Wrestlers ready to hit the mat in openers

By Bruce Bentley • Last Updated 10:50 am on Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Last week, the girls basketball season started. That was followed with the boys basketball season on Monday.

Now it’s time for the grapplers to hit the mat. All area teams are in action tonight for the first time, with the goal of reaching Battle Creek in late February for the team state finals.

Individually, wrestlers will be prepping to reach the Palace of Auburn Hills for the individual state finals in early March.

As always, the area has plenty of wrestling talent and many are state ranked by michigangrappler.com.

Starting the season, annual powerhouse Greenville is ranked eighth. The Yellow Jackets lost a hoard of wrestlers  from a year ago, including three-time state champion Jordan Thomas. Thomas is now a starter for the University of Michigan.

The Yellow Jackets return two ranked wrestlers this year in Michael Schmidt and Alec Ward.

Schmidt (Sr.) is ranked No. 9 at 119 pounds. He is a two-time state qualifier and finished last year with a 46-12 record. Ward (Jr.) is ranked No. 4 at 135 pounds. He placed fifth at 125 pounds last year and finished with a 46-14 record.

Three-time defending state champion St. Johns is ranked No. 1 to start the year in Division 2.

In Division 3, four area wrestlers are ranked.

Belding’s Todd Haller (Sr.) is ranked No. 9 at 285. Lakeview’s Gus Ward (Sr.) is ranked No. 9 at 215.

Central Montcalm has two wrestlers ranked, including last year state qualifier Cody Veltkamp (Jr.). Veltkamp (32-10 last year) is ranked No. 10 at 112. Senior Jesse Judge in ranked No. 10 at 171.

In Division 4, seven wrestlers are ranked, led by five Carson City-Crystal Eagles.

The Eagles are led by two-time state champion Kenneth Dittenber. The senior is ranked No. 1 at 103 and looking for a third straight state title.

Alex Baker (So.) is ranked No. 10 at 112, Garner Cusack (Jr.) No. 7 at 130, Dillon Decker (So.) No. 3 at 145 and Darren Decker (So.) No. 9 at 152.

Baker was a state qualifier last year and finished 26-16 overall.

Ranked for Montabella are Logan Burns (46-12 last year) and Jonny Durham (46-10). Both were state qualifiers last year.

Burns (Sr.) is ranked No. 8 at 160 and Durham (Jr.) is ranked No. 6 at 189.

Both Greenville and Central Montcalm will host matches tonight.

Lakeview is at Kent City, Belding travels to Coopersville and Montabella is at Leroy Pine River.

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