Whitehall wrestler Joe Sika (right) grabs hold of Allendale opponent Jon Nielsen during the regional final match Wednesday at Comstock Park. Sika’s major decision helped the Vikes to a 32-26 win.
COMSTOCK PARK — No matter how Whitehall wrestling coach Cliff Sandee crunched the numbers, he couldn’t come up with a way his team should expect to defeat Grand Rapids Catholic Central at Wednesday night’s regional semifinal match.
“We kept doing the numbers over and over again, and I thought the best we could do was a one-point loss to Catholic,” Sandee said. “I know the rankings (where Whitehall came in #3 and the Cougars were #4) didn’t speak to that, but I thought Catholic was a horrible matchup for us.”
The Vikings showed otherwise, however, mustering enough key wins to edge the Cougars 31-24 in the semifinals. Whitehall went on to defeat eighth-ranked Allendale 32-26 in the finals and win its second straight regional title.
By all accounts, it was the smallest Viking, freshman 103-pounder Reiley Brown, who turned the course of the match. Whitehall trailed 16-12 through eight bouts, and the match had gone more or less according to script, with the Sika twins and Logan Morningstar delivering 12 points for the Vikes. Brown, however, faced a tall task in Kole Krauss, ranked second in the state at 103 and a victor over Brown twice this year, including at last Saturday’s individual districts.
The freshman Brown not only upset Krauss, but grabbed a 16-5 major-decision victory that put all the momentum in favor of the Vikings.
“Reiley’s as good as they come for a freshman,” Sandee said. “He turned the tables for us. It was pretty impressive.”
Alex Whitener later provided the decisive margin by pinning Eric Sander at 125.
“Holy cow, if he could wrestle on Saturdays the way he wrestles on Wednesdays,” Sandee said of Whitener, who took just fourth at individual districts last weekend but looked like a top-notch grappler Wednesday, adding a major-decision win in the regional final match to his night. “He cares about nothing but the team. He’s been bumping up two or three weights all year. We’ve come to expect greatness out of him.”
After the excitement of the semifinal match, Whitehall had to face a rested Allendale team that had finished off Tri-County in the other semifinal well ahead of time.
If the Vikings were taxed, though, they didn’t show it, as Whitehall controlled proceedings. Whitehall’s 32-17 lead with two bouts to go enabled Sandee to give Roger Champion and Dakota Hoffman a rest and pull reserves out for the final two matches.
Among Whitehall’s wins against Allendale were two 1-0 decisions obtained by Morningstar and Logan Irey.
“That’s Allendale against Whitehall,” Sandee said. “There’s no one in the sport that I respect more than (Falcons’ coach) Duane Watson. He finds a way to get his kids to perform best at the right time. We knew we had to win the one-point matches and we won two of them.”
The wins concluded one of the best 12-day stretches a wrestling team can have, as the Vikings won a conference title and defeated three of the top eight teams in the state by ranking. After Saturday’s individual regionals, the Vikings get four days off before Friday’s quarterfinals at Battle Creek. Whitehall’s opponent will be revealed when the MHSAA unveils quarterfinal draws Sunday.
“We want to set the standard as high as we can,” Sandee said. “When we get to the state meet, it’s eight of the best teams in the state. We’ve got to battle in that quarterfinal round to see where we are. We’re happy to be there but we’re not satisfied.”
SPARTA — The Reeths-Puffer Rockets fell Wednesday to Byron Center in the Division 2 regional semifinals at Sparta.
Reeths-Puffer’s team season ended with the 50-24 loss to the Bulldogs. The Rockets ended the season with a 21-5 dual-meet record.
Recording wins for Reeths-Puffer were Andrew Emmons at 112 pounds, Tyler Stenberg at 140, Julian Munday at 189, Buck Tottingham at 215 and Steven Hanson at heavyweight.
“This was a great year,” R-P coach Matt Brink said. “We had a really good record. We are very proud of the guys.”
Vikings have 10
ALLENDALE — The Whitehall Vikings sent 10 wrestlers to regionals, nine of whom placed in the top three at last Saturday’s Allendale individual districts.
The individual regionals were held at Whitehall Saturday after the Beacon went to press.
Whitehall had five grapplers at the top of the podium. Zach Cooper at 125 pounds, Steven Sika at 160, Joe Sika at 171 and Logan Morningstar at heavyweight won district titles.
Cooper, ranked first in the state by MichiganGrappler.com, beat sixth-ranked Blake Russo of Grand Rapids West Catholic by technical fall to earn his title. Steven Sika, ranked third at 160, posted a 13-5 major decision over Allendale’s Brandon Dyke to finish first. Joe Sika, top-ranked at 171, defeated Grand Rapids Catholic Central’s Grant Tennihill, ranked seventh, by a 4-1 decision, and Morningstar, #1 at heavyweight, bested Allendale’s Glenn Geurink, ranked fifth, by a 5-1 decision.
Other Whitehall qualifiers included: Reiley Brown, second at 103; Logan Irey, third at 112; Alex Whitener, fourth at 125; Trip Thommen, third at 145; and Hunter Shaw, second at 215.
Montague sends 3
MONTAGUE — Three Montague Wildcats competed at Saturday’s Bangor regionals after the Beacon went to press thanks to strong performances at last Saturday’s individual districts, which the Wildcats hosted.
Sawyer Smith was Montague’s top finisher, taking the district title at 152 pounds. Smith, currently ranked second in the state at 152 by MichiganGrappler.com, defeated ninth-ranked Corless Parker of Bangor in the district finals by a 3-1 decision.
Brandon Hammell finished fourth at 160 and Collin Pineda placed fourth at heavyweight to earn bids to the regionals as well.
Rockets qualify 6
COOPERSVILLE — The Reeths-Puffer Rockets sent six wrestlers to the individual regional tournament from last Saturday’s districts at Coopersville. The regionals took place Saturday at Fruitport after the Beacon went to press.
Leading the Rockets’ qualifiers was Buck Tottingham, who took first place at 215 pounds, the Rockets’ lone district champion. Tottingham, currently ranked in the honorable-mention category in Division 2 by MichiganGrappler.com, defeated Allegan’s Jonah Pfau by an 8-2 decision to earn his title.
Tyler Stenberg came in second place at 140. He fell to Kyle Simez of Allegan in a #1 vs. #2 matchup in the finals by a 17-11 decision. Simez is ranked first and Stenberg second at 140.
Paul Douglas and Sean McWilliams took third place at 135 and 160 respectively, while Jon Woodring and Steven Hanson were each fourth at 145 and heavyweight respectively. Those four joined Tottingham and Stenberg at Saturday’s regionals.