By Andrew Johnson
HOLTON – Christian Brooks has seen the inside of a lot of different schools in his life.
Then he spent a short time living in Arizona with his mother, before moving back to Michigan for his junior year and enrolling at North Muskegon High School.
He became a standout running back for the Norse football team, and in the winter turns his attention to wrestling.
But North Muskegon does not have its own wrestling team, so Brooks competes as part of the Holton team through a co-op relationship between the two schools.
For a kid who says he’s attended 17 different schools in three states in his life, that’s hardly a big deal.
“As I’ve gotten older, I see it as an advantage to be able to branch out and meet new kids,” said Brooks, a senior, about all of his travels over the years, and now attending one school and wrestling for another. “They (the Holton wrestlers) are an accepting group. I had no problems transitioning right away.”
Brooks’ regular trips to Holton to practice and compete with the Red Devils has worked out great this season. He currently sports a 29-8 record, and he’s far from done.
Last Saturday Brooks impressed everyone by winning the 189-pound championship at the Division 3 individual district tournament at Belding High School.
After having a first-round bye, he beat Gabe Gracia of Comstock Park 3-0, then pinned Kyler Kolk of Fremont to reach the championship round.
In the finals Brooks defeated Ethan Rose of Tri-County 16-7.
This Saturday he will try to keep his tournament hot streak alive in the D3 individual regionals at Fremont High School. A top four finish in his weight class will earn Brooks a ticket to the state finals.
“I actually started out the season a little rough, transitioning from football to wrestling,” Brooks said. “I had to get my conditioning back. But once I clicked into gear, it’s been great. I won conference, won districts, and now I’m just seeing where it takes me.”
Brooks is known to most North Muskegon fans for his exploits on the football field.
In the fall he teamed with Chandler Edwards to give the Norse one of the better running back combos in the area. He also stood out at middle linebacker.
Brooks will play college football at Grand Valley State University.
But success on the wrestling mat has been slower to develop for Brooks.
Part of the reason is because he spent his freshman and sophomore seasons at Oak Park River Forest High School in Oak Park, Illinois. The school’s wrestling team is a perennial state powerhouse with a strong national reputation.
That means Brooks didn’t get as much mat time as he would have liked in his first two years in the sport.
On the other hand, he said he learned a lot from the great wrestlers in Illinois.
“It was a really dominant program,” Brooks said about Oak Park River Forest. “It was number one at the time and I was never in the lineup as a young kid. But I think it helped me a lot by giving me the basics and where to start.
“It gave me my foundation and the level of competition every day in practice was high. It gave me a boost when I transferred.”
Brooks sounds pretty confident about his chances at Saturday’s regionals, even though the competition gets tougher as kids battle for a spot in the state finals.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “I may get to face Jamane Smith of Coloma, who is ranked number one (in the state). I’m excited to see how I match up, and see if I can pull off a state championship in my last year, which would be nice.”
If Brooks does advance a lot further in the state tournament, it’s likely that he’ll rely on his takedown ability.
According to Holton wrestling coach Tim Elmer, Brooks has taken down every opponent he’s faced this year.
“If he wants to take you down, he will,” Elmer said.. “He’s taken down every opponent this year, and he’s good on his feet, which is something to watch because it gives him a versatile arsenal.”
No matter when Brooks finishes his wrestling season, he’s happy that he’s had the ability to finish his high school career back home in Muskegon, in front of family.
“It’s been great,” Brooks said. “It’s fun to show off in front of family. I’ve always had to wrestle by myself or in front of only mom or dad.
“It’s kind of nice to have family be there bragging about me and witness my wrestling.”