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Wyatt Jenkins’ triumphant return provides big boost for Whitehall in wrestling quarters

Seven months to the day after suffering a broken neck, Vikings junior makes instant impact in season debut.

Seven months ago to the day Friday, wrestling was an afterthought for Wyatt Jenkins, let alone competing in the Division 3 team wrestling state quarterfinals with his Whitehall squad. Seven months ago, he was lying in a hospital bed after breaking his neck at a football veer camp.

But there was the Vikings’ physically jacked junior on the mat at Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo, days after being medically cleared, looking like he’d never skipped a beat. In his very first action of the 2023-24 wrestling season, Jenkins needed only one minute to record a pinfall of Gladstone’s Jack Savard in the 190-pound bout and send his squad well on its way to a 52-18 victory.

It was one heck of a season debut for the returning all-stater and quite the shot in the arm for the second-ranked Whitehall squad at just the right time.

What timing for the Vikings, and what a surprise for their opponents this weekend.

Photos by Shayla Hardy for CatchMark

Second-seeded Whitehall (28-3) disposed of seventh-seeded Gladstone (18-2). The Vikings also defeated Braves in last year’s quarterfinals, 48-24.

Now Whitehall squares off with third-seeded Clinton (27-5) in Saturday’s noon semifinals. Clinton edged sixth-seeded Yale, 34-27, in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Should Whitehall defeat Clinton, the Vikings will get a highly probable rematch in the state finals against top-seeded and six-time defending state champion Dundee at 3:45 p.m. Saturday. Last year, Whitehall lost 60-18 in the state finals against Dundee, which has won 11 of the last 13 Division 3 championships.

Against Gladstone Friday, Whitehall lost its first match by pinfall at 126 pounds. The Vikings then reeled off victories in eight straight bouts, capped by Jenkins. Caden Varela (132), Ryne Christensen (138), Liam Leeke (144), Darnell Mack (150), Blake English (157), Ryan Goodrich (165), and Gavin Craner (175) collected victories during that stretch.

Gladstone picked up victories at 215 and 113, but Whitehall got wins from Jason Smith (285), Cody Manzo (106), and Max Krukowski (120) to finish it off.

Wyatt Jenkins gives two thumbs up as he’s surrounded by family in a Flint hospital after his neck injury at a football camp on July 23, 2024. (Courtesy of the Jenkins family)

On July 23, 2023, at Veer Camp in Montrose with his Whitehall football team, the defensive end suffered fractures in his C4 and C6 vertebrae. His C5 vertebra moved back and was pushing against his spinal cord, which required a spinal infusion. The C5 and C6 vertebrae were fused together, while the C4 vertebra was left to heal on its own.

Once Jenkins was allowed to begin physical therapy and resume strength training, he attacked it with vigor. His 6-foot-3 frame can easily hold 200 to 210 pounds currently.

Watch the video at the top of this story to hear from Wyatt Jenkins and his father, Thomas, as well as Whitehall head coach Justin Zeerip.


Whitehall 52, Gladstone 18

126 Drew Hansen (Gladstone) over Nolan Taranko (Whitehall) Fall 1:42 0 6
132 Caden Varela (Whitehall) over Cole Carlson (Gladstone) Fall 1:20 6 6
138 Ryne Christensen (Whitehall) over Logan Ayotte (Gladstone) Maj 14-5 10 6
144 Liam Leeke (Whitehall) over Mason Wells (Gladstone) Dec 8-7 13 6
150 Darnell Mack (Whitehall) over Austin Solis (Gladstone) Fall 5:42 19 6
157 Blake English (Whitehall) over Max Wilson (Gladstone) Maj 11-2 23 6
165 Ryan Goodrich (Whitehall) over Jack Taylor (Gladstone) TF 19-3 28 6
175 Gavin Craner (Whitehall) over Trevor Thorbahn (Gladstone) TF 18-1 33 6
190 Wyatt Jenkins (Whitehall) over Jack Savard (Gladstone) Fall 1:00 39 6
215 Owen Mattonen (Gladstone) over Blake Morningstar (Whitehall) Fall 4:38 39 12
285 Jason Smith (Whitehall) over Josh Racine (Gladstone) Maj 12-3 43 12
106 Cody Manzo (Whitehall) over Drew Baldovski (Gladstone) Fall 1:18 49 12
113 Nathan Beauchamp (Gladstone) over Kolten Weiler (Whitehall) Fall 5:06 49 18
120 Max Krukowski (Whitehall) over Conner Britton (Gladstone) Dec 5-1 52 18

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

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