square off against East Detroit at 5 p.m. Dec. 12.