Kings of Marquette County: Negaunee tops Marquette 33-30 for first county wrestling title in decades
MARQUETTE — History was made at the Barb Crill Gymnasium in Marquette on Thursday night when Negaunee wrestling team won its first Marquette County Meet in decades after prevailing over host Marquette in the finals, 33-30.
Officials at the meet believe the Miners last won this meet in 1994.
In the semifinals, Negaunee got past Ishpeming and the Redmen upended a shorthanded Westwood team to set up the finals in a dual meet-format tournament. Gwinn also participated, but with only three wrestlers, lost to both Westwood and Ishpeming earlier.
In the finals, it was Marquette that was shorthanded as the Miners picked up five wins by forfeit among the 14 divisions. The Redmen also collected two forfeit wins, resulting in only seven matches actually being held between the squads.
MSHS came out on the winning side in six of the seven, but the extra forfeits was enough to crown Negaunee the champion.
“It’s huge, I’ve been a part of this program for 13 years now, it’s always been a goal of mine to do this and we finally did it,” Negaunee coach Matthew Oswald said. “We’ve got a great group in here, a group of juniors and freshmen, we have one sophomore and no seniors. This is great for the program.”
The one Negaunee victory in the finals by Tom McCollum over Parker Kroll, 7-4, in the 171-pound division proved to be the three-point difference in scoring. The Miners’ forfeit victories were rewarded to Phoenix Espinoza (112), Will Helppi (119), Luke Abbott (125), Joe McCollum (130) and Eli VanBuren (215).
Neither team had competitors in the 103-and 135-pound divisions, and Marquette’s two forfeit wins were at 145 by Braydon Bosman and 152 by Brady Ketzenberger.
Luke Mead of Marquette took the 160 division with a 9-6 decision over Negaunee’s Ryan Reno.
MSHS got the only two pins of the championship meet from Lars Anderson (140) and Wyatt Kuhlman (189) in their wins over Dominik Storm and Nathan Keough, respectively. At 285, Chris Ricker picked up a 5-0 win for the Redmen over Brayden Dunstan of Negaunee.
Heading into the match, Marquette coach Tony Gentz knew his squad was going to have to be perfect against the Miners to win. Falling one match and three points short, it wasn’t hard for him to come out of it encouraged.
“I told the guys before the match that we’d need a miracle to beat Negaunee because I knew that’s who we were going to wrestle,” Gentz said. “Of the matches we wrestled, we lost one by three points. To win every match except for one, I can’t be too disappointed.”
With the wrestling season starting to heat up with the Upper Peninsula Championships next weekend and the postseason revving up in February, taking each match one at a time and continuing to get better remains a worthy attitude.
“Keep getting better in every position that we can, after we get done wrestling, all we do is learn from it and get better,” Gentz said. “A lot of kids have been out with sickness and stuff like that, but no excuses, but we just have to go out and learn.”
“Just take each match at a time, just keep with them and get better,” Oswald said. “We have a lot more to work on, but this is a great spot to be at at this point in the season, we’re getting into the bulk of our competition with districts coming up soon.”
Travis Nelson can be reached by email at email@example.com.