ST. LOUIS — Two local wrestling coaches went back to their schools after the St. Louis Invitational Saturday very happy.
Those coaches were Montabella coach Shaun Balhorn and Central Montcalm coach Dan VanderVlucht, as the Mustangs were the winners of the individual tournament and the Green Hornets were second.
Montabella scored 195 points, followed by Central with 148.
Balhorn took 14 wrestlers to the tournament.
“We had eight kids that took first and second, which is the most I’ve had since I’ve been coaching,” Balhorn said. “They wrestled real well, wrestled aggressive and very, very tough.”
VanderVlucht noted this was the first trophy the Hornets have won in a tournament since 2005.
“It’s huge. It makes these kids feel special,” Vandervlucht said. “When you go to a school and wrestle against 12 different schools and place second, that’s special. That puts a fire underneath the kids feet that they want to practice harder.”
The Mustangs got first-place finishes from Tristan Viglianco in the 112-pound class, Zack Taubitz in the 119-pound class and Jeremy Quezada in the 189-pound class.
Viglianco had to wrestle teammate Nate Miller in the finals. Viglianco handed Miller just his second loss.
“Tristan is an exceptional wrestler,” Balhorn said. “Nate Miller is just really come a long way over the past few weeks. He started out as our backup and he’s 15-2. Tristan, he’s 16-1. It’s nice to have two good wrestlers at that weight class, and they’re both only freshmen, so that’s another bonus for us.”
Central had only one first-place finisher, and that was undefeated Cody Veltkamp in the 103-pound division. Veltkamp is now 10-0.
“When they first announced the team standings we were in fourth, 30 points out,” VanderVlucht said. “They (Central) just kicked it up a bit. The rest of my kids missed placing by one match. When you’re full of freshmen, you can’t expect too much out of them but they’re buckling down and doing work.”
VanderVlucht said he thinks his team learned a valuable lesson from the tournament.
“I think we’ve turned the page on that so that the kids know they have to wrestle all rounds to get through an individual tournament,” he said.
Both coaches credited the practices their teams have gone through for their success at St. Louis.
“Our kids are just practicing very hard. They’re practicing three hours a night,” Balhorn said. “But the biggest thing is team chemistry. That extends all the way up to the parents. They enjoy hanging out with one another. I think that’s why we’ve been having such success this year.”
“I had to step it up in practice,” VanderVlucht said. “We’ve done a lot of drill work to get the kids to recognize moves in different positions and it’s starting to pay off. We went up to Chip(pewa) Hills and got rolled (beat badly), and they (Central) didn’t like it.”
Montabella will host Laingsburg in a Central Michigan Athletic Conference meet Wednesday, while the Hornets will head to Lakeview Wednesday for a Central State Activities Association quadrangular that will also include Reed City and Morley Stanwood.