GRANT — The Tri County Vikings were familiar with the Grant Tigers. The Lakes 8 Conference members has faced each other plenty this season.
So it was a surprise when Tri County cruised through the Division 3 district championship match over rival Grant 62-8. The win was the Vikings second consecutive district title.
“I knew we could be them. We beat them earlier this season,” Tri County coach Corey Renner said. “We beat them close. We had five matches that were within three points. I figured there were 10 matches that could go either way and I figured we could win four of those. To win from 145 all the way through was a shock.”
Starting at 112 pounds, the Vikings opened the match with two pins, a major decision and decision for a 19-0 advantage.
Parker Martin (112) and Tucker Martin (119) earned pins, while Dustin Prins rolled for a 13-0 major decision. Jesse Britton battled hard for a 10-8 win over Dylan Jenerou at 130.
That match and win created an atmosphere unlike any other district tournament. Both teams were chanting back-and-forth, while the crowds were as loud as can be. For a small gym, the noise was extremely loud.
“The difference was probably the intensity and the emotion,” Renner said. “The guys on the side did a good job of pushing the guys on the mat. It was a total team effort.”
Grant fought back with two wins at 135 and 140.
Chase Hicks (135) won by decision, while Niko Guarado (140) pinned his opponent to bring the Tigers within 19-9.
Tri County, though, put a halt to any momentum Grant thought they had. The Vikings finished the match with five pins, an injury default and major decision.
Lucas Prater (152), John Zuzula (171), Jayson VanDyken (189), Austin Sprik (215) and Josh Montney (103) all earned pins. Levi Kinsey (285) won by injury default (in a match he was winning), while Jarrod Tague won by major decision.
Grant lost a point for unsportsmanlike in the 285 pound match for a 62-8 final.
Tri County defeated Newaygo 73-6 in the semifinal. Newaygo, though, had just a handful of wrestlers on hand.
With plenty of voids, Renner worried about the possibility his team wouldn’t be ready for the finals.
“I was a little worried. Sometimes you like to get a match to get going,” Renner said.
At the same time, Grant defeated Lakeview 44-32 in a contest that wasn’t decided until the final match.
“On the other hand they (Grant) had a tough one against Lakeview,” Renner said. “Sometimes that can drain you a little bit emotionally. We’ve been there before. I was hoping that would help us and I really think it did.”
In the other semifinal, Lakeview jumped out to an early 16-6 lead.
Austin Davy (112) and Jesse Gorney (125) earned pins, while Nolan Saxton (119) won by major decision.
The lead didn’t last long as Grant reeled off five straight wins, three of them by pins for a 32-16 advantage.
“They are tough in the middle. They had a couple of kids in the lineup that wasn’t at the league tournament,” Lakeview coach Todd Barton said. “That didn’t surprise me because I knew they had the kids. They just matched up against us and came out to battle.”
Jenerou (130), Guarado (140) and Rylee Schultz (152) earned pins.
Lakeview bounced back with wins by Terry Grieser at 160 (by void) and Garrett Cavendish (171) by pin to pull within 32-28.
Grant got a pin from Zach Bosch at 189, while Lakeview’s James Smith won by major decision (215). Lakeview still trailed 38-32 with one match left.
Unfortunately, for the Wildcats, RJ Powell dashed hopes of a win with a final match pin for a 44-32 win.
“The difference was bonus points. We gave up six pins,” Barton said. “Those bonus points add up and are huge.”
After just a handful of wins a year ago, Lakeview finished its season 18-10.
“It was a good season. The kids worked hard,” Barton said. “It’s a different team than we has last year. We had a lot of young kids step into the lineup and battle hard for us all year. The kids that came back definitely wanted to win and be here. That showed in our final record.”
Tri County (21-5) will compete next in the regional tournament on Wednesday at Clare.
The Vikings will face Farwell (39-36 winners over Gladwin) in one semifinal, while Chippewa Hills will face Central Montcalm in the other semifinal.