Wrestling’s finest: Wisconsin school Pulaski takes down 19 Michigan teams for Marquette Challenge title
“All these teams love coming back because of the competition.” — Tony Gentz, Marquette wrestling coach, Marquette Challenge tournament manager
Eleven Upper Peninsula schools and eight from the Lower Peninsula fell short to the only Wisconsin team in the field, Pulaski. The Red Raiders led the way with 230 points, outlasting Grandville, which had 213.5, for the top spot. Gaylord with third with 180.5, just edging out Mason with 180 as New Lothrop had 152.
Among U.P. teams, Gladstone had the highest finish in sixth place with 106.5 points, while Iron Mountain was not much further behind in seventh with 89.5.
Marquette scored the most points among area teams, 44 points for a tie for 14th. Rounding out the area squads was Munising with 19, Westwood 17.5, Negaunee eight and Gwinn three.
With so many schools jockeying for individual titles and team points, it’s clear why the Marquette Challenge is a yearly Christmas tradition for many programs.
“It’s fantastic, that’s why we’ve been doing it since 1992,” Marquette coach Tony Gentz said as he was also hosting the event. “All these teams love coming back because of the competition. I think we’ve got eight schools that are ranked in the state and we’ve got over 60 ranked wrestlers in this tournament. You can’t ask for a better start to the season.”
Six U.P. wrestlers made a finals match, and three — Gladstone’s Drew Hansen, Bark River-Harris’s Dillon Raab and Iron Mountain’s Parker Stroud — won championships at their respective weight classes.
Hansen won his title at 112 pounds, having an impressive road to the finals as the No. 1 seed in that bracket. After pinning Comstock Park’s Braedyn Rogalski in the first period, Hansen defeated Pulaski’s Ashton Kapla in the semis with a dominant 15-0 technical fall victory. In the finals against Grandville’s Gran Vasquez, Hansen eked out a 4-0 win to claim first place.
“I just tried to stay square, not let up any scores in the first period,” Hansen said. “I know I’m good on top so I just worked that. I just keep on saying, ‘I just want to keep on winning and not stopping and going for the state title.'”
Raab got two pins for victories in his three matches at 145 pounds, including a second-period winner in the championship over Grandville’s Bryce Lubbers. Raab also got a quarterfinal pin in the first period against Mason’s Dawson Williams, and sandwiched a semifinal 14-5 victory over Gaylord’s Gus James between. Also as the No. 1 seed while representing a smaller school in BR-H, it was important for Raab to have success against bigger schools.
“It means a lot, I knew today was going to be full of good kids from all over the state and Wisconsin,” Raab said. “So it’s a pretty big deal to wrestle (Division) 1, D2 and D3 kids all day and still come out on top.”
Stroud also had a dominant run to the title as the No. 1 seed at 152 pounds. The Mountaineers wrestler took out four opponents, which included two pins, a tech fall and a 13-0 win. In the finals against Kingsford’s Toby Wilcox, Stroud picked up Dickinson County bragging rights as he took care of business being the top seed.
“It’s a good feeling to know that I was ranked No. 1 in general, and to come out as No. 1,” Stroud said. “Avoiding an upset loss or something like that, and coming out with the win too.”
Two other U.P. wrestlers — Iron Mountain’s Shawn McGuire and Gladstone’s Hunter Solis — finished as runners-up. McGuire fell 8-3 in the finals to Mason’s Tayden Miller at 119 pound, while Solis was pinned in the second period by Traverse City St. Francis’s Josiah Shaub in their 135 pound title clash.
In Marquette County, two Marquette wrestlers — Wyatt Kuhlman and Chris Ricker — made the podium with fifth-place finishes. Kuhlman outlasted Pine River’s Cayden Mys for a 9-7 victory at 160 pounds, and Ricker pinned Pulaski’s Will Friedman in the second period at 285 pounds. Friedman had pinned Ricker in the first round of the tournament, but Ricker won all the way through the consolation bracket to get fifth.
Marquette hosts Negaunee, Gladstone and Iron Mountain for a quadrangular meet on Tuesday, while Westwood and Gwinn are next scheduled to attend the Munising Holiday Tournament on Wednesday, Dec. 29.
Travis Nelson can be reached by email at email@example.com.