Hey, wrestling ain’t so bad!

I always tell my wife where I’m off to when I get an assignment to cover a sporting event for my newspaper, The Holland Sentinel. Frequently, I will tell my sons as well. They have been interested in my job/career choice since they were younger and when they were younger, one or more of them would accompany me to the local home games. They especially enjoyed going to the local Division III school, Hope College, where they were “hang” with the players and usually get some sort of life lesson from longtime (and since retired) men’s head basketball coach Glenn Van Wieren.
Then there’s wrestling, which I covered on Saturday, Feb. 21, when three local high schools — Hamilton, Zeeland West and Holland — each had some participants qualify for the Michigan Division 2 regional tournament for individuals. This is different from the team tournament which is coming up next Saturday.
When I’m headed out the door for wrestling meets, I usually just tell them I’ve got a game to cover, but over the years, my sons have seen through my reluctance to report my destination. It’s not that I don’t like wrestling; I find the guys who love this sport love it with a passion. And wrestling parents can be, um, shall we say, boisterous when their children are on the mat.
My sons love to give me grief, though. It all goes back to the exchange between a couple of characters from the film “The Breakfast Club,” a favorite of mine and of my boys: Geoff, Ryan and Corey.
It goes something like this:

Andrew: Look, you guys keep up your talking and Vernon’s gonna come right in here. I got a meet this Saturday and I’m not gonna miss it on account of you boneheads.
Bender: Oh, and wouldn’t that be a bite, huh? Missing a whole wrestling meet!
Andrew: You wouldn’t know anything about it! You never competed in your whole life!
Bender: Oh, I know. I feel all empty inside because of it. I have such a deep admiration for guys who roll around on the floor with other guys.
Andrew: Ah, you’d never make it. You don’t have any goals.
Bender: Oh, but I do!
Andrew: Yeah?
Bender: I wanna be just… like… you. I figure all I need is a lobotomy and some tights!
Brian: You wear tights?
Andrew: No, I don’t wear tights. I wear the required uniform.
Brian: Tights.
Andrew: [short pause] Shut up!

So now, when I reluctantly admit to going to a wrestling match, my kids tease me: “Oh, you’re going to watch a bunch of high school boys in tights? Nice.”
Yeah, we love each other. Life is good.

Event highlights
Now that this event is over, and my story is filed, I’m looking back on my notes and noticing there’s some things the paper just didn’t have the space print.
For example:
• If there were a “Toughest Wrestler in the Tournament” award, this weekend’s trophy would have gone to Paul Douglas, a 140-pounder from Muskegon Reeths-Puffer High Schools. Douglas, according to his coach got head-butted in his opening match, opening up a gash on his left eyelid, the kind you often see when boxers have a cut opened up from getting hit in the same spot too often.
Douglas did not qualify for the regional individual championship, but he did win third place — after getting four stitches to close the would so he could continue wrestling! He scored an 11-1 decision in the consolation finals and will be wrestling at The Palace of Auburn Hills for a state championship in two weeks.
And you thought hockey players were tough.

• For the sixth time this wrestling season, Zach VanValkenburg from Zeeland West High and Michael Visscher from Holland High met each other on the mat in the 215-pound class. And for the sixth time this season, VanValkenburg, a junior, beat Visscher, a sophomore.
“But they were all close,” VanValkenburg said after a 3-1 win with four seconds remaining in the FIFTH PERIOD. Yup, they’re that evenly matched.
“When you wrestle somebody six times you definitely get closer because you know what he does and he knows what you do and you kind of adapt to each other,” VanValkenburg said. “A lot of the stuff doesn’t work because they know what you’re doing.
“How I got him down … I got a reversal in the second overtime and that’s what sealed it for me.”

•There are good wrestlers and there are REALLY GOOD wrestlers. Hamilton’s Tate Knapp, a senior, is a good wrestler. He entered regional competition with a 38-3 record and won his first two matches, the first on a forfeit when a kid from another school with an 8-5 record pulled a no-show; the second with a 6-0 decision against a guy who had 36 wins before Saturday.
Then there’s Josh Colegrove from Lowell High School. He’s REALLY GOOD. Colegrove is a reigning state champion and he was undefeated in 30 matches prior to Saturday’s tournament. He pinned his first opponent in a minute-10 (1:10 if you prefer), the got his next victim’s shoulders to the mat in 1:30.
Tate Knapp fared a little better, getting into the second period with Colegrove before the match was stopped at 3:32 on a technical fall with the score at 15-0. That’s right, a guy with 40 wins couldn’t even score a point against Colegrove.
Knapp’s coach, Hamilton’s Gregg Stoel, called Colegrove “the best wrestler in the state at his weight in ANY division.”
Now, that’s REALLY GOOD.

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