Dowagiac’s Matt Lyle is the only senior the starting line-up for the Chieftain wrestling team. (Leader photo/File)

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Dowagiac wrestling program headed in the right direction

Published 10:05pm Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Despite a night when his team was beaten by two schools it probably shouldn’t have lost to, Dowagiac coach Matt Alward said he is excited about the future.

Starting a line-up full of freshmen and sophomores, Alward has just one senior starting for him — Matt Lyle.

At the Otsego Quad, the Chieftains were defeated by Berrien Springs (39-36) and by Plainwell (39-31).

A snow day hurt Dowagiac as several wrestlers were unable to make it in on weigh-in day, including 119-pounder Leo Edwards, who Alward felt would win both matches.

A knee injury to the Chieftains’ 215-pounder and a default loss against Plainwell at 152 pounds kept Dowagiac from gaining a split.

“We just didn’t wrestle to our potential tonight,” Alward said.

Winning two matches for the Chieftains were Lyle, Jared Hatch, Tom Smith and Tristan Howard. Chase Camp was 1-0, while Aubrey Huston, Caleb Sands and Jacob Davis were all 1-1 on the night.

Alward is in his third year as head coach after spending several seasons as the JV coach.

He is watching his young team make great strides, both in practice and in matches. He sees a chance for this team to be very competitive over the next two years.

“I am really excited about our future,” Alward said. “Everyone in the line-up is either a freshman or a sophomore except for Matt Lyle. The kids work hard in practice every day. They work hard on the match during matches, but sometimes we are just outgunned.

“If they invest in the weight room and they invest in mat time and going to camps, we have a chance to be pretty good the next two years. It’s just a matter of how hard the kids want to work because there is a lot of potential there.”

Lyle is a living example to the other members of the team of what hard work can get you.

As a seventh-grade wrestling, he won just one match. The following year, he won four or five matches. His freshman season, Alward said he believes he was .500 wrestling mainly on the JV squad.

“His junior year he was something like 11-11 or 11-12,” Alward said. “His junior year he was a regional qualifier. At one point this year, he was ranked eighth in the state at 145 pounds.

“Matt is a fantastic individual and he is a poster boy for any wrestling program. He works hard every day and has turned himself into a fantastic wrestler.”

Alward said it doesn’t matter what happens the remainder of this season because he is proud of him.

“He has gotten everything out of his wrestling career,” he said.

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