Wrestling: Whitehall takes Div. 3 region title

IM bounced in semifinals

Iron Mountain's Jon Carrion rides Gladstone's Sam Hill in their 145-pound match on Wednesday during an MHSAA Division 3 team regional semifinal in Iron Mountain. Carrion posted a second-period pin. (Burt Angeli/The Daily News)

IRON MOUNTAIN — Negaunee native Rick Champion played a big role in helping Whitehall take down Gladstone in the MHSAA Division 3 Region 117 team wrestling finals Wednesday.

Whitehall spilled Gladstone 51-21 for a third straight regional title and berth in the state quarterfinals at Kalamazoo. Gladstone defeated Iron Mountain 66-6 and Whitehall whipped Manistee 75-6 in the regional semifinals.

In addition to stellar mat skills, Whitehall’s roster numbers also stood out. Vikings coach Cliff Sandee credited Champion for developing the youth program.

“We’ve got a boy from Negaunee coaching our middle school team. That’s 100 percent what it is,” said Sandee, who brought 28 wrestlers to Iron Mountain and left half at home because of state requirements. “You talk to anybody around here who knows wrestling knows the Champion boys.”

Champion moved to the middle school program after several years as Whitehall’s head coach. Sandee said Champion works with about 60 middle school kids.

“I don’t have to teach basics because they all know when they get here,” Sandee said. “This is the deepest team I’ve ever coached. They care more about each other than any team I’ve ever coached.”

Gladstone coach Dan Seronko also noted Whitehall’s significant numbers.

“We were outclassed, outmatched,” Seronko said. “We tried moving people around the best we could. It’s hard because they’ve got practically three teams over there.”

Whitehall, ranked fourth in the state, lost the first match of the finals when Cole Hansen beat Tom Balaskovitz 8-2 at 140 pounds. But that just seemed to fire up the Vikings who rolled from there for a 23-3 cushion.

“We got a little sloppy in matches,” Seronko said. “There’s a a lot of improvement that needs to be worked on with this team. We’ll have to look it as a warm up for the individuals.”

All four schools will be represented Saturday in the Division 3 individual regionals at Kalkaska.

“Gladstone is a pretty good team,” Sandee said. “I didn’t get a lot of sleep last week trying to prepare for what we were going to do. That Bruce kid is one of the better wrestlers in the state of Michigan.”

Adam Bruce, unbeaten at 130 pounds, recorded a first-period pin after Whitehall had built a 45-15 lead. The Braves also notched first-period pins from Jared Demeuse (215) and Nick Dawson (125).

Sandee pointed to three key matches: Hunter Bower (119) avenged an 119-pound individual district loss by pinning Vadym Torvinen in the second period. Jarrean Sargent moved up from 215 to 285 to decision Cole Dawson. Trenton Blanchard, district champ at 145, moved up to decision 152-pound district champ Brody Sanville 4-1.

Allen Powers (189) and Kyler Honore (145) each had two falls on the night. Balaskovitz was recognized for his 100th career win in the semifinals.

“I’m real pleased with the way our boys wrestled,” said Sandee, Whitehall’s coach for 11 years.

Gladstone’s Hansen (140), Sanville (152), Cole Dawson (285), Torvinen (119) and Nick Dawson (125) had pins in the semi with Iron Mountain.

Mountaineers coach Cory McLaren has plenty of respect for both programs. Whitehall has turned out NCAA Division 1 wrestlers.

“You can just see the difference in Whitehall,” McLaren said. “Even when they’re in trouble, they’re not in trouble. There’s no panic.

“It was good for our kids to see. I wanted them to watch how they warmed up. They bring a different intensity.”

Jon Carrion (145) had Caleb Burklund (171) had pins for the Mountaineers.

“We just can’t match up with Gladstone,” McLaren said. “But it was a good season.”

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