Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark
NORTH MUSKEGON – North Muskegon High School’s gymnasium is a throwback in many ways.
The old “barn” is intimate and it can be ear-splitting at times. It’s a classic gym, taking one back to a bygone era of athletic facilities.
North Muskegon went way, way back on Wednesday. For the first time in 45 years, it’s estimated, the Norsemen hosted a high school wrestling match.
On a single, weathered wrestling mat positioned on the center of the gym floor, North Muskegon, Holton and Oakridge battled in a West Michigan Conference tri-meet.
North Muskegon swept Holton (52-11) and Oakridge (51-16), while Oakridge defeated Holton in the other match (35-18). The Norsemen, whose roster is comprised of 12 boys and two girls, collected their third and fourth dual victories of the season.
The last time the Norse had won a wrestling match in their own gym was the disco era. That’s old-school.
“It all feels new to me,” said a smiling Norse head coach Jonathan Allen, principal at North Muskegon Elementary School, who started a middle-school wrestling program four years ago.
“I love it. We’ve got athletic kids here, we’ve got a great community here and basketball’s cool, but we needed another opportunity for our kids in the winter and this is it.”
The support sure seems to be there.
Members of North Muskegon’s boys basketball team, including head coach Chuck Rypstra, plus Norsemen head football coach Larry Witham, were among dozens of spectators on hand for the wrestling meet.
After North Muskegon’s wrestlers rolled up the mat just after 7 p.m. following the competition, the Norse basketball team took the floor for practice. North Muskegon is a small school and the Norse’s sports teams must be flexible in sharing athletic facilities.
Norse wrestlers appreciated the crowd and opportunity.
“It was great. The gym got really loud, we had of energy in there. It felt really good,” said North Muskegon junior August Gerardi, who won both of his matches against Holton and Oakridge by pinfall in the 150-pound weight class.
Gerardi said that most of North Muskegon’s team is still learning how to wrestle and trying to gain as much experience as possible.
The Norsemen are ever-improving, however, and Allen has clear goals: He thinks his team can win a Division 4 team district title next week at Ravenna. In the near future, he’d like to field full boys and girls wrestling teams at North Muskegon.
Last season, Oakridge fielded a wrestling team for the first time in 42 years. Eagles coach Chad Latsch said his squad is close to filling all 14 weight classes this season after filling only six in last year.
“I think it’s awesome to have North Muskegon add their program this year after we added ours last year,” Latsch said. “It makes all schools in our conference have a wrestling program. Saturday, we’re going to have all 14 schools at Orchard View for our conference tournament, so it’s going to be pretty awesome.”
Numbers are down this season for Holton, whose roster features only eight wrestlers.
The Red Devils have six freshmen, as well as one sophomore and one senior, neither of whom entered the season with varsity experience. But fourth-year Holton wrestling coach Jake Moreen is optimistic about the future.
Despite the outcome Wednesday, Moreen said that Wednesday’s meet was “great.”
“I’m all about growth of the sport. All these schools getting their teams back, it’s just awesome to see, especially in our area, you know,” he said. “It just makes competition a lot better. We’re excited for that and future rivalries maybe.”
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West Michigan Conference coaches: Please email your results to email@example.com.
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