Every wrestling team begins winter practice in November dreaming of the chance to reach Battle Creek for the team state championship. Just eight teams in each of the four divisions get to realize this dream.
Tonight, five area teams will have the chance to claim a regional title and a spot in the final eight, which will take place Feb. 22 and 23 at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek.
In Division 2, the Greenville Yellow Jackets will be looking for its fourth straight trip to the state finals in Mount Pleasant.
Greenville (24-6) defeated Big Rapids on Thursday for its eighth straight district title. They will face Escanaba in the regional semifinal match at 6 p.m.
Should the Yellow Jackets advance — they are favored to do so — they will face the winner of Bay City Western and Gaylord. Bay City Western is expected to defeat Gaylord to reach the finals.
“Escanaba is good every year and a frequent opponent for us,” Greenville coach Paul Johnson said. “All of the teams are pretty decent and we’ve seen them all this year. We will have our hands full, but that is the best way.”
Greenville is currently ranked seventh in Division 2 by michigangrappler.com. The Yellow Jackets lost 30-29 to Tecumseh in the quarterfinals last year.
In Division 3, the area has three teams vying for trips to the state finals, although just two can go because Belding and Central Montcalm are in the same regional and could possibly face each other in the finals.
Central Montcalm (24-8) won a school record 24 times this season and defeated Alma 44-27 in the district finals for a trip to regionals at Lakewood.
The Hornets will face Leslie in one semifinal, while the Redskins will face Chesaning. Central Montcalm defeated Belding during the regular season, but did not face either Leslie or Chesaning this year.
“I know they (Leslie) have a couple of stud wrestlers at 103/112 or 135/140, depending on where they go,” Hornets coach Dan VanderVlucht said. “Other than that, I know very little on them outside of seeing them at individual districts. Based on that it should be an outstanding dual.”
The Redskins (19-7) defeated Portland 52-30 in the district finals. Like Central Montcalm, the Redskins have not seen their opponent in a dual format.
“We just saw everyone at the individual districts this past weekend. So we know some of their (Chesaning) guys, but we don’t know their coach or how they do things in duals,” Belding coach Travis Meyer said.
Belding will not feature a full lineup and will be giving up six points in two or three matches. That will make it extremely tough for the Redskins to win a regional title.
“We are a small team and will be going in with maybe 12 guys in the lineup,” Meyer said. “We will try to make up those 12 points and see where we can get some more. We will have to be a little crafty in the duals.”
VanderVlucht feels his team is in good shape to reach Battle Creek.
“All the kids feel like this is bonus wrestling right now,” he said. “They have it stuck in their heads they want to reach Battle Creek. That is a good mindset to have, but we have to go match-to-match. We are just two wins from Battle Creek.”
Also, in Division 3, the Tri County Vikings will try for a regional title, but may be in the toughest region of them all this year.
Tri County, which defeated Grant 41-37 in the district finals, will face No. 8 ranked Allendale in the semifinal at Comstock Park. No. 3 ranked Whitehall will face No. 4 ranked Grand Rapids Catholic Central in the other semifinal.
“Our regional is extremely tough. Our odds are about a million to one, but we have already told our kids to go out and give their best effort, don’t give up and be able to look themselves in the mirror at the end of the day,” Tri County coach Corey Renner said. “We have had a really good season so far and we don’t want to give up now. If we do our best, we can be proud of it. We only have three seniors, so if we work all off season, we can be one of those ranked teams next year.”
Tri County is 20-8 overall this year and last won a district title in 2011.
In Division 4, the Carson City-Crystal Eagles ((24-6) will face Laingsburg in the semifinal, while St. Louis will take on Byron in the other semifinal at Montabella.
The Eagles defeated conference rival Montabella 34-30 in the district final on Feb. 6. Carson City is ranked No. 9 in Division 4.
“We saw Laingsburg three times this year and beat them every time,” Eagles coach Kacy Datema said. “We have not seen Byron other than individual districts and we have seen St. Louis at two individual tournaments.”
Datema expects St. Louis to be a battle in the finals.
“St. Louis is a good team and Laingsburg is a solid team,” Datema said. “The match with St. Louis, if we get there, will be tight. We will have to win with our horses down low and in the middle. We will have to keep the bonus points to a minimum, which we have been good at this year.”
Carson City won its last district title in 2006.