One thing is certain – the Whitehall wrestling team is definitely closing the gap with Dundee, its arch-nemesis in the Division 3 state tournament.

But the Vikings are not quite there yet.

Whitehall faced Dundee in the state semifinals in 2016 and 2018 and lost both matches, and came into Saturday’s semifinals with a chance to gain some revenge.

Whitehall’s Connor Young after winning his match. Photo/Leo Valdez

The Vikings came very close – it came down to the last match, in fact – but lost a heartbreaking 35-27 decision to Dundee at Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo.

Whitehall finished the season with a 29-3 record. The Vikings won the West Michigan Conference championship, the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association Tournament title, and Division 3 district and regional championships.

Whitehall beat Alma 36-24 on Friday in the state quarterfinals, to advance to Saturday’s Final Four.

Dundee advanced to Saturday afternoon’s Division 3 state championship match and beat Richmond to win the title.

While it was tough to lose to Dundee again, Whitehall co-head coach Justin Zeerip noted that the final score of last year’s semifinal was 67-3, so this was a big improvement.

“I was really proud of the kids’ effort,” Zeerip said. “They fought really hard. We were right there the whole match. We ended up losing to the eventual state champs. We won seven matches against them and they won seven against us.” 

Whitehall’s Max Brown started Saturday’s match with a 3-2 victory at 125 pounds, giving the Vikings a 3-0 lead.

But Dundee won four of the next six matches, and the Vikings trailed 21-12. which was their low point of the match. The two Whitehall wins went to Kyler Honore (7-4) at 145 pounds, and Ira Jenkins (pin at 3:23) at 152 pounds.

Whitehall roared back with four straight wins, starting with a major decision victory by Trenton Blanchard (13-2) in the 171-pound match, a 14-7 win by Kayleb Venema at 189, a 17-0 technical fall by Allen Powers at 215, and a 9-4 win by Jarrean Sargeant at 285.

That left the Vikings with a promising 27-21 lead with three matches to go. But Dundee won all three.

Whitehall trailed 32-27 going into the final match at 119 pounds. The Vikings could have tied the score with a technical fall, which is good for five points, or won by one point with a pin, which is good for six points.

But Dundee freshman Logan Sander held tough, scoring two points on a reverse in the final minute and squeaking past Whitehall standout Sam Baustert 4-2.

Dundee tacked on 11 crucial points by gaining extra points in five different matches, with two pins, two technical falls and a major decision.

The Vikings will be a good bet to return to the state Final Four next year, with eight individual state qualifiers returning to the lineup, as well as two regional qualifiers.

“We have a lot of great kids returning,” Zeerip said. “It will be important for us to do all the offseason stuff and continue to get better.”