Yellow Jackets ready for O-K Bronze tournament

By Bruce Bentley • Last Updated 1:48 pm on Friday, January 31, 2014

Greenville’s Alex Budge grabs on to his opponent during the Greenville Invitational this season. Greenville will travel to Grand Rapids West Catholic tonight for the O-K Bronze tournament.

GREENVILLE — Wrestling’s second season begins tonight for the Greenville Yellow Jackets.

The Yellow Jackets travel to Grand Rapids West Catholic tonight, weather permitting, for the O-K Bronze Conference tournament.

The tournament, an individual format, will decide the conference title combined with regular season records. The Yellow Jackets, undefeated in conference play, are in the drivers seat for a repeat league championship.

“Even with the cancelations this week of the final league dual meet, the standings were decided,” Greenville coach Paul Johnson said. “We were to face Forest Hills Northern this week, but they already had lost in the league. So it doesn’t really affect the standings.”

The regular season record and the conference tournament will each count 50 percent toward the league title. Greenville is the favorite to win the championship.

“We feel like we are the front runner in the tournament,” Johnson said. “All the weight classes will be even, but it will be a collective effort by the rest of the conference. It’s not we have a real big adversary as a single team, but collectively it will make for a decent tournament.

Greenville (21-2) is currently ranked No. 8 in Division 2 by

“I think 152, 125, 160 and 215 will all be decent brackets,” Johnson said.

Tate Jeffrey gets tangled with an opponent during the Greenville Invitational this season.

Greenville wrestlers at those weights include Jake Hopkins, Tate Jeffrey, Reed Cox and Andrew Bowen, respectively.

“Reed is the front runner in his weight,” Johnson said. “He will go up against a kid that was conference champ last year, but he (Cox) beat him this year already.”

Like every other school, the Yellow Jackets have not competed on the mat in more than a week. The weather forced the cancelation of Saturday’s tournament and a dual on Tuesday.

“The biggest adjustment is they are not on a schedule, but everyone is dealing with it,” Johnson said. “As a coach you worry we haven’t been doing anything, but no one else is either.”

Tonight’s tournament is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Road to Battle Creek

The district tournament begins on Wednesday for schools in Division 1 and 3. Division 2 (Greenville) and 4 will wrestle of Thursday.

Greenville will host its district tournament and will face Fremont in the semifinal. The winner will wrestle Cedar Springs.

Like the conference tournament, the Yellow Jackets will be the favorite. A win would be Greenville’s ninth consecutive district championship.

“Fremont has some good individuals,” Johnson said. “Cedar is a better team than you might think. We beat them earlier, but they are a team looking to at their best at the end of the year. I expect Cedar will be prepared when it comes time.”

Should Greenville win the district tournament, Mount Pleasant will host the regional tournament on Feb. 12.

Bay City Western (No. 6) and Gaylord (No. 7) are two other teams expected to reach the regional tournament. Both teams are ranked higher than the Yellow Jackets.

This will the first time in a long time Greenville will not be the favorite to win the regional title, which it has done the past four years. Both Bay City Western and Gaylord will be looking for a little revenge, as well.

“This will be the first year, should we reach districts, the other teams will be ranked higher above us,” Johnson said. “I think it was 2005 the last time we were an underdog at regionals, again, should we win districts.”

Greenville has not face either team this season.

The state quarterfinals take place on Feb. 21 at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek. The semifinals and finals are Feb. 22 at the same location.

The Yellow Jackets won the Division 2 state title in 2008 and was runner-up in 2011. St. Johns has won the last four state championships. The Redwings are ranked No. 2 behind the Lowell Red Arrows.

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