Whitehall wrestling coach Cliff Sandee congratulates Casey Robinson after Robinson won his match at 119 pounds during the Orchard View wrestling districts Wednesday night.
MUSKEGON — It was perhaps the most-anticipated district match in the entire state Wednesday night, with the third-ranked Whitehall Vikings, already having dominated the West Michigan Conference finals last Friday en route to a title, taking on the fifth-ranked Shelby Tigers far too early in the Division 3 state tournament. Shelby had reached the state finals in Division 4 in 2012, while the Vikings had advanced to the semifinals in Division 3.
Whitehall, however, never let the match really get interesting, pulling ahead 21-3 through the first six matches en route to a 41-18 victory that advanced the Vikings to Wednesday’s Comstock Park regional.
Things won’t get any easier for the Vikes there, as they will take on fourth-ranked Grand Rapids Catholic Central, which dominated its own district by defeating Godwin Heights and Kelloggsville 65-2 and 71-5 respectively.
“Nobody was nice to us on their draws,” Whitehall coach Cliff Sandee said. “They have some elite wrestlers. They’re one of the best wrestling programs in the state. It’s going to be one of those 7-7 matches where we have to limit bonus points.“
Whitehall dominated the first two matches of the dual before taking a surprise loss at heavyweight. Logan Morningstar, who entered the night with just two losses all year, lost a 7-4 decision to Joe Brightwell, ranked fifth in the state at heavyweight.
Shelby seemed to have the momentum, down just 9-3 after taking a match it hadn’t been expected to, but the Vikes put a stop to that quickly. Reiley Brown earned a pin of Teddy Barco at 103, Logan Irey easily took an 8-4 decision off Austin Felt at 112 and Casey Robinson defeated Dylan Felt 5-2 at 119 to put Whitehall back in the driver’s seat.
Shelby managed to pull back within 27-15 heading into a tough match at 140 between Anthony Guerra, an honorable-mention ranked grappler at 140 for Shelby, and Dakota Hoffman.
Hoffman stepped up big-time, taking a 7-3 decision from Guerra and effectively ending the Tigers’ hopes for an upset.
“Dakota Hoffman wrestled his tail off,” Sandee said. “There is definitely no one in the state that trains harder than him. He videotapes himself and sends me video footage on snow days of him flipping tires in the snow (and) doing sprints. You have to be happy for him.”
Whitehall had the Sika twins lurking in the two final matches of the night in case it needed them, but the Vikes led 33-18 going into those matches. Steven Sika went out and dominated Nick Peterson at 160 by technical fall anyway, but Sandee gave Joe Sika the night off and sent Noah Robart out to wrestle at 171. Naturally, Robart took a 7-6 decision from Juan Cavazos to cap off the night.
“It gave us a nice cushion,” Sandee said of having the Sika twins last if necessary. “But we preach and preach and preach, everyone know their job, everyone do their job. You want it to not come down to that. Everybody do their job and it will fall into place.”
Besides the aforementioned Vikings, other Whitehall winners included Hunter Shaw at 215 by pin, Zack Cooper at 130 by forfeit, Trip Thommen at 145 by decision and Travis Friend at 189 by decision.
Sandee said his team will have to step their game up a level to defeat the #4 Cougars at Wednesday’s regional.
“We left a lot of points out there,” Sandee said. “We had some major decisions that we were two (points) away from, one away from. We had kids on their back and didn’t finish. You leave matches or pins out there like that against Catholic, we’re going to lose that dual.”
SPRING LAKE — The Reeths-Puffer Rockets wrestled impressively Wednesday night at the Spring Lake district, winning the championship to advance to this Wednesday’s regional round at Sparta.
The Rockets defeated Fruitport in the semifinals by a 51-21 margin and followed it up with a 45-24 win over Spring Lake in the finals to win the championship.
R-P had six wrestlers go 2-0 on the night, with C.J. Colbert at 103 pounds, J.J. Covington at 125, Tyler Stenberg at 140, Sean McWilliams at 160, Julian Munday at 189 and Buck Tottingham at 215 recording the double victories.
With the two wins, the Rockets are now 21-4 this season in dual meets.
R-P will face Byron Center in the regional semifinals Wednesday. With a win, they would move on to battle either the winner of the Kenowa Hills district, which was rescheduled for Monday due to weather, or #4-ranked Allegan.
O-K Black title
ZEELAND — Reeths-Puffer proved last Saturday that it’s the class of the O-K Black Conference, dominating all comers on the way to a league title at the conference finals held at Zeeland East.
The Rockets had a whopping 11 out of 14 possible wrestlers reach the finals at their weight classes, with eight Rockets taking home titles.
Victorious R-P grapplers included Andrew Emmons at 112 pounds, J.J. Covington at 125, Tyler Stenberg at 140, Jon Woodring at 145, Sean McWilliams at 160, Julian Munday at 189, Buck Tottingham at 215 and Steven Hanson at heavyweight.
The Rockets also had three runners-up, including C.J. Colbert at 103, Paul Douglas at 135 and Tyler Beckman at 171.
“It was a great day,” R-P coach Matt Brink said. “We’re very happy.”
R-P’s score of 245 points overall was well clear of second-place Kenowa Hills, which posted 170 points.