By Nate Thompson
WHITEHALL — Plenty of kids have basketball hoops in their back yards.
“When I was in younger, when I started wrestling in middle school, my dad (Andy) built a pole barn and he put a wrestling mat down,” Brown said. “We added a climbing rope and we’ve got an elliptical in there now.
“We’ve got a heater in there, so it’s nice to be able to get in there (this winter) and run around a little bit and get some conditioning in to get your weight down.”
For someone who’s been labeled a “technician” in the sport by varsity coach Cliff Sandee, it’s nice that Brown has a wrestling laboratory in his own yard.
The Vikings’ 140-pounder has turned his barn sessions into an illustrious high school career, one that could toend with back-to-back individual state titles.
Brown captured his first Division 3 championship last March at the Palace of Auburn Hills, where he claimed the 125-pound title. He was a state runner-up as a freshman and finished third as a sophomore.
“Every place you move up, you have to work that much harder,” Brown said. “I know what I have to do now to win.”
Brown is the leader of a Vikings’ senior class that is working on completion of a dominant four-year stretch.
“It’s a pretty special group,” Sandee said. “This senior class is going for their fourth district championship, their fourth (Muskegon city) title, and their fourth conference championship.”
The first goal is winning the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association City Wrestling Tournament on Saturday, which is hosted by Ravenna High School. Whitehall will be gunning for its 10th straight city tournament title.
Other key Vikings also competing at city include returning state qualifier Jwan Britton at 152, Luke Morningstar at 189 pounds, Jake Parmely at 171 and Joe Haynes at 160.
Sandee has also been extremely impressed with freshman Allen Powers, a transfer from Kentucky, who has fit in nicely at 145.
“He was successful in the sport back in Kentucky and yeah, he’s fit right into the Whitehall mold,” the coach said. “He’s an impressive talent.”
Whitehall reached the regional finals last season, before they it was eliminated by Chippewa Hills.
“I believe we’re good enough to get there,” Sandee said. “But our region is stacked. The top three teams are each ranked in the top eight of the state.”
For Brown, a chance to elevate the Vikings to a state team title, to go along with his individual honors, would be a fitting send off to Central Michigan University, where he has signed to wrestle at the Division 1 level for the Chippewas.
“Going to (the summer team camps) gave me a chance to get to know (CMU head coach Tom Borrelli),” he said. “I like the way he did things and I liked being around the rest of the guys on the team. I just felt comfortable there.”
Sandee said Brown has already been sharing a few new techniques that he’s learned from Borrelli.
“He’s the constant technician. I think he’s trying to teach me a thing or two,” Sandee joked.
“But the thing with Reiley, he’s a perfectionist. He wants to be the best out there. We’ve had four state champions since I’ve been here and three of the four all started wrestling in middle school, Reiley being one of them. He found success as a seventh-grader and really just took off with it.”