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Whitehall’s ‘Assembly Dual’ ramps up intensity in season-opening, top-10 wrestling matchup

In front of more than 2,000 people, several of them sixth- to 12th-graders, Whitehall tops Benzie Central, 42-19.

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

WHITEHALL — Detroit Catholic Central and Lowell are no strangers to the “Assembly Dual” high school wrestling phenomenon.

A mid-day assembly in a packed gymnasium turns into a rowdy, ear-splitting, rock concert-like environment surrounding the mat.

Seems to be a great tone-setter for the Shamrocks and Red Arrows, two of the most dominant high school wrestling programs in Michigan.

Whitehall followed suit for the first time Wednesday afternoon in its high school gym, where more than 2,000 people — the majority of them Whitehall District Schools students in grades 6-12 — raised the decibel level and created an unnerving setting for visiting Benzie Central.

In a matchup of top-10 teams, Division 3 third-ranked Whitehall opened the season with a 42-19 victory over Division 4 eighth-ranked Benzie Central.

Whitehall students, especially those standing in the front row nearest the mat, maintained their intensity throughout the dual match.

Three of the final four matches of the day were perhaps the most riveting or noteworthy.

At 175 pounds, Whitehall junior Ryan Goodrich trailed for most of the match but rallied for an intense 4-3 victory.

In the next match, at 190, Whitehall newcomer Gavin Craner kept the crowd roaring. The junior transfer from Belding, who was a state runner-up last season, needed only 42 seconds to record a pinfall over his opponent. It was the 100th career victory for Craner.

Whitehall junior Gavin Craner poses with Vikings co-coach Justin Zeerip after Craner earned his 100th career victory during an “Assembly Dual” wrestling event during the school day Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023, at Whitehall High School in Whitehall, Mich. Whitehall is ranked No. 3 in Division 3 and Benzie Central is ranked No. 8 in Division 4. (Scott DeCamp | CatchMark)

Whitehall senior Blake Morningstar capped the excitement with a 9-7 overtime victory at 285 pounds.

Other match winners for Whitehall, 2022 Division 3 state runner-up, were Cody Manzo (106), Max Krukowski (126), Nolan Taranko (132), Ryne Christensen (150), Darnell Mack (157), and Blake English (165).

Match winners for Benzie Central were Dayne Gillison (113), Benjamin Deidder (120), Jacob Gillison (138), Owen Cruden (144), and Lance Sanchez (215). It was win No. 100 for Jacob Gillison. The Huskies advanced to team state finals last season.

Orchard View alumnus Cody VanDonkelaar is a co-coach for Benzie Central.

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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