By: Daniel Stickradt
WRESTLING: Lake Fenton’s Trent Hillger embarking on final chapter of fine career
BY DAN STICKRADT
LAKE FENTON — Life’s choices.
There are many.
For Lake Fenton’s two-sport star Trent Hillger, his turmoil was deciding between football or wrestling in college, as he had legions of offers from NCAA Division I schools in both sports.
He finally chose Wisconsin for wrestling.
“That was a huge decision,” said Hillger, Michigan’s top-ranked 285-pound wrestler. “I was glad to finally get that all over with — (it took) a lot of time. There’s a lot of phone calls and visits and trying to make the right decision.”
He had narrowed down his list to Cornell, Iowa State and Wisconsin for wrestling, while Air Force, Iowa and Eastern Michigan were still in the picture for football.
Long term, Hillger felt that wrestling standouts can make the transition back to pro football better than college football players can make the transition to pro wrestling. Hillger is quite gifted in both arenas.
A two-time Associated Press All-State First Team football player (Division 5-6), playing fullback, linebacker and quarterback (as a junior), Hillger is a Mr. Wrestling candidate and a future four-time All-State wrestler.
This season, Hillger is a sterling 48-0 entering the Individual Regionals and has a stellar four-year varsity career and school record ledger of 230-5. He has not lost since his freshman season, when he placed an impressive fourth at the Division 3 state finals at 171 — a rarity for a ninth grader in the upper weight classes.
Hillger was state champion at 215 back in 2015 and captured the D-3 285-pound crown as a junior. He is the heavy favorite to repeat this year, holding down the No. 1 ranking for all divisions at 285.
After losing to Caro’s Skylar Ley in the 171-pound third-place match at state as a freshman, the taste of defeat left a sour taste in the mouth of Trent Hillger — a taste he has not tasted ever since on the prep level.
“It’s been a great four years,” said Hillger. “I remember that loss and it caused me to work harder.
“I also have really (researched) nutrition and better ways to stay healthy and train the right way,” added Hillger. “I think that’s a big part of it”
Lake Fenton did win another Division 3 regional crown to advance to the MHSAA state tournament in Mt. Pleasant. And it is the user-talented Hillger that has led the way for a state-ranked program.
“Trent is one of the hardest workers that I've ever seen. And he’s an even better person,” said Lake Fenton coach Vance Corcoran. “(He’s a near-) 4.0 student who cares about everyone. He never walks around with a chip on his shoulder or acts like he’s better than anyone else.
Hillger is currently ranked in the top 10 in the nation by two different publications — coming in at No. 3 by intermat.com and No. 4 by FloWrestling.com. He has been selected to compete for Team USA at the Dapper Dan / Pittsburgh Classic March 25 in Pennsylvania.
“Trent is definitely on the country’s elite list of wrestlers without a doubt,” said Corcoran. “His unmatched work ethic and attitude puts him there.”
With a 3.96 GPA, Hillger is ranked in the top 10 in his Lake Fenton graduating class. He also scored an impressive 30 on his ACT.
“I will graduate early in April, then head to Wisconsin to start training,” said Hillger. “I’m sad to see the high school (competition) coming to an end, but excited for the next chapter in my career. I will compete for a Wisconsin (club) in (Las) Vegas in April, get a taste of what it will be like competing in college.”
Hillger is a once-in-a-lifetime-type athlete who has left a lasting impression on the athletics department at Lake Fenton.
“It’s an honor to be his coach,” added Corcoran. “I look to Trent to lead our team by example and that is what he does. He is such a student of the sport, he helps me with lineup adjustments and strategy aspects of big duals.”
For Hillger, finishing strong with no hiccups is the goal for the high school season.
“After everything I have accomplished, I just want to finish strong. I have deleted the No. 3 wrestler in (D-3), but I have not wrestled the No. 2 guy. I’m looking forward to a challenge.”
WRESTLING: Represent: Hillger to compete for Team USA at prestigious Pittsburgh Classic
BY DAN STICKRADT
Trent Hillger is going national.
The Lake Fenton star and University of Wisconsin-bound 285-pounder has been selected to compete at the prestigious Dapper Dan / Pittsburgh Classic next month.
Hillger, a Mr. Wrestling candidate who is going after his third straight iIndividual State title in the Division 3 circle, will compete for USA All-Stars at the annual tournament, which draws over 30 of the top wrestlers in the nation each March.
This year’s event will take place March 24-25 at the University of Pittsburgh.
This season, Hillger is a sterling 48-0 entering the Individual Regionals and has a stellar four-year varsity career and school record ledger of 230-5. He has not lost since his freshman season, when he placed an impressive fourth at the Division 3 state finals at 171.
Hillger joins a handful of other Michigan standouts to be invited to the annual two-day event over the years, but the only state representative in the Class of 2017.
“We’ve had some good ones from Michigan over the years,” said Sam Romano, one of the event organizers and a Michigan State wrestling alumni himself. “We’ve had the Simmons brothers (Williamston), the Masseys, and even former (University of) Michigan standout Mark Churella starred in one of the first classics. He was a three-time national champ. As I said, we’ve always had some good wrestlers from Michigan involved over the years.”
The Classic XLIII will feature a reception banquet on March 24 and a two matches on March 25 at the University of Pittsburgh’s Fitzgerald Field House. The WPIAL All-Stars will face the Georgia All-Stars at 4 p.m., while the Pennsylvania All-Stars will face off with USA All-Stars at 6 p.m. — with Hillger slotting into the 285-pound slot.
The Pittsburgh Classic committee invites a handful of nationally ranked wrestlers in each class to try to fill in the four teams.
Randy Nieman (Midland Bullock Creek), Jackson Morse (Lowell), Connor Youtsey (Mason), Benjamin Whitford (St. Johns) and Mark Weber (Goodrich) are the other Michigan representatives who have competed at the Pittsburgh Classic during the past decade.
“We get them from all over nowadays,” said Romano. “They come from the east coast, Midwest, even have kids from Texas and California. It’s never easy though. Not all f them can come. That's why we invite so many a year. Some kids have other commitments. Some play a spring sport and can't get away. But we always get some of the best wrestlers in the nation to come each year. It will be a fun-filled day with some amazing competition. We get a lot of kids that come to this event each year that (eventually) become All-Americans in college.”
As of Feb. 17, the 14-member USA All-Stars had over 1,800 career wins amongst them and less than 70 losses throughout their prep careers. The unit has totaled 30 state titles and most of the 2017 high school seasons are yet to be completed.
Wrestling fans can keep track of the prestigious event on FloWrestling.com.
Football or wrestling? Trent Hillger had a tough decision to make.
In the end it became clear, though. Wrestling was the better fit.
“For football, it was Air Force, Iowa and Eastern (Michigan) were probably my top three and for wrestling it was Cornell, Wisconsin and Iowa State,” Hillger said. “I ended up pushing out football.”
While a ton of other football players were using Wednesday’s National Signing Day platform to announce their college decisions, the former gridiron star was proclaiming a new beginning.
The two-time state champion celebrated his decision to attend the University of Wisconsin for wrestling. He previously signed during the early period on Nov. 9, 2016, but his family thought Wednesday morning would be the perfect day to celebrate with at least 30 supporters in the Lake Fenton High School library.
“A lot of his friends wanted to see him do the signing when he did it in November, but it was just him in the office and they faxed it on to the coaches,” said Sue Hillger, Trent’s mom. “It’s fun. It’s exciting. I’m going to miss him in football but I would’ve missed him in wrestling so either way I was going to miss something.”
Hillger (41-0) is currently pushing for a third consecutive individual state title. He is ranked No. 1 in the 285-pound weight class for Division 3, according to michigangrappler.com.
The InterMat High School Rankings also list him as No. 3 in the nation for his weight class. He recorded a three-second pin to set a state record on Jan. 7 during a match versus Walled Lake Western at the South Lyon Invitational.
At another point in the tourney, he recorded another five-second pinfall victory.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” Hillger said. “Me and my Coach always talk before a match about what I plan on doing and not planning on going for a fast pin so it kind of caught both of us off guard.”
Hillger, 17, maintains a 3.97 GPA and plans to major in agriculture nutrition or human nutrition in college. Not playing football will be tough initially, but he’s confident he made the best choice.
“I’m going to miss (football) a lot, especially seeing all my friends go there for college and coming back to watch the high school team and Wisconsin play some football,” Hillger said. “I’m happy with my choice to wrestle in the future and just excited to go out to Wisconsin and hopefully tear it up.”
Lake Fenton goalkeeper Andrew Aragon actually did sign his National Letter of Intent to play soccer at Newberry College in South Carolina on Wednesday. He leaves the program with the single-season shutouts record (12) and helped Lake Fenton win the Genesee Area Conference title this past year.
“It’s just everything I want,” Aragon said of Newberry College. “Everything just added up to go there and it’s just a perfect scenario.”