Chippewas District Champions

Manistee’s 2017-18 wrestling team poses with the medals and trophy earned by winning its Division 3 team district championship on Wednesday. (Brian Fogg/News Advocate)

Manistee’s 2017-18 wrestling team poses with the medals and trophy earned by winning its Division 3 team district championship on Wednesday. (Brian Fogg/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — At the beginning of the season, the third in a row with a new head coach, a district title probably sounded like a pipe dream for Manistee wrestling.

But that’s exactly what it accomplished on Wednesday night.

The Chippewas had to mix and match lineups and depend on some younger wrestlers to step up and win big matches late to earn some postseason hardware, the Division 3 team district championship.

Manistee won the first match against archrival Ludington 48-28, and it followed that up with a stirring 45-36 win over Benzie Central in the district finals.

Each team gave up a handful of voids adding another game of picking your wrestlers carefully. The Chippewas were 5-2 in matches wrestled.

“We were just going to focus on the individual accomplishments. We went through the season and they started coming together and they started learning. We started wrestling as a team,” Manistee coach Darrell Burchfield said.

“We saw a little bit of a void fest, so we had to bump people at the right places to get the matchups. Coach (Josh Lovendusky of Benzie Central) has been around the block and beaten Manistee several times. It’s nice to get one for Manistee.”

To clinch the win over the Huskies, Manistee’s Keaton Ensley had to win under pressure. Ensley (140 lbs.), who started the year slowly, pinned Benzie’s Jacob Ingleston at 5:17. He was up 8-1 at the time.

“Night and day. He’s night and day. He probably lost his first 15 or 16 matches and he’s now winning most of the matches when he steps on the mat,” Burchfield said.

“Working with Coach Burchfield has given me more experience. With the experience I can do more and get forward,” Ensley said.

Manistee went 1-1 against the Orioles, with Bryson Jensen dropping down to 152 lbs. from his usual 160 for a pin at 4:48 over Marcos Mendez. Jensen was up 15-3 at the time of the pin.

Against Benzie Central the Chippewas went 4-1, starting with pins from Conner Barke (152 lbs.) and Keith Barke (171 lbs.) Manistee had to void its three heaviest weight classes and they trailed 24-18 after finishing 285 lbs.

At 112 lbs. Burchfield moved Makayla Alcayde-Wiltse up from 103 lbs. against Benzie’s James Schuett. She controlled the action against the bigger wrestler for a 6-2 win to give Manistee a a 27-24 lead.

“I was a little nervous, but I’m used to practicing with the guys on the team who are 125 lbs. and up, so I’m used to it,” she said.

After Alcayde-Wiltse, the teams traded voids on four matches, setting up Ensley chance to clinch the district. The Chippewas led 39-36 going into his match.

Burchfield was pleased with the result and the way his team adapted on the fly. With some of the young wrestlers like with Conner and Keith Barke, and Ensley he is pleased with the progression through the season.

“We adjusted a lot of positions. Bryson is usually our 160-pounder. He’s going to stay at 160, but he dropped to 152 for this. McKayla is a smaller 103-pounder., but she bumped up to 112 to catch a win for us,” Burchfield said.

“We have two freshman that pulled it out. At 171 Keith Barke joined the team about halfway through the season. He pulled out a big pin for us and a win that we weren’t sure that we were going to get. Earlier in the season he lost to the 171-pounder from Benzie. Connor Barke had pin at 152. That’s a kid that had 10 wins last year to this year where he has 35 wins. He’s really turning on the jets as a sophomore.”

Manistee will look to duplicate their success on Saturday in the Division 3 individual districts at Grayling.

The team regionals will take place next Wednesday, hosted by the winner of the Iron Mountain district.

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Posted by Brian Fogg

Brian is the sports writer for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3110 or bfogg@pioneergroup.com.

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