22 schools from far and wide converge for Marquette Challenge

Marquette’s Joe Lagrou, left, and Grandville’s Dash Herrema face off at the Marquette Challenge Saturday afternoon December 16, 2017 at Marquette Senior High School Gym. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

By RYAN SPITZA

Journal Sports Writer

MARQUETTE — Nearly two dozen teams gathered at Marquette Senior High School Saturday for the annual Marquette Challenge wrestling meet.

A total of 22 teams from both the Upper and Lower peninsulas along with Wisconsin made the annual trek to Marquette to compete in the day-long wrestling marathon.

Action began around 8:30 a.m. and was set to run through the end of the afternoon before the championship matches were to take place under a single spotlight in the evening at the MSHS gym.

Marquette athletic director Alex Tiseo said the meet is a large athletics event within the community that nobody really pays attention to.

“The Marquette Challenge is a very big event and one that the community doesn’t really see as a big event,” he said. “But it’s huge and it’s completely put on by the wrestling program.

“(Head coach) Tony Gentz and (assistant coach) Mike Caster do a ton of work for this and throughout the years it’s really become kind of a well-oiled machine.

“For us to welcome this many teams and this many student-athletes to Marquette and to our school is really great.”

Tiseo added that revenue from the meet goes back into the MSHS wrestling program as there are some challenges to get all these teams to flock to Marquette for the weekend.

“Because of how many teams we’ve got, we kind of help out with their expenses as much as we can,” he said. “Just so we can keep making this a great event year after year.

“We’re getting these downstate schools who have their own budget challenges as well to come up and make this the most competitive event we can for the region.”

Aside from Marquette, other Upper Peninsula teams competing at the meet included Negaunee, Westwood, Gladstone and Escanaba.

Gentz, who Tiseo credited for 99 percent of the work that goes into the event, said it’s always enjoyable to host so many teams.

“It’s a lot of fun and this is my 14th year running it,” he said. “It’s fun and time consuming, but I love the sport.”

Gentz added teams return year after year due to the competitive experience that the teams receive.

“They come back every year because of the competition that it brings in,” he said. “We’ve got teams coming from Wisconsin and downstate, eight-hour drives to come to the U.P. They come because of the show we put on in the finals and the competition.”

While the Redmen haven’t had a champion in this particular meet since 1999, sophomore Joe Lagrou made it to the 103-pound semifinals on Saturday before being ousted by Dash Herrema from downstate Grandville.

“It’s a nice tournament,” Lagrou said. “I like the bigger meets because you get more competition and get to talk to a bunch of different people.”

Gentz said Lagrou wrestled hard and the competition from around the region was difficult.

“He wrestled a good kid from Grandville and one little mistake cost him the match,” he said. “He wrestled hard for six minutes.”

Look for championship results in Monday’s Mining Journal.

Email Ryan Spitza at sports@miningjournal.net.

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