By Mike Dunn
LAKE CITY — For the first time in 18 long years, the Manton wrestling team was able to celebrate a district title and Coach Dan Tuck was able to hoist the championship trophy.
“It feels wonderful,‘ Tuck said smilingly after the Rangers defeated a scrappy Lake City team by a 44-36 margin in the Division 4 team district finals Wednesday.
“The guys wrestled well. Everybody did their part and we were able to beat a very good Lake City team that beat us twice this year. I’m really happy for the kids.‘
Tuck, in his 29th year as the Ranger coach, said the key bout came in the 285-pound class when the Rangers’ Jake Renfer was able to pin the Trojans’ Skylar Miller late in the third period.
“Their heavyweight was out and so Eli (Hoffert) moved Miller up from 215 to face Jake,‘ Tuck said. “Miller’s a very tough kid but Jake finally wore him down. That pin put us in good position going into the lighter weights.‘
Renfer’s six-point victory over the Miller, who was trailing in the scoring and got pinned as he tried for a pin himself, gave Manton a 21-18 lead at the time. The Rangers would maintain a lead through the remainder of the match.
A technical fall victory at 125 pounds from Manton’s Josh Baske over Trey Jones pushed the lead to 38-24 and a void by Lake City at 130 pounds increased the Ranger lead to 44-24, clinching the match with two more weight classes remaining.
Lake City’s Josh Shivlie (135) and Zach Stockman (140) each earned pins in the final two bouts of the night, making the final score a bit closer.
It was a tough loss for the Trojans, who were wrestling at home for the first time in the new gym before a nice crowd of spectators and would have loved to gain the first-ever postseason title in the sport of wrestling for the school.
“Give Manton and coach Tuck credit; they wrestled better than we did and deserved this tonight,‘ Hoffert said. “We were missing Austin (Potter) at heavyweight and had to make some adjustments but that’s how it goes sometimes.
“The kids continued to battle hard to the end, even after we knew we couldn’t win the match, and they didn’t stop trying or stop cheering for each other. We lost tonight but we lost as a team.‘
It’s a measure of how far Lake City has advanced in the seven-year history of the program that the Trojans put themselves in position to vie for the district crown this season against the successful, longstanding Manton program.
“We’re getting better,‘ Hoffert acknowledged. “We still have (individual) districts on Saturday and I’m hoping we do well there.‘
Manton will also be competing in the D4 Individual district tournament at Oscoda along with Lake City and 12 other teams this Saturday, and then the Rangers will prepare for a D4 Team Regional next Wednesday at Pine River.
“We haven’t done it in a while (preparing for team regionals) so it’s nice to have that opportunity again,‘ Tuck said.
Manton, which is 18-11 in team matches, and Lake City both advanced by lopsided margins in Wednesday’s semifinals, the Rangers defeating Houghton Lake and Lake City defeating Forest Area by identical 60-6 scores.
Ben Paddock (145), Adin Huff (189) and Hunter Buck (119) earned victories for Manton in the Lake City match along with Renfer (285) and Baske (125). Lake City voided at three weights and Manton at one weight.
Renfer also earned a pin against Houghton Lake. Nick Dunham (140), Connor McGrew (160) and Ely Hoyt (119) also earned wins against the Bobcats.
Winning by pin for Lake City along with Shivlie and Stockman in the Manton match were Eli Marshall (152), Sebastian Pena (171) and Andrew Brown (215).
Shivlie also won by pin against Forest Area. Trey Jones (125) pinned his Forest Area foe.