By Andrew Johnson
FRUITPORT – When the Michigan High School Athletic Association individual wrestling state finals begin on Friday at Detroit’s Ford Field, Crue Cooper will have one goal in mind:
To give Fruitport its first individual state champion since 2014, when Chris Hendricks won the title in the 285-pound weight class.
But if it weren’t for another former great Fruitport wrestler, Cooper may not be competing at all.
Cooper happens to be the half-brother of Levi Six, who finished sixth in the state in the 145-pound weight class in 2015.
Cooper didn’t have much interest in wrestling while he was growing up, but after watching the effort that Six put into the sport, and the success he had, he decided to jump in.
“I was never really into it,” said Cooper, a senior who started wrestling six years ago. “But I looked up to him (Six) and wanted to be like him. If Levi wasn’t there, I’d probably never have wrestled.”
Cooper said he became motivated to push harder and excel at the sport as a sophomore, when he watched Six compete in the state finals.
“I saw that you have to put work in to be good,” he said. “It showed me you have to have pride in what you do. Not everybody will see the work you put in, but you know that you’re bettering yourself.”
He has definitely done that.
Last year Cooper qualified for the state finals for the first time and finished fourth in Division 2 in the 171-pound weight class.
This year he’s been even better. In January he won his first individual title at the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association City Wrestling Tournament. More recently he won an individual district championship, and two weeks ago finished second in regionals, losing in the 189-pound championship match to John Shelton of East Grand Rapids by an 8-5 score.
That loss, and a defeat at the hands of Reeths-Puffer standout Hunter McCall, are the only two blemishes on Cooper’s record this year. He is currently 43-2, and losing another match is not in his plans.
If he wins the rest, he will be a state champion.
“I try to think about it more as one match at a time,” said Cooper, who will wrestle at 189 pounds in the state finals. “But I’ve of course thought about it. It would be something that would be amazing, and awesome for Fruitport. I’d love to bring it back for the school and the wrestling community.”
To those who know Cooper, it’s no surprise that he’s got a community mindset, rather than being entirely focused on himself.
“He’s one of those kids that every coach hopes to have,” said Fruitport wrestling coach Mike Michelli. “He’s the first one to get to the mat and the last one to leave. He’s what you always hear about and what coaches always want. He’ll show up and lead by example, because he works as hard as he can.”
Michelli would love to see Cooper rewarded for all of his hard work with a state title.
“It would be pretty special,” the coach said. “But no matter where he falls, he’s a pretty special kid. He’s a good role model, and for him to go out on top and accomplish a goal he’s set, would be amazing.”