GVSU wrestling club heads to Georgia

GVSUs Gabe Stepanovich

Courtesy / Katie Haynes

GVSU’s Gabe Stepanovich

Mark Washburn

With sore muscles and sweat drenching their bodies, the wrestlers roll up the mats since practice has come to a close. Just another day of discipline, just another day of technique, just another day of wrestling. But this isn’t just another wrestling team.

Wrestling was cut by the GVSU athletic department in the 1990s. This is the same varsity program that produced dozens of NAIA and NCAA Division II national champions. GVSU club wrestling has come into its own during the 21st century, and the 2014-15 club wrestling team is here for the take down. This year’s team is young, but it’s wrestling as tough as ever.

There is a huge reliance on the experienced wrestlers who have been with the program for many years. Bobby Tymes (157) and Joe Stolp (125) have wrestled for four years, while juniors Gabe Stepanovich (165) and Eric Dietz (174) are returning All-Americans.

“We’ve created a culture in a way. The more you have multi-year guys, the more you are going to get that,” said 9th year head coach Rick Bolhuis. “They will clean things up whether it be technique or to push somebody extra hard, and it’s not always the same voice that’s doing it.”

This is especially helpful when it comes to preparation, as the veteran guys show up and work hard at every practice. Bolhuis and the rest of the staff doesn’t need to set the tone because the four-year wrestlers and All-Americans set the tone for the team.

Of course a good team and good practices are one thing, but what about the team chemistry?

“This year we get along very well. We always hang out together outside of practice and always do extra stuff together,” Stolp said. “It’s really the closest I’ve ever felt to a team so far.”

Earlier in the season, GVSU was able to take down two scholarship opponents in Mott Community College and Davenport University. The Lakers defeated Mott 37-18, winning seven of 11 weight classes. That same day, GVSU came back from a 20-point deficit to top the DU Panthers 28-26.

“Beating Davenport and schools like that makes us feel good because those kids are getting paid to wrestle (with scholarships) and we are paying to wrestle, so it just shows that we care a lot and that we (are) committed,” Stepanovich said.

This weekend, the Lakers will be heading down to Dalton, Ga. for the National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA) National Duals. With the team seeded fifth this year, it will have some solid competition to grapple with. Liberty University, the Apprentice School, University of Central Florida and Middle Tennessee State are ranked ahead of GVSU.

“I think it’s exciting because sometimes we don’t get to face those tough teams unless we are at these national tournaments,” Stepanovich said. “We get to see who the tough guys are and get some good matches in.”

Performing well this weekend is vital for the team’s success later in the season, as the points garnered will carry over to the NCWA Individual National Championships this March in Allen, Tex.

“Now we start cranking it up as we get ready to go and make a statement at this point in the year,” Stolp said. “We are ready to work hard and meet some goals.”

The NCWA National Duals will be held on Friday and Saturday.