CADILLAC — The road back to varsity wrestling at Cadillac started four and a half years ago.
The Cadillac Wrestling Club began and grappled for years in the Northeast Michigan Wrestling Association, but when its oldest wrestlers aged out of NEMWA, the options were clear.
Cadillac initiated a junior high club team for the 2018-19 season and a high school club last year.
Now the Cadillac Wrestling Club alums can officially call themselves Vikings.
Cadillac Area Public Schools approved adding wrestling as a varsity sport for the first time in over a decade. Cadillac dropped wrestling in the mid-2000s amid budget cuts, along with girls gymnastics.
The Vikings are in the process of taking applications for the head coaching positions.
CAPS athletic director Fred Bryant is also seeking a girls wrestling coach, which would make the Vikings the first area school with a dedicated wrestling coach for girls.
“Talking to the guys at the MHSAA, they see a positive trend heading that way,” Bryant said. “We thought rather than having varsity and junior varsity positions, let’s look at a girls position. It’s getting our foot in the door with it, and see where the interest goes.”
Bryant said the girls coach would also help coaching boys.
The youth program’s numbers have continued to increase, and last year’s club team had 20 wrestlers, almost all freshmen and sophomores, including three girls — junior Katie Johnston and freshmen Keegan Gonzalez and Ayres Hall. Bryant said about 8-10 more are expected in next year’s freshman class. Johnston was the team’s only upperclassman.
“We hoped it would happen,” said Paul Hanus, who coaches the club team along with Mark Cronkite. “But we didn’t know it would happen this soon.”
Both Hanus and Cronkite are among those who have applied for the position, Bryant said, adding there are several other applications as well. The job posting expires May 8. The Vikings also have coaching vacancies for girls swimming, and assistant coaches for cross country and boys tennis.
“Women’s wrestling is one of the fastest growing sports in the country,” Hanus said.
Cadillac is the only Big North Conference school currently without a wrestling program. The junior high and high school club teams hosted events, however.
“We got our tails whipped early in the year, and things got progressively better as the year went on,” Bryant said. “You have to start somewhere.”
Bryant said he has received multiple inquiries already, including Cronkite and Hanus.
“We’re all extremely thankful to have an administration that support us,” said Hanus, an Iowa native. “Parental support has been awesome. Not having a program that long and having that many, it was really a solid start. We either win or we learn. Let’s get better every week.”
The school’s most recently passed bond includes funding for a new tennis complex and new football stadium lighting.
The track surrounding the football field is slated to be replaced this summer, with a tentative June 1 tear-out date. Bryant said he also wants to add in a concrete ring inside the track surrounding the football field to prepare for the eventuality of adding artificial turf for the football surface.
The Vikings are the only BNC team without an artificial playing surface, which would allow Cadillac to host state semifinal contests in football and soccer. The MHSAA requires turf to host such events.