Cardinals show promise in first invitational of the season

BIG RAPIDS — The Big Rapids High School wrestling team started its 2013-14 campaign on Saturday as it hosted the Cardinal Invitational tournament.

LEVERAGE: Big Rapids’ Nate Weckesser (right) gains control over his opponent during a match against Ogemaw Heights during the Cardinal Invitational at Big Rapids High School on Saturday. (Pioneer photo/Daine Pavloski)

LEVERAGE: Big Rapids’ Nate Weckesser (right) gains control over his opponent during a match against Ogemaw Heights during the Cardinal Invitational at Big Rapids High School on Saturday. (Pioneer photo/Daine Pavloski)

BRHS was joined by Shepherd, Muskegon Orchard View, Ogemaw Heights, Montabella and Petoskey in an all-day session of team duals. Each team faced every team once with the goal of every wrestler getting five chances on the mat in a day of stiff competition.

The visiting Petoskey Northmen would take home the team trophy at the end of the day, but there were a number of impressive individual performances throughout the event.

One of the most notable being one of the two seniors on the hometown Cardinals, Nate Weckesser. Weckesser was one of the three Cardinals to advance to the state tournament last season and it appears that he plans on picking up right where he left off. Weckesser competed at 119 pounds on Saturday and went undefeated for the Cardinals in a day that he was pretty proud of.

“I feel really good about my day,” Weckesser said. “My last match was the one I was looking forward to the most against a very tough opponent and it went really, really well. Overall, I’m happy with how I did.”

According to Big Rapids coach Dan Sleeper, Weckesser was just one of the Cardinals that stood out on Saturday.

“Weckesser was extremely good as always, but some of the young guys looked great too,” Sleeper said. “Brandon Hatchew did a good job in his first high school meet.”

And for Sleeper, young guys are something he’ll have to get used to this season after relying on a solid nucleus of seven talented seniors last year.

“We’re young,” Sleeper said. “We’re about three-quarters freshmen with a few sophomores, but we’re coming along.”

Not only is the Cardinal squad young with just three upperclassmen, but it’s small. The Cardinals only have 11 wrestlers on the team, some at the same weight class, and only could fill eight weight classes in most of the duals on Saturday, which left six gaps that would have to be forfeits.

Each forfeit awards the other team six points, the equivalent of a pin, which means that Big Rapids was essentially coming into each round down 36 points.

“We only had eight guys going,” Sleeper said. “We kind of expected the day to go like this, but we tried to focus just on matches wrestled. If you just count those we actually went 4-1 (Saturday), which would’ve put us in second or third. It’s painful to have such a small roster.”

Even with a small roster and a few losses in the opening meet of the season, the Cardinals performed well against some solid opponents, but Sleeper acknowledges that there is a lot more work to be done.

“We definitely made a lot of rookie mistakes (Saturday),” Sleeper said. “There’s always going to be things to work on.”

The Cardinals will be in action again on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in Reed City as part of the Reed City Quads and in Farwell at 9 a.m. next Saturday.

Warriors finish second at Birch Run Invitational

BIRCH RUN — The Chippewa Hills wrestling team kicked off its season by going 4-1 at the Birch Run Invitational on Saturday.

The Warriors met a familiar foe in Birch Run in the finals after Birch Run beat the Warriors in the Division 3 state quaterfinals last season, but Birch Run topped the Warriors once again with a 40-28 victory in Saturday’s final.

The Warriors got to the finals with four-straight victories to begin the tournament, with wins over Midland Dow (67-11), Mayville (68-9), Alma (58-11) and New Boston Huron (39-27).

“We only started three seniors and we had three freshmen and a bunch of sophomores and juniors,” Chippewa Hills coach Nate Ethridge said. “We wanted to face Birch Run again to see where we are right now and they got us again, but I’m very happy with the way we fought on Saturday.”

Going 5-0 on the day for the Warriors were Kaden Ellis (112), Zak King (119) and Jon Wixson (140).

The Warriors had three wrestlers who recorded 4-1 records on Saturday with Keaton Zeurn (103), Mason Dey (145) and Kevin Briscoe (152) all only losing once on Saturday.

The Warriors will return to action Tuesday at 2 p.m. when they host Shelby for a duel meet.

Tuesday’s contest will also be a “Hometwon Hero” event, where the Warriors will be honoring military members and veterans and will be collecting materials for care packages for military members who are on active duty.

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