It was another banner year for boys wrestling in the West Michigan Conference.
The league boasted two individual state champions, a state runner-up and a slew of other all-staters.
Three wrestlers stood out above the rest. Accordingly, Hart’s Mason Cantu, Whitehall’s Ira Jenkins and Mason County Central’s Andrew Quinn are the three finalists for the 2022 VanDyk Mortgage West Michigan Conference Wrestler of the Year award.
The trio was selected by a CatchMark SportsNet panel consisting of Scott DeCamp, Brent Raeth and Zach Zweigle.
Next week, a poll will open and readers will vote to determine which of those three wrestlers wins the award. Fan polls of all 2021-22 winter sports will be released in one story at CatchMarkSports.com. Readers will be allowed to vote once per hour in each poll for as long as the polls remain open.
This week, a story will be published each day revealing three Player of the Year finalists in a winter sport. Here is the scheduled lineup:
- Monday: Boys basketball
- Tuesday: Girls basketball
- Wednesday: Boys wrestling
- Thursday: Girls wrestling
- Friday: Boys bowling
- Saturday: Girls bowling
All finalists for VanDyk Mortgage Player of the Year will be invited to an upcoming awards presentation and honorary dinner, where trophies and certificates will be presented. A trophy that stays in our CatchMark office will have the names of the Players of the Year engraved on it.
Here are the three finalists for Wrestler of the Year on the boys side, along with their season stats and achievements. They are listed alphabetically:
Hart, senior 145-pounder
Cantu placed in the top three at the state finals three of his four years as a Hart wrestler with two runner-up finishes, including this season in the 145-pound weight class of Division 3.
In his senior campaign, Cantu racked up a 50-2 record with 41 bonus-point victories. He collected West Michigan Conference, district and regional titles.
In his career, Cantu was a glittering 170-24 with 136 bonus-point victories, including a 54-4 mark as a sophomore with another runner-up finish.
Cantu was a three-time team captain and he earned team MVP honors each of those seasons. He helped the Pirates capture three straight regional championships, resulting in three trips to team state finals, and played a big part in the program winning four consecutive district titles.
Cantu is a leader on the mat, volunteering his time to help coach Hart’s youth wrestlers and run practices for them. He’s also a leader in the classroom, carrying a 4.01 grade-point average. He has signed to continue his academic and wrestling pursuits at the University of Indianapolis.
He was Academic All-State this season, too. This is the first year that the Michigan Wrestling Association has allowed underclassmen to earn that status.
Whitehall, senior 285-pounder
Jenkins is one of the most dominant wrestlers this area has ever seen. He finished as a two-time undefeated state champion in his junior and senior seasons, breezing to the 215-pound title in Division 3 in 2021 and steamrolling to the 285-pound crown in Division 2 this season.
The University of Michigan signee is ranked No. 10 in the country at 285 pounds. Jenkins also is rated No. 91 overall pound-for-pound on the Senior Big Board, according to Whitehall coach Justin Zeerip, putting him in the top 100 nationally for the class of 2022.
Jenkins capped his four-year Whitehall wrestling career with an eye-popping 183-11 record, including a whopping 151 pins, 12 tech falls, two major decisions, six decisions and 177 bonus-point wins.
In his senior year, Jenkins finished 53-0 with 49 pins as he won everything in sight and made extremely quick work of his opponents. During the COVID-abbreviated season in 2021, he went 39-0 with 36 pins and set a Michigan High School Athletic Association record for shortest time on the mat during the state tournament run at 144 seconds (7 minutes, 29 seconds).
Jenkins is a four-time all-state performer. He placed third at 152 pounds in Division 3 as a freshman and fifth at 171 pounds in Division 2 as a sophomore.
Jenkins, a 4.03 student, has been a Preseason Nationals champion and All-American. He’s also been a Michigan Freestyle state champion along with a Freestyle and Greco Cadet National Team member.
Mason County Central, senior 285-pounder
Quinn may have surprised many when he knocked off defending state champ Isiah Pasik of New Lothrop in Division 4’s 285-pound title match at Ford Field, but it came as no surprise to those closest to the Mason County Central senior. Pasik had not lost in almost two years, but Quinn took him down with a pin at the 3:23 mark.
That capped Quinn’s season record at an impressive 51-1 with the lone loss coming to Whitehall powerhouse Ira Jenkins in a West Michigan Conference quad. He finished with a school-record 42 pins and allowed no takedowns.
Quinn was a three-time all-state wrestler, placing sixth as a sophomore and third as a junior before winning it all this season. Spartans coach Kendel Trim said Quinn always wrestled his best in the state tournament and he stepped it up a level each of his three appearances at the finals.
Ironically, this was the first season that Quinn was able to win district and regional championships. He split time at the varsity level as a freshman.
Trim said that Quinn was driven by beating as many of his brothers’ records as he could. Division 4 defending champs were returning at 215 and 285 pounds this season, and Quinn chose the heavier weight class.
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