By John Vrancic
Special for Second Half
MUNISING — In 1988, the MHSAA Team Wrestling Finals were reunified with both peninsulas competing for the same championships.
But before 2008, Upper and Lower Peninsula wrestlers still competed for separate individual titles – making for far less matchups between the U.P.’s best and their counterparts from downstate, unless a U.P. team made a championship run.
For the last decade, the Upper Peninsula’s best have embraced the opportunity to represent their schools and extend their seasons by taking part in the unified MHSAA Individual Finals tournament after their teams had been eliminated in earlier rounds.
Four Newberry wrestlers were fortunate enough to advance to the Division 4 Individual Regional tournament at Charlevoix on Feb. 17 after the Indians were eliminated by St. Ignace 54-21 in the Team District on Feb. 7.
“It was hard, especially being a senior,” Newberry’s Alex Henry said after taking a 4-3 decision from Munising senior Christian Cole in the 160-pound Individual District Final on Feb. 10 at Munising. “It would have been nice to get through as a team, although I thought our team did pretty well this year.”
This was the first District title for Henry, who plans to wrestle at Alma College next season.
“I will definitely look forward to that, but now I’ve got to focus on the next step,” he added.
He did just that, placing third in the Regional. He will now move on to the MHSAA Individual Finals, March 2-3 at Ford Field in Detroit.
Senior teammate Cameron Symonds also is heading to Detroit after placing second in the Regional.
“There was a feeling of disappointment when our team got eliminated, but having a chance to wrestle in the individual tournament takes a little bit of the sting off it,” Symonds said after pinning Onaway junior Coty Inonetz with 1.1 seconds left in the 152-pound District Final for his third straight District title. “We just didn’t show up to wrestle that day.
“You’ve got to come prepared. Last year I went to the Regional (at Rogers City) as a top seed and didn’t make it to the state tournament. You have to take it one match at a time.”
Nathan Magnusson, the team’s third senior, reached the 135-pound final and earned a trip to Detroit despite dropping a 4-0 Regional championship decision to Onaway sophomore Matt Grant.
“Wrestling is bit of an individual sport, yet you’re also trying to help your team,” said Magnusson, who will enroll at Central Michigan University this fall. “It’s nice to have a second chance. Although, I wish we also could have gone to a Regional as a team.”
Junior Devin Racicot was among four Bark River-Harris grapplers to advance to the Individual Regional. None, however, qualified for next weekend’s Finals.
BR-H edged Munising 36-33 in its District opener Feb. 8 at Manistique. The Broncos were then eliminated on the 11th tie-breaker (43-42) by the host Emeralds.
“It was depressing at first, coming so close and not be going on as a team,” said Racicot, who was pinned 3:39 into the 215-pound District Final by Charlevoix junior Maximus Hinkle. “There was about a 15 to 20-minute wait to find out if we were going. It would have been nice, but we’re proud we accomplished that much. (Manistique) basically had four kids at the beginning of the season, then their numbers moved up to about 10. They came a long way this year.”
With none of their wrestlers graduating this spring, it appears the Broncos have much to look forward to next season.
“With this being my first year of high school wrestling, I was pleased to be moving on to the (individual) Regional,” said Racicot. “We just hope to come back with the same kids. If we do, I think we can do well next year.”
PHOTOS: Newberry's Cameron Symonds (left) wrestles under the spotlight at the Upper Peninsula championship tournament at Marquette High School. (Middle) Finals qualifier Alex Henry locks up an opponent during a home meet. (Below) Newberry's Nate Magnusson (top) works to keep position during a match earlier this season. (Photos by Tammy Henry.)