By: Butch Harmon
Birch Run, Chippewa Hills ready for championship runs in Division 3 wrestling
The Division 3 state team wrestling tournament kicks off Thursday night across mid-Michigan. Birch Run and Chippewa Hills have been among the top team in the state in Division 3 this winter and both the Panthers and Warriors are primed for long tournament runs. Look for Bullock Creek and Swan Valley to also make deep runs in the tournament.
Semifinal matchups: Morley-Stanwood vs. Big Rapids; Reed City vs. Chippewa Hills.
The Warriors of Chip Hills are on a mission. Ranked third in the state in Division 3, Chippewa Hills is coming off a big conference tournament championship where they outlasted Division 4 powerhouse Hesperia by 10 points. Zach King (103 pounds), Zack Cooper (112) and Jason Peacock (140) all won league titles while six other Warriors placed second.
Semifinal matchups: Clare vs. Shepherd; Farwell vs. Gladwin.
Host Gladwin should be tough to beat on its own mats. None of the four teams at this district feature any highly-ranked individuals so this should come down to a battle of who wants it more.
Semifinal matchups: Tri-County, Lakeview, Newaygo, Central-Montcalm.
Lakeview should be the team to beat at this district. Led by Jordan Bethan at 152 and Joe Main at 189, Lakeview has enough talent to turn back the rest of the field.
Semifinal matchups: Belding vs. Comstock Park, Grand Rapids Catholic vs. Grand Rapids West Catholic.
Comstock Park just missed heading down to Battle Creek last year. With a strong core of elite wrestlers and a number of strong blue-collar wrestlers, the Panthers will be hoisting up the district trophy and setting up for another run at the Kellogg Arena.
Semifinal matchups: Pennfield vs. Delton-Kellogg, Lakewood-Lake Odessa vs. Olivet.
While not as deep at past Lake Odessa teams, this year’s Viking squad has some talented upper weights in Lars Pyrznski (215) and Garrett Hyatt (285). Add in some talented lower weights like Jordan Bennett and the Vikings should have enough to escape what could be a tricky district.
Semifinal matchups: Alma, Ithaca, Ovid-Elsie, Portland.
Look for this district to come down to a matchup between the host school and Portland. The Raiders of Portland finished third in the CAAC White conference tournament. Portland crowned four champions in Tony Savage (103), John Miller (119), James Pace (145) and Seth Manshum (171). That talented core might be just enough for the Raiders to outlast an Alma squad that has been steadily improving and is led by Liam Widman. Widman captured an individual title at the Tri-Valley conference meet while Damian Castillo and Bruce Hubbard both placed third for Alma which finished seventh out of 21 teams.
Semifinal matchups: Laingsburg vs. Perry; Durand.
The bye may prove to be key as a rested Durand team may be too much for either Perry or Laingsburg to overcome. Wrestling at home may be the equalizer for Perry.
Semifinal matchups: Birch Run vs. Chesaning; Hemlock vs. Montrose.
The Panthers of Birch Run are loaded. Ranked fourth in the state in D3, Birch Run is off to one of its best seasons in school history. The Panthers will not be challenged at this district with the likes of Jerry Fenner (103), Adam Bishop (112), Damien Johnson (135) and Caleb Slavik (152) in the lineup.
Semifinal matchups: Carrollton vs. Bullock Creek; Essexville-Garber vs. Freeland.
Bullock Creek enters the district as the favorite. Ranked 10th in the state, Bullock Creek has a lineup dotted with talented wrestlers. Carrollton has enjoyed a strong season but does not have the firepower of Bullock Creek. Look for Garber and Freeland to have a spirited match with the winner putting up a solid fight against Bullock Creek.
Semifinal matchups: Bridgeport vs. Frankenmuth; Swan Valley vs. Vassar.
Swan Valley is ranked ninth in the state and will be a heavy favorite in this district. Swan Valley has a lineup full of strong wrestlers led by Mitch Malott at 152 along with Dylan Ewald (112), Zach Roethlisberger (125) and Leontay White (135).
Semifinal matchup: Leslie vs. Stockbridge; Williamston - bye.
This district should come down to a matchup between Leslie and Williamston. The Hornets are in a bit of a rebuilding year and are paced by Mitch Diamond at 130 pounds and Devin Smith at 189. Leslie is paced by sophomore Zehlin Storr at 130 pounds and will be the team to beat wrestling in its own building.