Stryker wrestling was at its zenith in the seventies and eighties under Coach Ralph Snyder and his assistant Ted Fisher (who took over as Head Coach in 1985 when Snyder retired). Before winning a league title in 1981, Stryker sent several wrestlers to state including Tom Frank in 1972, Ron Chappuis in 1977, and Ruben Martinez was State Runner-Up in 1977. Dave and Tim Frank along with Gerald Gensler went in 1978, Dave took 4th place in the 167 lb class. Tracy “Herman” Frank went in 1979 and took Runner-Up in the 112 lb weight class. Herman also returned in 1981 in the 132 lb class to take 3rd place. Trevor Frank went to state in 1984, 1985, and 1986 (in the 112 lb, 126 lb, and 132 lb weight classes respectively), taking home 3rd place in ’85 and Runner-Up in ’86. It would be 19 more years before Stryker sent another wrestler to State; in 2005, Stryker boasted a state champion in Jacob Hale who dominated the 171 lb weight class in Division III. Jacob set a state record for most takedowns in a season (425), and his final record over four years was 113-18. However, with participation down over the last several years making them unable to fill most matches and invites, the school has little choice but to discontinue the wrestling program.
It is clear to see that the heyday of this program was in the seventies and eighties. One possible reason for this is that enrollment at that time was nearly twice what it is today. “Last year there were no varsity wrestlers and only two junior high wrestlers,” said Stryker Athletic Director Dave Schultz. “I felt bad for David Bell and Braden Whitlock as they were quality wrestlers that went to practice every day.” The previous year, Stryker had looked at cuts and at that time had the same two wrestlers in 7th grade (Bell and Whitlock), and only four high school wrestlers. “Of those four, only one was a dedicated wrestler that came to every practice and was a joy to watch,” said Schultz. “I’d have loved to see 14 Nolan Shorts out on the mat every night.”
Sadly, that just isn’t the case. “I enjoy watching wrestling as I wrestled in junior high,” said Schultz. “I did not want to see the sport come to an end, but when you only have two kids in junior high you cannot get matches. The other schools surely aren’t going to travel with 13 or 14 kids and only have two of them get to wrestle.” The bottom line is, according to Mr. Schultz, “If we had six or seven kids like Nolan Short, we’d still have wrestling.”
With class enrollment down considerably from the past (with Stryker graduating classes now closer to 30 than their past numbers of around 60), the interest and numbers available for the sport doesn’t seem as though it will be going up anytime soon.
“I wasn’t here then, but I’d like to thank both of those gentlemen (Ralph Snyder and Ted Fisher) for all the time and hard work they put in over the years,” said Schultz. “I don’t think it was anything in particular that led to the downfall of wrestling here at Stryker. The sport is not as prevalent as it was back then and that coupled with the major decline in enrollment became a major numbers problem the last 4-5 years.”
It is always sad to see a sport fall by the wayside, but it is surely better to have it be so for lack of interest rather than lack of funding. Perhaps Stryker will have a wrestling program again someday, but, for now, the mats are going into storage.
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