Shorthanded Holton wrestling team hoping to make some noise at Saturday’s city tournament

By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal

MUSKEGON – Wrestling is obviously an individual sport, with two competitors going head-to-head on the mat.

The Holton Red Devils have been fine in that respect, with several wrestlers having outstanding seasons.

Holton wrestlers, left to right, are Brendan Cregg, Mackire Gould, Cameron Andrews, Jordan Whitener, Hayden Cregg, Garrett Martin, Kalub Dodge, Logan Luttrull and Cameron Whitener.

Holton wrestlers, left to right, are Brendan Cregg, Mackire Gould, Cameron Andrews, Jordan Whitener, Hayden Cregg, Garrett Martin, Kalub Dodge, Logan Luttrull and Cameron Whitener.

But high school wrestling is also a team sport, and that part has been frustrating for the Red Devils, who have only 11 kids on the roster, have been plagued by injuries, and can usually fill only seven weight classes.

That makes team victories very difficult to secure.

But it also makes Saturday’s Greater Muskegon Athletic Association City Wresting Meet even more enticing for the Red Devils.

Schools compete for the city team title, but individual wrestlers also compete for championships in their respective weight classes

Holton Coach Chad Johnson thinks he has several wrestlers who can compete for top honors against the best from other local schools.

This year’s city meet will be at Orchard View High School, beginning at 10 a.m. Whitehall will try to win its ninth straight team title, with competition from Orchard View, Holton, Reeths-Puffer, Mona Shores, Muskegon Catholic, Fruitport, Muskegon and Ravenna.

“We look forward to individual tournaments because of the way our team is made up,” said Johnson, who’s in his second season as the head coach at Holton. “There will be good wrestlers at the city meet from all over the area. If will definitely be a useful tournament for us, to see how we measure up.

“It’s something we all look forward to.”

That’s not always the case when the Holton squad prepares for team competition.

If a wrestler wins by fewer than eight points, his team gets three points. A victory margin between eight and 14 points earns the team four points, while win by 15 or more earns five team points. A pin is worth six.

A wrestler can lose his match but still help his team by keeping it close and only giving up a few team points.

The trick is having enough weight classes filled to have a chance to win a dual meet..

The Red Devils have been wrestling with only seven weights filled for most of the season. They are 4-8 in dual meets, but the most of those losses have occurred because they had to forfeit half of the weight classes.

Holton has actually lost several dual meets this year when it won more matches than the other team. But teams don’t get any points for forfeits, and that haunts the Red Devils.

“We lost a tough one to Shelby (earlier this week) – we wrestled six kids and only won two matches – but that has not happened very often,” said Johnson, who said small numbers have been plaguing many prep wrestling teams. “We usually win more than we lose.

“Some of it comes down to bonus points. It helps to get pins or major victories. If you go in with fewer than seven wrestlers there’s no way you can win, if the other team has a full squad.”

The handicap going into dual meets has both a negative and positive impact on the athletes, Johnson said. While it’s frustrating to know before a meet that they are a longshot to win, it also makes the wrestlers work even harder for bonus points, he said.

“It makes kids tougher,” Johnson said.

Johnson hopes that toughness will help his wrestlers at the city meet.

Perhaps the top Holton contender is senior standout Hayden Cregg, a defending city champion and two-time state medal winner who is currently 27-0 and ranked first in the state in the 140-pound weight class.

“He’s obviously our leader,” Johnson said. “He’s wrestled and beaten the number one kid in the state, and now he’s number one. You have to like your chances with anything Hayden does. He’s just one of those athletes.”

Other strong Holton contenders are Jordan Whitener (25-2 at 130 pounds) and Brendan Cregg (25-2 at 119 or 125 pounds).

Other members of the team are Mackire Gould, Cameron Andrews, Kalub Dodge, Logan Luttrull, Cameron Whitener, Ryker LaFlame, Jerry Boone and Garrett Martin.

Martin, a three-time city champion, will miss the city meet due to a football injury that’s forcing him to sit out the entire wrestling season.

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