Berkley High’s Lev Mechnikov attempts to throw his opponent in a match earlier this season. The Bears are under the guidance of coach Ron Fritz.

Berkley High’s Lev Mechnikov attempts to throw his opponent in a match earlier this season. The Bears are under the guidance of coach Ron Fritz.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Berkley High wrestling coach looks to rebuild program

By: Mark Vest | Woodward Talk | Published February 11, 2020

 Berkley’s Jalen Spratt looks for a pin in a match earlier this season. Coach Ron Fritz is making strides in building the program.

Berkley’s Jalen Spratt looks for a pin in a match earlier this season. Coach Ron Fritz is making strides in building the program.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

BERKLEY — It was more than one year ago that Ron Fritz heard something that changed the course of his life.

It was brought to his attention that the Berkley High’s wrestling coaching position was available.

Fritz is a teacher in the district and a JV coach for Berkley’s football team. He spoke with Berkley Athletic Director Lori Stone about what he had heard. Aside from merely getting confirmation, the position was offered to Fritz.

Although Fritz wrestled as a youth, including for Novi High, he hadn’t been actively involved with the sport for a while, and he had no experience coaching it at the high school level.

Even though Fritz said he “wasn’t looking for it,” he decided to seize the opportunity.

He’s now in his second season in the position.

“I’m glad I took the job,” Fritz said. “I really enjoy it. I’m having a lot of fun with it. … The timing was right; it just kind of fell into my lap.”

Fritz’s opportunity has not come without challenges. He estimated that the last time Berkley was able to fill wrestling’s 14 different weight classes was “probably 10 years ago.”

Having voids in weight classes can mean a lot of points are being left off the board.

While it’s a problem that hasn’t been totally fixed, from Fritz’s perspective, things have gotten better.

“Upside is that our numbers have grown,” he said. “Last year, we ended with 14 guys. This year, we’re closer to 20, 21 guys on the team, which is really promising.”

Although the numbers have increased, there is still a lot more potential.

“Berkley has the numbers as far as the population,” Fritz said. “We’re a big enough school that I should be able to get to 40 kids. It’s just whether or not Berkley has the type of kids that want to wrestle. Berkley used to be a really good wrestling program. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, Berkley was a top-notch program. … It would be nice to think that we could still get it to that.”

Aside from having a population large enough to grow the numbers, with the makeup of some of the kids in Berkley’s community, there could be a lot of talent that hasn’t been tapped into.

“Berkley has this sort of gritty reputation; hard- nosed, hard-working kids, or hard-nosed, hard-working families in Berkley,” Fritz said. “Those are the type of kids that you want in a wrestling room. They go out, and they’re tough. … I do think Berkley has that, and that’s why it’s sometimes frustrating for me to see that we struggle to get kids out for football, we struggle to get kids out for wrestling, and I’m trying to figure out why that is. Times have changed. Maybe sports aren’t as popular as they once were. I don’t know.”

For as difficult as wrestling is, which is why Fritz thinks some choose to avoid it, he sees the positive of the sport.

“One of the beautiful things about wrestling is it’s a true individual sport,” he said. “Even though we enter as a team, it’s you and your opponent. I love that aspect of it. … It makes you tougher; it builds self-confidence.”

Fritz wants to see his Bears competing for league titles every year.

“Whether it’s me or anyone else, I want to see Berkley wrestling become something that’s again competitive and worth talking about,” he said.

Catch the Bears in a Division 1 district at U-D Jesuit. The Bears take on the host at 6 p.m. Feb. 12.