By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – This was supposed to be the year that some other team besides Whitehall had a real chance to win the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association City Tournament wrestling meet.
This was also supposed to be the year that Fruitport’s Chris Hendricks finally reached the peak of the 285-pound division.
When the dust finally settled after Saturday’s tournament at Muskegon High School, Whitehall surprised itself by winning yet another title, while Hendricks left little doubt about his tremendous skills by cruising to the championship in his weight class.
Whitehall, under head coach Cliff Sandee, came into Saturday’s city meet with a remarkable seven-year winning streak.
But Sandee did not bother clearing space for an eighth trophy this year. That’s because his team lost eight seniors from last year’s lineup, including three state champions and several other standouts.
Meanwhile several other local teams – namely Fruitport – had a lot of good wresters and appeared ready to make a move.
But the inexperienced Whitehall team surprised its coach, capturing first place in 5 of 14 weight classes, as well as second place in four classes and third place in two.
That was enough to give Whitehall its eighth straight city title with 194.5 points. Fruitport finished second with 166, followed by Mona Shores (141.5), Orchard View (90), Reeths-Puffer (89), Holton (88.5), Ravenna (54), Montague (28) and Muskegon (24).
Winning individual city titles for Whitehall were Corey Robinson (103), Reiley Brown (110), Juan
Britton (125), Dakota Hoffman (160) and Hunter Shaw (215).
Taking second place for the champions were Keanyn Brown (130), Trip Thommen (171), Triston Houts (189) and Mike Potter (285).
Winning third place for Whitehall and delivering key team points were Dominick Haynes (112) and Luke Morningstar (152).
“I thought we were the underdogs – a lot of people did – Fruitport is a good wrestling team,” said Sandee, whose Whitehall squad has reached the semifinals in the state team tournament the past two seasons. “When you graduate five state placers and three straight champs, it’s hard to come back. We’re a real young team.
“These kids will have this memory the rest of their lives. They’ll see each other in the street and they’ll see each other at work and talk about this. It’s good for them to have this experience.”
Other individual city champions were Cameron Butler of Fruitport (112), Garrett Martin of Holton (130), Tommy Martinez of Fruitport (135), Hayden Cregg of Holton (140), Taylor McPhail of Mona Shores (145), Austin Fialek of Fruitport (152), Sam Karel of Mona Shores (171), Gabe Zimmer of Ravenna (189) and Hendricks of Fruitport (285).
This year’s city meet had extra meaning for Hendricks for a number of reasons.
Two years ago he finished third, and last year he lost in the championship match by a single point, so he obviously wanted to finish his upward climb and win a city title.
He might have won the title last year, if it hadn’t been for a knee injury in football that kept him from doing everything he wanted to do for the first half of the wrestling season.
And there was no second half for Hendricks, who had surgery a few days after last year’s city meet and lost the rest of his junior season.
“I’ve got to make up for lost time,” said Hendricks, who pinned Whitehall’s Mike Potter in 31 seconds in the championship round. “Last year I couldn’t take shots and lower my level because of the pain. This year there is no pain.”
While an individual city title is a nice prize, Hendricks makes no secret that is main focus is on winning an individual state championship this winter.
“I would rather be the king of the hill statewide, but this will work until then,” Hendricks said. “It means a lot to me. Since I was little I’ve been wrestling, and I always looked up to the kids who won state and wanted to be one of them. I think this year I can get it done.”
CITY WRESTING TOURNAMENT
103 – Corey Robinson, W. pinned Dylan Kiester, Ravenna, 1:34. 112 – Cameron Butler, Fruitport, pinned Sean Halverson, Mona Shores, 3:55. 119 – Reiley Brown, Whitehall, pinned Brendan Cregg, Holton, :31. 125 – Juan Britton, Whitehall, d. Dalton Pope, Fruitport, 4-2. 130 – Garrett Martin, Holton, pinned Keanyn Brown, Whitehall, 5:02. 135 – Tommy Martinez, Fruitport, d. Adam Pawlowski, Mona Shores, 6-5. 140 – Hayden Cregg, Holton, d. Fred Waller, Orchard View, 8-3. 145 – Taylor McPhail, Mona Shores, d. Collin Butler, Fruitport, 13-5. 152 – Austin Fialek, Fruitport, d. Mike Parker, Orchard View, 8-2. 160 – Dakota Hoffman, Whitehall, d. Sean McWilliams, Reeths-Puffer, 14-6. 171 – Sam Karel, Mona Shores, d. Trip Thommen, Whitehall, 9-3. 189 – Gabe Zimmer, Ravenna, pinned Triston Houts, Whitehall, :34. 215 – Hunter Shaw, Whitehall. d. Buck Tottingham, Reeths-Puffer, 5-1. 285 – Chris Hendricks, Fruitport, pinned Mike Potter, Whitehall, :31.