By Jeff Chaney
Special for Second Half
MOUNT PLEASANT – Change can be good, but difficult at the same time.
After 28 years competing at Battle Creek's Kellogg Arena, the Michigan High School Athletic Association moved it's team wrestling finals to Central Michigan University's McGuirk Arena this weekend.
MHSAA assistant director in charge of wrestling, Mark Uyl, knows a lot of good faith and memories were made since 1988, the year of the inception of the Team finals and the first year in Battle Creek. But he also knew the change was needed.
"This was very hard, because the people of Battle Creek were outstanding; that's what made this a tough decision," Uyl said. "But the facility (Kellogg Arena) told us this was time. We were looking at the total wrestling experience, from the warm-up area, to a newer building and the ample hotel space, and Central Michigan said they could take care of all those needs – and did."
Those needs were met. But like any big move, some issues happen. And that was no different then on Friday, the first day of the Team Finals.
"Overall it's been good, but we do have some little things to work on," Uyl said. "Give it some time. We'll get some good feedback, and we'll make the proper changes."
Some feedback was already taking place.
"I see some changes that have the move headed in the right direction," said New Lothrop coach Jeff Campbell, whose reigning Division 4 championship team opened up action with a 69-10 win over Munising. “Having an area for the kids to warm up is big. I never understood not having one in Battle Creek, asking a kid to wrestle one of the biggest matches of his career and not having a proper warm up area."
Floor space may be at a premium, but the good side of that is the proximity of the fans to the mats and wrestlers.
The arena was loud Friday.
"There are a lot of big changes," said Hartland senior 140-pounder Reece Hughes, who is wrestling in his fourth team finals this weekend. "The atmosphere in Battle Creek was phenomenal, it felt like the team finals. There was a lot of history there, but I can definitely feel the atmosphere build here, too."
Pluses noted by fans in attendance were the finals being on a college campus, and public address announcers updating action on the mat as the matches were being wrestled.
And thankfully, the MHSAA brought Battle Creek's Jeff McGinnis with them to Mount Pleasant, because his rendition of the National Anthem is iconic.
PHOTOS: (Top) Wrestlers stand for the national anthem before Friday's Division 1 matches. (Middle) The stands are nearly filled as wrestlers compete in Quarterfinals. (Photos by Michelle Campbell.)