Wrestler’s 11th grade season includes 100th win, 2nd place finish at state finals
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Grayling High School wrestler Max Halstead accomplished a lot during his junior year of competition. He won an individual Lake Michigan Conference title for the third time in three years. He won a league title with his team for the third time. He won his weight class at individual districts and earned his 100th career high school wrestling victory. He earned his second career state finals berth, and he finished in second place at the state tournament.
But he came up one victory short of his only goal for the season: win a state title.
“That’s all that counts,” Halstead said.
Halstead started wrestling when he was seven years old. He wrestled in the 7-8 heavyweight B division.
“I still have my first chart,” Halstead said.
Max credits his father, Claude Halstead, a former Grayling High School wrestler, with getting him into wrestling.
“My dad introduced me to the sport,” he said.
Halstead said he didn’t have instant success in the youth wrestling circuit.
“I remember my first season, I got pounded,” Halstead said.
He said he “got used to the moves” and started to have some success and realized “this is my sport.”
“It took a lot of practice and dedication,” Halstead said.
“How much work you put in is what you’re going to get out. It’s all in you,” Halstead said.
Halstead and Grayling High School wrestling coach Andy Moore said the youth wrestling program did a great job of preparing him for high school varsity competition.
“I had a feeling of what I was getting into. I was more prepared than others were,” Halstead said.
“The program he came through prepared him better,” Coach Moore said.
Halstead started his high school career with more than 20 consecutive wins as a freshman.
“Then I got my first loss, and I thought ‘I’m going to have to start working harder,’” Halstead said.
Halstead won an individual Lake Michigan Conference championship during his ninth grade season. He qualified for individual regionals, and came up one win short of making it to the state finals.
With more than 40 victories as a freshman, Halstead was on pace to set a new career win record for Grayling High School wrestling, but an injury – a concussion sustained early in his sophomore year – forced him to miss significant time during his second season.
“It was pretty tough. I was mostly concentrating on getting my head straight. I just had to get prepared to go to state. I missed my whole season,” Halstead said.
Halstead came back late in the year and won his second individual conference title. He qualified for individual regionals with a 3rd place finish at individual districts. Halstead took 2nd place at regionals to earn his first state finals berth. At the state tournament, Halstead won a medal, placing 6th in the 135-pound weight class.
Halstead wrestled at 145 this year after competing at 135 during his first two seasons. He won another individual conference championship this year. Halstead took 1st place at individual districts, earning his 100th career high school wrestling victory during the tournament.
Coach Moore said the 100-win mark is a milestone that many wrestlers achieve – “I like to call it the new normal for good wrestlers. We’ve had a number of them over the last few years. It’s obtainable with hard work,” Coach Moore said – but it was special for Halstead to reach 100 as a junior, especially since he only had 21 wins as a sophomore due to missing several meets because of injury.
Halstead took 2nd place at individual regionals this year, earning a spot in the Michigan High School Athletic Association state finals for the second time. Ford Field – home of the National Football League’s Detroit Lions – hosted the state finals on March 1 and 2.
According to the MHSAA, Halstead won his first match of the state tournament, defeating a Whitehall opponent 6-0 by decision. Next, he won a 6-3 decision vs. a Birch Run wrestler to earn a spot in the championship bout. He lost by pin vs. Trevor Robinson, a senior from Shepherd, in the finals and placed 2nd.
Halstead had only four losses during the 2018-2019 season, and three of them were to Robinson.
“He’s all around a good wrestler. He’s a good person. The training shows. He just came out on top,” Halstead said.
Coach Moore said Halstead was “dominant” on his way through the state tournament before ending with a loss vs. the state champion.
“Max wrestled a really good tournament,” Coach Moore said.
Halstead posted an overall record of 41-4 during the 2018-2019 season.
What makes Halstead a successful wrestler?
“There are a number of things that set Max apart,” Coach Moore said. “He’s wrestled since he’s been a young kid. His work ethic is good. He really works hard at what he does at practice. He’s quick on his feet; he’s dynamite on his feet. He likes to throw. Kids aren’t ready for the style that Max brings. He’s a brawler.”
Halstead described it as “head to head combat.”
“I just like to get up in your face, see how much you can take,” Halstead said.
Coach Moore also said Halstead is “cool under pressure.”
“You can’t tell if the kid’s nervous,” Coach Moore said.
Versatility is another of Halstead’s strong points, Coach Moore said.
“Max can bring the strength when he has to, but he’s also very technical. The moves he has, he does them well,” Coach Moore said.
Halstead said his approach to a match depends on whether he’s facing an opponent during a team tournament or an individual meet. At team tournaments, wrestlers earn six team points for pins, five points for technical falls (15-point differential), and three or four points for victories by decision, depending on the final score of the match. At individual tournaments, the goal is to win the match to advance and place as high as possible.
“For the team aspect, I go in looking for six. Individual, I’m looking to beat the kid, by points or by pin,” Halstead said.
Halstead said he likes the individual format better.
“I enjoy the individual tournaments. They put more pressure on me. I like the target on my back that I set for myself,” Halstead said.
Halstead said he hopes to continue his wrestling career at the next level.
“I want to wrestle in college,” he said.
Halstead said he would like to go to Central Michigan University to wrestle. He wants to study medical biology and then earn a chiropractic degree.
But first, he still has his senior year at Grayling High School in 2019-2020.
Coach Moore thinks Halstead can achieve his goal of a state title next year.
“I envision him going undefeated and winning a state championship next year,” Coach Moore said. “Max could walk out of here one of the top three Grayling High School wrestlers, especially if he wins (a state title) next year.”