Grayling wrestler shatters school’s all-time pin record
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
It was the final match of his Grayling High School wrestling career. The state finals. A bout to determine fifth/sixth place in the 215-pound weight class in Division 3. He was behind 8-0 in the third period. Facing a loss. But then, Reece Ferrigan did what he does. He put his opponent on the mat, and he pinned him. Match over.
“It was almost like a storybook ending,” Ferrigan said.
It was Ferrigan’s 139th pin, a number that didn’t just beat the school’s previous record, it destroyed it. Prior to this season, the record was 109 pins.
“Wow, that’s crazy,” Ferrigan said. “That’s a lot. That’s a lot of matches.”
The 100-win mark for wrestlers in northern Michigan is considered a milestone. Most do not reach 100. Ferrigan hit the 100-mark as a junior. He passed the 150-win milestone this year as a senior. Very few northern Michigan wrestlers reach 150 wins. Ferrigan finished his career with an overall record of 166-44. He was one victory short of the school’s all-time win record of 167, a mark owned by Zach Cheney.
“I let Cheney keep that one,” Ferrigan said.
Ferrigan developed his style and mindset early in his career.
“In my first match ever this kid’s whooping on me, whooping on me, has me on my back a bunch of times. He went a little too far, I got him on his back, pinned him,” Ferrigan said.
“My goal is I’m going to get off this mat as quick as I can with a win. I never wanted to give them a chance,” Ferrigan said. “It was always my goal to go out there for the team, I wanted to get six every time out there.”
(In high school wrestling, during team duals, wrestlers earn six points for their squad with a win by pin. Victories by decision earn three or four team points depending on the point differential of the match. Wins by technical fall – a 15-point differential during a match – earn five team points.)
Ferrigan has been around wrestling for most of his life. His father, Joe Ferrigan, was the varsity wrestling coach at Grayling High School for several years. As a youth, Reece would go to practices and wrestle against the high schoolers. As a competitor in Grayling youth wrestling, Ferrigan won a North East Michigan Wrestling Association state title in 7th grade, losing only one match all year. It was his second season wrestling. As an 8th grader, he lost 2-1 in the state finals championship match; it was the only loss of the season for Ferrigan.
(Years later, during his senior season, Ferrigan got a rematch vs. the opponent he lost to in 8th grade at the state finals for youth wrestling. Ferrigan pinned him.)
By the time Ferrigan reached high school, his father was no longer coaching the program. Andy Moore, the current coach, had taken over.
“It was the first year my dad wasn’t my coach,” Ferrigan said. “(Moore)’s a really good dude. I liked him a lot as a coach. He valued what I had to say.”
As a freshman, Ferrigan posted a record of 33-19, he said. A solid year for a 9th grader. He competed in the 160-pound weight class during his first high school season.
“I was decent. I was all right,” Ferrigan said. “I lost in the blood round of districts.”
He moved up to 171 for his sophomore campaign.
“I started the season really well, 17-0,” Ferrigan said.
Ferrigan won more than 40 matches that year and only lost 10 times. He won his first of three individual Lake Michigan Conference championships during his 10th grade season. Ferrigan took third place at individual districts, earning a regionals berth. At regionals, he had to exit the tournament due to an injury, ending his season.
“Reece mostly likely would have qualified (for the state finals) if he wouldn’t have been injured. He was wrestling really good before his injury. I hate to see his season end like that,” Coach Moore said at the time.
“I tore my rotator cuff in the regional semifinals. That was crushing, to go out that way,” Ferrigan said.
As a junior, Ferrigan won another individual conference championship, this time at 189 pounds. He said he got off to a “slow start” during the 2016-2017 season; he was having difficulty cutting weight to 171. He decided to move up one division.
“I said I’m done with this, went to 189. Had a good season,” Ferrigan said.
He qualified for regionals with a third place finish at individual districts. He did not place high enough at regionals to earn a state finals berth; his final overall record for the 2016-2017 season was 45-10.
For his senior season, he decided to wrestle at 215.
“I didn’t want to cut weight,” Ferrigan said. “It was a good senior year. Broke the pin record.”
He also won his third individual league title. The program won the conference for a sixth consecutive season, giving Ferrigan league titles team-wise in all four of his seasons at GHS. Ferrigan qualified for regionals with a second place finish at individual districts. He earned his first state finals berth with a third place finish at regionals.
He had made the trip to the state finals several times as a spectator, but this was his first as a competitor. The Division 3 finals were held at Ford Field in Detroit this year.
Ferrigan said it was an honor “just being one of those dudes with the card that says your weight class, being down on Ford Field” during the opening ceremonies at the state finals on March 2. They call it the “grand march.”
“All the qualifiers walk out on Ford Field. It was cool. It was fun,” Ferrigan said.
What’s better than that? The march at the end of the state finals for the medalists.
“The march of champions was even better. Half the amount of kids,” Ferrigan said. “That was cool.”
Ferrigan won by pin vs. a Corunna opponent during his first match of the state finals.
“Winning my first match was probably the most satisfied I’ve felt after a win. Getting that out of the way was great,” Ferrigan said.
He lost his second match of the state finals. Ferrigan won his next two bouts at the finals to secure a medal and all-state status (top-eight finish). The wins put him in the match for fifth/sixth place. He had to face the same Corunna opponent that he had defeated earlier in the tournament. He won it by pin.
“I always wanted to end up on the wall where the all-staters go. That’s a pretty sweet thing to have,” Ferrigan said.
Aside from this year’s state finals, what were some of his other favorite memories from his high school wrestling career?
“Winning a sixth conference title in a row was pretty awesome. We won it every year of my high school career. Watching the young talent come up, Zach Duncan and Thomas May, I love watching Zach Duncan wrestle. I think he’s going to be really good. Max (Halstead), he’s one of those guys who’s going to get a win. Tucker Mertes, watching kids like Nick Green improve,” he said.
Ferrigan said one of the benefits of his success was having high seeds at weekend tournaments, which meant he would often have byes early in his weight class, giving him a chance to watch and cheer for his younger teammates.
It “brings almost more satisfaction to me seeing those kids” improve and succeed, he said.
“I got to see the entire team wrestling, cheering them on,” Ferrigan said.
Ferrigan said with the young talent the team has, plus newcomers coming up through the youth program, the wrestling squad should be in good shape for years to come.
“They’ve got some good kids coming up,” he said.
Ferrigan said he tried to be a leader for the younger wrestlers after having good teammate mentors when he was first getting into high school wrestling.
“We had good guys as captains as I was coming up,” Ferrigan said. “It’s one of those sports where effort is key. You gotta put a lot of work into it.”
Ferrigan said after graduation he plans to take classes at a community college for a year while working and then transfer to a four-year school in an effort to earn a business degree.
He said he would consider wrestling in college if he were to get an offer from a Division I school that would include a scholarship. Otherwise, he is not looking to continue with the sport due to the amount of time and work involved.
“It’s such a demanding sport,” he said.