Quest for regional title ends with loss vs. Kingsley in the finals
Wrestling team advances to Region 117-3 championship series with 42-39 semifinal victory vs. Gladstone Braves on Wednesday night at Kingsley High School
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Grayling High School’s varsity wrestling team advanced to the Region 117-3 finals with a semifinal victory vs. the Gladstone Braves, but the Vikings ended their pursuit of a regional title with a loss vs. the Kingsley Stags – the host school for the Region 117-3 tournament – on Wednesday night.
The Vikings advanced to the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Region 117-3 team tournament with a first place finish in the District 166-3 tournament. During team districts, Grayling defeated the Cheboygan Chiefs 54-18 in the semifinals. During the finals, the Vikings won 60-18 vs. the Boyne City Ramblers.
On Wednesday, at Kingsley High School, the Vikings started the Region 117-3 tournament with a semifinal match-up vs. the Gladstone Braves. Going into this year, Gladstone had eliminated Grayling from the playoffs four consecutive times: 2019 (regional semifinals), 2018 (district semifinals), 2017 (district finals), and 2016 (district finals). The Braves also eliminated the Vikings in 2013 during the regional finals.
This year’s Grayling vs. Gladstone series started at 171, a weight class that the Vikings forfeited. The Braves led 6-0.
Parker Dole (189) pinned his Gladstone opponent in the third round. The Braves won by pin at 215. Gladstone won a 4-2 decision at heavyweight. Grayling forfeited at 103.
With nine of the 14 weight classes remaining, the Braves led 21-6.
At 112, Joe Armstrong pinned his Gladstone counterpart in the third round. Zach Duncan (119) won by default. The Braves won by pin at 125, giving Gladstone a 27-18 advantage with six weight divisions left in the series.
Nick Green (130) won by default for Grayling. Tucker Mertes (135) pinned his Gladstone opponent in the second round. The Vikings forfeited at 140.
With three weight classes left to wrestle, Gladstone led 33-30.
Jordan Wakeley (140) put the Vikings ahead, 36-33, with a victory by pin in the first round.
The Braves won by pin in the 152-pound division, giving Gladstone a 39-36 lead with one weight class remaining.
The Vikings – in the 160-pound weight class – needed a win by pin (six points), technical fall (five points), or major decision (four points). Their last wrestler for the series? Max Halstead, who was 20-0 for the 2019-2020 season going into Wednesday’s tournament.
Halstead scored a pin vs. his Gladstone opponent with 32 seconds left in the first round. The win clinched a 42-39 victory vs. the Braves.
“We knew that was going to be tight. We wrestled well,” Coach Andy Moore said. “Parker going up a weight class and winning was huge. Joe with a huge pin against their 112, that was the match there. It really was. Once Joe won, it turned into match-ups. It worked out.”
“That feels good. I don’t remember the last time we beat Gladstone,” Coach Moore said.
The Vikings rested and watched the end of the other semifinal match – Kingsley vs. Benzie Central. The Stags defeated the Huskies 42-29, setting up a Grayling vs. Kingsley regional finals.
The Stags opened the series with a 10-7 victory by decision in the 189-pound division. Kingsley won by pin at 215, giving the Stags an early 9-0 lead.
Nick Bluemlein, at heavyweight, pinned his Kingsley counterpart in the first round. Armstrong (103) also won by pin in the first round vs. the Stags. Duncan (112) won an 8-0 major decision. The Vikings, with nine weight classes left, led 16-9.
Kingsley won by pin at 119, 125, and 130. Grayling forfeited at 135. The Stags led 33-16.
Mertes (140) won by decision, 6-2, vs. Kingsley. The Stags won by technical fall, 17-1, at 145. At that point, Grayling – down by 19 – could not catch up with only three weight classes remaining, one of which was empty for the Vikings.
Jeff Kennedy (152) won by default for Grayling.
The Vikings opted not to send Halstead, an individual regional qualifier, to the mat with the outcome of the series already decided. Grayling forfeited at 160 and 171, ending the series. Kingsley won 50-25.
“We played it like Gladstone. We knew it was going to be tight. We weren’t that far apart. We knew things needed to go perfect for us to beat Kingsley and none of it went right,” Coach Moore said.
A highlight of the Kingsley series for Grayling was Duncan’s 8-0 victory at 112; it was his 100th career high school wrestling win, a rare achievement for an 11th grader.
Coach Moore said he was happy for Duncan.
“That kid gives me 100 percent every day,” Coach Moore said.