Recently, the Vikings program captured national attention and is now being recognized as one of the better prep high school wrestling programs in the nation.
Earlier this month, Howell junior wrestlers Josh Kyle and Ryan Skillington and freshman wrestler Hayden Trezek were named All Americans after competing and excelling in national tournaments in Pennsylvania and Virginia.
It was an extra special feeling for Howell coach Kevin Stroh to see his wrestlers be recognized on the national level for their hard work and success.
“It’s awesome. Of course winning state titles is nice, but when they get out there and do it on the national level … I always tell them that’s where the scholarship money is earned – placing at national and becoming an All-American,” Stroh said. “To be able to be a champion among all those state champions there is a great honor.”
Kyle competed the weekend of April 19 at the 2019 FloNationals Tournament in Indiana, Pennsylvania. He had an outstanding weekend as he wrestled his way to the final round and won the 125.5-pound class.
“Josh won that national tournament up there to become an All-American,” Stroh said. “It’s awesome. He comes from good bloodlines. His brother was a three-time state champion and his dad was a three-time state medalist.He’s got some good bloodlines to live up to.”
Kyle defeated Nigel Freeman of North Carolina in the 125.5 finals to claim the national championship match. Although it was a smaller weight class, he was not intimidated by the big stage. However, it took a little while for him to realize the gravity of what happened.
“I’ve always known I could do something like that and when it actually happened it was like, ‘Holy cow, I just won a national champion and am All-American,'” Kyle said. “It didn’t really hit me until the drive back to the airport from the tournament. I was thinking about it and was like, ‘Huh, I can actually say I’ve done this now.'”
Two weeks earlier on the weekend of April 5, Skillington and Trezek made the trek to Virginia with former Holt wrestling coach Jason Moore to compete in the National High School Coaches Association Tournament.
Skillington more than held his own in the heavyweight division of the freestyle tournament. After losing in the quarterfinal round, he regrouped and defeated Will Crider of Indiana in the third-place match.
“Just in the situation to be able to come back from the loss in the quarterfinals, it felt really good. It gave me a boost of confidence to know that I could, even with that loss, still come back and battle and bounce back,” Skillington said.
His approach to the tournament was simple but effective. “Sometimes the nerves can get to you, so I just really focused on each match and [taking it] one match at a time and trying to come out with the outcome I wanted,” Skillington said.
Getting named an All-American was the icing on the cake for Skillington’s junior season. “It just felt like a great year for me because I won the state championship, and I was able to get the All-American [award]. It just felt like the perfect way to end my season,” Skillington said.
Trezek finished eighth in the 138-pound class of the tournament and was also named an All-American.
Stroh believes that the added national attention now will keep the bar set high for success on the mats at Howell for years to come.
“They’ve seen the other kids do it and now they know that it’s possible to be an All-American,” Stroh said. “Pretty much over the last seven or eight years that Connor Flynn, Jack Flynn, Hale Enos were All-Americans, too, they got to see how they trained and how they did it.”