By Andrew Johnson

MUSKEGON – If you follow high school wrestling in the Muskegon area, you’ve probably noticed the re-emergence of the Muskegon High School program.LSJ Logo incert

And if you know the Big Reds are back on the wrestling map, you probably know the turnaround has been led by Marcus Murar and Dovel Wilson, who have both wrestled since grade school and emerged as champions this season.

Muskegon wrestling coach Chandar Ricks (far right) stands with heavy weight Dovell Wilson and the spry Marcus Murar along with JV coach Shaun Crowley. Photo/Joe Lane

Muskegon heavyweight Dovell Wilson (middle right) and 130-pounder Marcus Murar are flanked by coaches Chandar Ricks (right) and Shaun Crowley. Photo/Joe Lane

Murar and Wilson put the area on notice last month when they both won individual titles at the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association City Wrestling Tournament. They became the first Muskegon wrestlers to win city titles in at least 10 years.

And just to prove that was no fluke, Murar and Wilson both won their weight classes at last weekend’s O-K Black Conference meet.

Their next two challenges come this week, when the state high school tournaments get under way.

On Wednesday Murar and Wilson will lead the Big Reds into the Division 2 team district tournament at Spring Lake High School. Muskegon will wrestle Fruitport in one semifinal match at 6 p.m., with the winner advancing to the finals against the survivor of the Spring Lake-Reeths-Puffer semifinal.

Other local teams will also compete in team districts on Wednesday or Thursday. Log on to for matchups and times.

Muskegon heavy weight Dovell Wilson reacts after being crowned the winning wrestling at the GMAA city tournament finals. Photo/Jason Goorman

Dovell Wilson reacts after winning a title at the GMAA City Meet. Photo/Jason Goorman.

On Saturday Murar, Wilson and their teammates will compete in the Division 2 individual district tournament at Lowell High School. Hundreds of wrestlers from area schools will compete in various districts, and can qualify for individual regionals by finishing in the top four of their weight classes.

Murar, who wrestles at 130 pounds and is 28-5 on the season, is determined to do well in individual districts after missing last year’s competition. He was 11-2 last year before suffering a concussion that ended his season.

“It would mean a lot to me to win districts because as a freshman I finished fifth and last year I didn’t get to go,” Murar said. “I always want to win as much as I can.”

Wilson, who wrestles at 285, is motivated by the fact that he fell just short of qualifying for regionals last season when he lost in the quarterfinals.

Marcus Murar during the GMAA city wrestling tournament on January 23. Photo/Ronda Morningstar

Marcus Murar during the GMAA City Meet on January 23. Photo/Ronda Morningstar

“I finished in the blood round last year and I was so close to getting out,” said Wilson, who is 19-4 this season.

Regardless of how either wrestler does this week, they have earned the respect of their coach, who says they helped galvanize the team’s turnaround.

The Big Reds won two conference meets this year and finished the regular season third overall in the O-K Black. They finished last in the conference the year before.

“I consider them to be our leaders,” said Muskegon Coach Chandar Ricks, when asked about Murar and Wilson. “Sometimes they’ll be in the practice room and have practice just amongst themselves. They’ll see a kid who has potential but is a little down and they’ll be the first ones to come over and wrestle with him, and encourage him.

“When they started in sixth grade, I remember Marcus being a little guy rolling around in the room and Dovel was a little chubby kid who’d wrestle and roll around with my son.”

Both wrestlers say they are motivated by the memory of grandparents who have passed away.

“It meant a lot for me to be a city champ because my family was there and they spark me,” Murar said. “My grandma died in May and I like to put smiles on the faces of my family. A big part of me wants to do well for her.”

“My granddaddy passed away of cancer when I was in the seventh grade,” Wilson said. “If I look at my dad in the stands before I take the mat, it will make me think about my grandpa sometimes before I wrestle.”

After high school, Wilson is hopeful that he can go to college and become a cancer doctor.

“I want to be able to help people so they don’t have to feel how I felt when (his grandfather) died,” he said.

Murar and Wilson have both noticed the attention Muskegon wrestling is getting this year and are proud to be a part of the turnaround.

“It means a lot to be a part of the Muskegon revival,” Murar said. “Just seeing pictures and being talked about is special.”

“It feels amazing because it feels like we’re starting to re-pioneer the program and get after it,” Wilson said. “People are starting to take notice of it.”