BELDING — The Belding Redskins enter the MHSAA team district tournament confident, but will also face a tough road to a title.
The Redskins will meet O-K Blue rival host Comstock Park in its first match on Thursday. The winner will face the winner of GR Catholic Central and GR West Catholic in the district final.
Belding is coming off a fourth place finish at Saturday’s conference tournament with 120 points. Comstock Park was third in the conference with 180.5 points. Sparta was first with 206.5 and Coopersville second with 184 points.
“We only had 10 guys in the lineup Saturday because of some weight issues,” Belding coach Travis Meyer said. “We wrestled well. We won a few matches against guys we had lost to earlier in the season. It was a good time to step up.”
Of the 10 Redskins wrestlers, nine placed in the top 4. Belding’s Zach Johnston won the 171-pound conference title. Jesse Schidel (119 pounds) was second, Nate Cooley (103) was third and Todd Haller (285) third as well.
Comstock Park had three wrestlers win conference titles with another five placing second. Nick Ross (125), John Weldon (135) and Tyler Gruska (215) all won conference titles.
Comstock Park defeated the Redskins during a regular season dual 44-28. Despite the tough first round matchup the Redskins are confident and feel like they are wrestling their best.
“I think we are close to it. I don’t think we’ve dropped off or anything,” Meyer said. ‘I would like to continue to improve, but we are at least wrestling really well.”
The Redskins finished the regular season with a 17-7 overall record. That is right where Meyer expected his team to be.
“It’s pretty good. This is about where I would have guessed or at least hoped for,” he said. “We had a lot of guys we didn’t know much about, a lot of second year wrestlers. They have done fairly well and stepped up to really help us.”
The Panthers have five wrestlers ranked in their respective weight classes according to michigangrappler.com while the Redskins have one (Johnston). In addition to the Panthers conference champions, Luke Pahl (140) and Dillon Francisco (160) are also ranked in the top 10.
Belding is hoping for a few things to go its way to be able to top the Panthers and advance to the district final.
“We are going to put guys in the right spot in the lineup to try to give us a shot,” Meyer said. “For some guys there will be different goals. Some will try to make sure they wrestle six minutes and others will try to make sure the get six points.
“If everyone takes care of their goals it gives us a shot. That’s really all we can ask against a team that strong,” he added.
GR West Catholic placed seventh in the O-K Blue tournament with 28 points. Tony Brechting (285) was their only conference champ. Blake Russo (112) is also ranked in the top 10 with Brechting.
GR Catholic Central does not have any ranked wrestlers.
The winner of the team district will advance to regional No. 119, which will also take place at Comstock Park on Feb. 15. They will face the winner of the Fremont district No. 173.
The Division 3 individual districts for Belding will take place at Whitehall on Saturday. Central Montcalm, Lakeview and Tri County will also be at Whitehall.