Ike wrestling chasing fourth straight district title

By: Timothy Pontzer | Shelby - Utica News | Published January 22, 2018

 Utica Eisenhower senior Zach Dunn takes down an opponent from Madison Heights Lamphere during a quad meet Jan. 18 at Utica Ford II. Dunn is one of eight seniors on the Ike roster this season.

Utica Eisenhower senior Zach Dunn takes down an opponent from Madison Heights Lamphere during a quad meet Jan. 18 at Utica Ford II. Dunn is one of eight seniors on the Ike roster this season.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Despite a slow start, David Drath believes his club can pull off a four-peat.

Now in his 25th year at the helm of Utica Eisenhower wrestling, Drath is confident that his club can rebound from a 4-16 start to the season and compete for a fourth straight district team title.

“Our philosophy has always been that it doesn’t matter what has happened at the beginning of the season — it’s important what happens at the end,” Drath said after a Jan. 17 practice. “Our goal as a team is to win that district title again, which will be tough, but it’s something we know we can accomplish through hard work.”

Part of Ike’s struggles are attributed to a small roster.

“Our numbers are the lowest they’ve been since 1997,” Drath explained. “I really have no idea why. Normally we’re between 45 and 50 kids, but right now we’re at 26. That makes a huge difference. … When you can’t mess with your lineup as much, it makes the strategy much more difficult.”

The Eagles have been forced to void the heavyweight slot at each match and are thin in the other upper classes. Drath said it is a reflection of the times.

“Everybody is kind of having the same problem, and not just in wrestling,” Drath said. “Tryout numbers are down in other sports here at Eisenhower. Some kids just sit on the couch nowadays, but many athletes are focusing on just one sport. There are some three-sport athletes left but they’re quite rare.”

Also an assistant coach with the football team, Drath did admit that Ike’s recent success on the gridiron has cost him a few players.

“Sometimes with great seasons in football, it hurts our numbers (in wrestling) because guys take some time off or focus on football or lifting,” Drath explained. “But to me, I think one of the best things you can do is play another sport.”

Despite the low numbers, Drath called the middle of his lineup the strongest it has been in several years.

“Up top we need some guys, and down low we have guys learning and wrestling really hard and improving,” Drath said. “Our strength is definitely in the middleweights, where we have some really great guys.”

Drath pointed to senior Lucas Peck, who competes at 125 pounds and 130, as a leader for the group. He also cited senior Jack Morris at 171, junior Joe Jaynes at 160 and senior Zach Dunn as three of his best.

“(Peck) is very dependable, a great kid,” Drath said. “(Dunn) is the same way, someone I can always count on. (Jaynes) has not stopped wrestling basically since the end of last season, putting in a lot of work. (Morris) is one of our go-to guys and a great leader, and great kid. He’s always smiling and fun to be with.”

Peck said he relishes his leadership role, passing on knowledge given to him several seasons ago.

“As a freshman, I really looked up to a group of juniors that were leaders for us,” Peck said. “They taught me for two years how to be a leader. It’s kind of nice to implement what they showed me.”

In his fourth year on varsity, Peck hopes to complete the trend he has been a part of every season. Troy High is hosting the Division 1 district that Ike will take part in, along with Troy Athens and Utica High.

“Our biggest strength is probably the camaraderie; we don’t have any cliques, and we all jell together really nicely,” Peck said. “We want to get that district title. Utica is one of our crosstown rivals, so it’s nice to fight for a win against them every year for districts.”

Morris also enjoys his leadership responsibilities, something that is normal to him after filling in at quarterback for Ike after the starter went down late in the season.

“To be able to fill a leadership role is humbling,” Morris said. “Teaching and carrying on what the past guys have done is cool. I really try to help the young guys.”

Morris said a personal goal of his is to match his First-team All-State billing he earned as a cornerback in football. In wrestling, it takes a top eight finish at the individual state finals.

“I’m working really hard on every little detail to be the best I can be,” Morris said. “I want to help the team too because we void at heavyweights, so that’s six points right off the bat. It’s important to work hard for pins and extra points. In our middleweights where we’re strong, we take it upon ourselves to try and get those points.”

Morris is in his fourth year on varsity, spending the first two in the Macomb Dakota program. As both a sophomore and a junior, he lost in overtime in the blood rounds at regionals, missing a shot to make the individual state finals at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Now a change in venue for the event is driving Morris even more. With the football team, Morris saw a chance to play at Ford Field in the finals slip away in the final moments of two losses deep in the playoffs.

“It’s cool the wrestling finals are at Ford Field, I definitely want to try and make states for the first time, and hopefully place,” Morris remarked. “But without a doubt, we really want to get that district. To help a program win it four years in a row would be a really big accomplishment.”

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