Winter sports practices are now underway for GHS teams
New season to include boys basketball, girls basketball, wrestling, and skiing
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The 2018-2019 winter sports season for Grayling High School – a campaign that includes boys basketball, girls basketball, wrestling, and skiing – will feature new coaches for varsity boys basketball and varsity girls basketball, and an adjustment of the schedules for both programs.
The new coach for the varsity boys basketball team is Rich Reilly, Grayling Elementary School Assistant Principal. Tyler McClanahan is the new JV boys basketball coach, and Jeremie Mead is back as coach of the freshman squad.
“For boys basketball we lost a very talented group of seniors, but we have four or five kids returning from last year who will have to play key roles,” said Nate Maury, Grayling High School Athletic Director. “There’s a solid group of juniors. They’re a good group of kids. There’s some good sophomores and freshmen that could see varsity minutes.”
“Rich has coached basketball for 11 years at Hale before coming here,” Maury said. “He’s back to his old coaching self and we’re ready to roll with him.”
Dan Brandt, fifth grade teacher at Grayling Elementary School, is the new varsity girls basketball coach for GHS. Brandt has coached the JV girls basketball squad for several seasons, including last year.
“He’s young, he’s intense, the kids love playing for him. I think he’s going to do good things for our girls basketball program,” Maury said.
Maury said the varsity squad lost “a couple key seniors but for the most part returns a good part of the team. For the girls, we’re definitely on the upswing. That sophomore class now is really good, and the junior class is really good.”
Doug Paulus is the new JV girls basketball coach for the Vikings. Maury said the program will have a freshman team if the player numbers are high enough, but numbers look low based on offseason sign ups.
The major adjustment for basketball this year? The schedule. For the 2018-2019 season, the boys will start practicing a week before the girls. In years past, the girls have started a week before the boys. The change – planned to be for this season only – was implemented by the Michigan High School Athletic Association because of issues with playoff tournament venues.
“Currently, and since girls basketball season moved to the winter from fall in 2007-08, the girls basketball semifinals and finals have been played first followed by the boys basketball semifinals and finals a week later, usually during the final two weekends in March. Both utilize a format of semifinals on Thursday and Friday and all four finals on Saturday. However, in March 2019, Michigan State University’s Breslin Center will not be available for the traditional MHSAA boys championship weekend because of the possibility of the MSU women’s basketball program hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. Breslin Center is the only available arena in Michigan large enough to host the boys semifinals and finals; for that reason, the (Representative Council) voted to switch the schedule for that season only so the boys tournament can finish at Breslin during the weekend of March 14-16, 2019,” according to the MHSAA.
“This switch in calendars for 2018-19 also includes a switch of starting dates for when practices may begin and first games played. Typically, practices for both begin girls and then boys during the first two weeks of November, with girls basketball teams allowed to play their first games the Monday after Thanksgiving followed by the first boys basketball games a week later. In 2018-19, the boys will begin practice first and the first boys basketball games will be able to be played that Monday after Thanksgiving, followed by the first girls games a week later. The boys district and regional tournaments also will start a week earlier than those for the girls,” according to the MHSAA.
Official practices for boys basketball started on Monday, Nov. 5. Practices for the girls began on Monday, Nov. 12.
The freshman, JV, and varsity boys basketball squads from Grayling High School will open their 2018-2019 seasons with games at Standish Sterling Central on Wednesday, November 28, starting at 4:30 p.m. The JV and varsity teams will host Traverse City Christian on Tuesday, December 4, at 5:30 p.m.
The JV and varsity girls basketball squads will start their 2018-2019 seasons with road games (at Houghton Lake on Tuesday, December 4, and at Alpena on Friday, December 7). The Vikings will host Roscommon on Tuesday, December 11. All three start times are 5:30 p.m. for the junior varsity games; the varsity contests are played after the completion of the JV matches.
For the playoffs, the district tournaments will be a little bit different this year with an adjustment in how the MHSAA puts teams into the brackets. Maury said the playoffs will feature “four equal divisions,” and while enrollment will be a factor in how district tournaments are populated, the brackets will no longer be confined to all Class A, B, C, or D schools.
For the boys, Grayling is in Division 2 District 34 for the 2018-2019 playoffs. The tournament will feature Boyne City, Cheboygan, Grayling, Kalkaska, Kingsley, and Sault Ste. Marie, according to the MHSAA. Boyne City is listed as the tournament host school.
The MHSAA considers a Class A school to be 885 students and above. Class B is 398 to 884, Class C is 194 to 397, and Class D is 193 or fewer.
The MHSAA’s list of enrollment for creating district brackets shows that all of the schools in District 34-2 are Class B: Boyne City, 418; Cheboygan, 527; Grayling, 473; Kalkaska, 468; Kingsley, 443; Sault Ste. Marie, 700.
The basic set-up is the same for the girls. They’re in Division 2 District 34 with Boyne City, Cheboygan, Kalkaska, Kingsley, and Sault Ste. Marie, with Sault Ste. Marie designated as the host school.
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Andy Moore is back as coach of the wrestling squad at Grayling High School.
“He’s got two returning state qualifiers. The majority of his roster is back from last year. He’s got a good group of freshmen coming up,” Maury said.
“The kids work hard for Andy. He does a good job,” Maury said. “He’s got that program rolling.”
The Vikings will bring a streak of six consecutive Lake Michigan Conference championships into the 2018-2019 season, and Maury expects the squad to extend that number.
“I do not see anyone in the conference posing a threat to us. Maybe Boyne. Maybe Kalkaska,” Maury said.
Maury said he also expects the wrestling team to win a district championship this year and compete for a regional title.
There are only three teams in District 166-3 for wrestling: Boyne City, Grayling, and Kalkaska. Kalkaska is listed as the tournament host.
If they do win the district, the Vikings will host team regionals, Maury said.
“It’s another chance for our kids to come out, perform, not have to travel, wrestle in their home gym,” Maury said.
Grayling High School will also host the Individual District 17-3 meet this year.
“It’s nice to wrestle on your home mat,” Maury said.
According to the MHSAA, the Individual District 17-3 tournament will also feature competitors from Benzie Central, Big Rapids, Boyne City, Gladstone, Kalkaska, Kingsford, Kingsley, Ludington, Manistee, Menominee, Negaunee, Reed City, and Chippewa Hills.
Practices for wrestling started this week.
The Vikings will open their 2018-2019 wrestling season with a home meet vs. Petoskey and Sault Ste. Marie at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, December 5.
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Brad Wagner returns as coach of the Grayling High School ski team.
One change this year for the skiing program? A switch in practice venue. In years past, the squad has conducted its practice sessions at Hanson Hills Recreation Area and Schuss Mountain. This year, the team will practice at Hanson Hills and Boyne Mountain, Maury said.
Maury said the change will allow the Vikings “to practice with the top skiers in our conference.”
The Lake Michigan Conference is known as a strong league with regard to skiing.
“Our ski conference is tougher than our regional,” Maury said. “It’s tough. It prepares our kids for regionals better than any conference in the state that I’m aware of.”
Maury said the Vikings lost one all-state skier to graduation, but has several returning team members.
“We return the majority of the girls team, the majority of the boys team,” Maury said.
Grayling’s first scheduled ski meet for 2019 is the Harbor/Petoskey Invitational on January 7.