GREENVILLE — Winning goes hand-in-hand with the Greenville Yellow Jackets wrestling program.
The Yellow Jackets have won eight consecutive district titles, four straight regional titles and won the schools only state championship in 2008. Individually, Greenville consistently produces district, regional and state champions, as well.
This year, the expectations are the same.
Greenville will look to wrap up its first goal of the season with an O-K Bronze Conference title Jan. 31. Team and individual districts take place the following week.
So far, this season, the Yellow Jackets are 21-2 and ranked No. 8 in Division 2 by michigangrappler.com.
The Yellow Jackets feature five individually ranked wrestlers and two of them, seniors Alec Ward and Will Parmelee, are preparing to help the Yellow Jackets continue the success of past seasons.
Seniors ready to go
Combined, the seniors are 59-5 this year. Ward is ranked No. 2 at 145 pounds, while Parmelee is ranked No. 5 at 130. Together, the two have helped to put the Yellow Jackets in a position to return to Battle Creek for the team state finals.
“We are doing pretty good. We still have to stick together as a team,” Parmelee said. “We still have to work in practice so we can get by Gaylord and Bay City Western in regionals.”
Greenville is expected to win the league title easily and cruise through districts. The Yellow Jackets host the district tournament this season (Feb. 6) and will wrestle Fremont first, and then Cedar Springs in the district finals.
Regionals, though, are expected to be much more competitive than past seasons. With the Yellow Jackets ranked eighth and, barring any upsets, Gaylord and Bay City Western will compete in the same regional. Both teams are currently ranked ahead of Greenville.
“Both teams are tough down low (weight classes) and are really good in the middle,” Ward said. “It’s going to come down to getting bonus points. All three teams are neck and neck. It will come down to the close matches.”
A regional win would advance the Yellow Jackets to Kellogg Arena for the seventh time in eight years.
Parmelee sets sights on The Palace
Unlike his practice partner Ward, Parmelee has yet to get beyond the individual regionals to qualify for the individual state tournament at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Twice Parmelee has been defeated in regionals, including last year in the “Blood Round,” the round in which a win guarantees reaching the podium.
With a 122-37 career record, Parmelee is hungry to reach the final stage.
“I’m working harder everyday trying to get there,” Parmelee said. “Alec and I are always working together. Working on new techniques, trying to get out of stuff and both trying to get faster from our feet. We want to be ready to wrestle a full six minutes.”
Last year, Parmelee lost to Holly’s Sam Johnson and Fremont’s Luke Spotts in regionals. This year, he has already defeated Johnson (at the Greenville Invitational) and is hoping to see Spotts at team districts in February.
“I’m ranked fifth in the state right now and I’m hoping to get up higher before the year is done,” Parmelee said. “At team districts, I could be wrestling the No. 3 ranked wrestler (Spotts).”
Reaching The Palace has been Parmelee’s goal since last February.
“I really want to make it to state and place,” Parmelee said. “What happens from there, happens.”
Ward wants state title
Ward has tasted the experience of The Palace twice. As a sophomore, Ward placed fifth, but as a junior he dropped to seventh.
The seventh place finish a year ago has left a burning motivation inside of him all year long.
“I can’t even explain the amount of pain, pure craziness I went through this whole summer trying to get myself to not let that happen again,” Ward said.
Confidently, he followed that comment up with, “It’s not going to happen again.”
Ward is currently ranked No. 2 at 145, behind only Steve Bleise of Chelsea. Ward is 30-2 this season and has a career record of 166-34.
“The season is going good, so far. Just a couple of tough losses,” Ward said. “I lost to a kid from DCC (Detroit Catholic Central) 4-3 and I bumped up a couple of weight classes to wrestle Jordan Bennett from Lakewood. That was a tough match.
“Other than that, I’ve beaten my competition pretty good,” he added.
Ward credits his practice partners for giving him quality competition this year. Even if his matches sometimes do the opposite.
“I have some really tough practice partners like Will (Parmelee), Jake (Hopkins) and Reed Cox. They are all really tough,” Ward said. “They all make me work, so I have good practice partners.”
While Parmelee will wrestle at 130 this postseason, Ward isn’t sure if he wrestle at 140 or 145 in the individual tournaments. The decision comes down to figuring out the best possible route to a championship.
“I haven’t decided yet. I can go 140 or 145 and I can make both weights pretty easily,” Ward said. “At 145, Steve Bleise is really tough. Down at 140 is Zac Hall (St. Johns). I don’t see any other competition at 140 except Hall.
“At 145, there is a lot of tough kids, It would be a tough road to the finals. It’s a decision if I want a tough road to the finals or do I want to get to the finals at 140 and give Zac a good match,” he added.
One final run
As seniors, this is their final chance for high school glory. Both Ward and Parmelee have wrestled since they were kids. Both are hoping to cap off their high school years with success.
In past years, the Yellow Jackets have always had multiple superstars on the mat. Wrestlers who could earn five or six points nearly every time they step on the mat.
Parmelee said the key this year is sticking together.
“The last few years we’ve always had someone to count on, like Jordan (Thomas), Luke (Gilmore) or Mikey (Schmidt) last year, that could get six points or at least the win,” Parmelee said. “This year, everyone has to stick together. We can’t afford to give up pins or any bonus points.”
Solid fundamentals has led the Yellow Jackets in the past. This year is no different.
The road to Battle Creek may be a little tougher, but the expectations are the same, regardless.