NEGAUNEE - Winner Kris Edmark of Westwood and runner-up Gunnar Meyer of Ishpeming shook hands, hugged and finally posed for pictures atop the podium following their wrestling match on Saturday.
They had just completed the championship match in the 171-pound division at the Mid-Peninsula Conference wrestling tournament held at Lakeview Memorial Gymnasium in Negaunee.
The matchup was their first ever as opponents instead of just sparring matches as teammates.
Westwood's Kris Edmark, top, battles Ishpeming's Gunner Meyer during the 171-pound divisioin at the Mid-Peninsula Conference wrestling tournament on Saturday in Negaunee. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
"We used to be wrestling partners," Edmark said. "This is the first time we've gotten to wrestle against each other since our (Ishpeming-Westwood) co-op broke up."
Westwood took fifth in the team standings with 109 points while Ishpeming was sixth with 67. Iron Mountain won with 193 points, followed by Norway in second, Manistique and Negaunee.
The Ishpeming-Westwood split has resulted in increased numbers of wrestlers from each school, particularly at younger ages. But what Edmark and Meyer have dealt with is an interesting change in the dynamic of their longtime friendship.
"It was really weird because we know almost all of each other's moves," Meyer said of Saturday's match. "Matches between us always come down to 2-0 or 1-0. (Saturday) was a big match to just block each others moves and to wait for the other person to make a mistake."
With the breakup, Meyer and Edmark have had a hard time adapting to "new" teams, but also to not having each other around all the time.
"I miss having the Westwood kids on the team," Meyer said. "We've been wrestling together for so long.
"We're all still really close, but now we're competing against each other and it's really weird, but for the future of the program it's good that we're broken up."
Meyer and Edmark each spent three seasons on the combined team, making it difficult to adapt to the new setup as seniors. However, they both agreed that the change will benefit the many underclassmen that both teams boast.
"Both teams wanted more of their own identity," Edmark said. "We had enough numbers to fill both teams, so we thought it would be better to try and experiment."
For Meyer, one of only two seniors for Ishpeming, it's really all about how freshmen and sophomores will respond.
"I say it's good for the program that it happened," he said. "On our whole team, there are like 10 freshmen. So it's really good for them, but it kind of stinks for the guys that have had wrestling partners on the other team."
As for Saturday's match, and as previously stated by Meyer, both wrestlers has an interesting time going up against the one person that they have wrestled with since fifth grade.
"I've learned a lot of the stuff I know about wrestling from him," said Edmark, who took second in the M-PC during both his sophomore and freshmen seasons. "I think it can go the other way, too. He's made me a better wrestler - if not for him, I wouldn't be able to compete today.
"We know how the other wrestles, so that was kind of a tough thing (today). We know what our strengths and weaknesses are, but I thought it was a fun match. Win or lose, I had fun today."
Another area division champion was Trevor Hall of Negaunee, who took the 189-pound class by beating Billy Bourg of Norway in the finals.
Also winning was David Lancour of Westwood at 285 pounds after he defeated Robbie Smith of Manistique in the finals.
Two Manistique wrestlers were also winners. Cole Gonzalez took the 135 division and Matt Gonzalez the 152.
Amanda Monthei can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.