Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark
WHITEHALL — Through 10 of 14 bouts in Wednesday night’s Division 2 team wrestling regional final, Allendale pulled within two points of host Whitehall.
Were the second-ranked Vikings on the ropes? Nope. They were primed to deliver the knockout punch.
Ignited by senior 140-pounder Aiden Weiler, who recorded his 100th career win earlier in the night, Whitehall strung together three straight pins and capped the evening with a technical fall for an emphatic 43-18 victory.
Whitehall (25-0) notched its sixth regional title in seven years and eighth in the last 11 seasons. The Vikings punch their ticket to next weekend’s team state finals at Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo, where last year they made program history with a state runner-up finish in Division 3.
Seedings for the eight quarterfinalists will be announced Sunday by the Michigan High School Athletic Association.
Top-ranked Lowell is the eight-time defending state champion in Division 2. The Red Arrows captured a regional title Wednesday with a 43-24 victory over Middleville Thornapple-Kellogg.
Whitehall opened Wednesday’s regional with a 75-3 semifinal victory over Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills. Weiler notched win No. 100 via pin in his match, which lasted only 30 seconds.
In the finals against Allendale, which eliminated Hamilton 45-25 in the other semifinal, Weiler duplicated the effort with a fall against the Falcons’ Craig Stoepker in a match that also lasted just 30 seconds.
Prior to that bout, Allendale had pulled within 20-18 of Whitehall with only four matches to go. But that’s when the Vikings flexed some muscle, as seniors Max Brown (145) and Alec Pruett (152) followed with pins that required only 45 and 30 seconds, respectively, to effectively put it away.
Whitehall freshman Wyatt Jenkins (160) put an exclamation on the night with a 16-0 tech-fall victory. Earlier in the match, older brother and senior standout Ira Jenkins wrestled at 215 and he recorded another pin in a matter of seconds.
Other winners for Whitehall in the regional final included sophomores Nolan Taranko (103) and Ryne Christensen (125), senior Nick Blanchard (189) and junior Shane Cook (285).
Before the Vikings shift their focus to team state finals, they’ll be sending 11 wrestlers to the individual regional this Saturday at Allendale. The Vikings’ victory Wednesday against Allendale was a rematch of their 50-21 win over the Falcons in the finals of the Rick Champion Duals on Jan. 29.
At last year’s team state finals, Whitehall defeated West Michigan Conference foe Hart in the quarterfinals (41-23) and Alma in the semifinals (37-29) before losing to nationally ranked Dundee in the finals (55-17).
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