Knights win tiebreaker, championship

MANISTIQUE – Fourteen wrestling matches weren’t enough to determine a Division 4 regional team champion Wednesday night as Norway and St. Ignace finished in a 36-36 tie at Manistique High School.

A review of a series of tie-breakers listed in the Michigan High School Athletic Association rulebook also couldn’t decide the issue.

That was followed by a meeting including Manistique athletic director Rob Ryan and the two referees. During their meeting, they checked the MHSAA and National Federation of High School Wresling websites, each of which have slightly different criteria in determining the outcome of tie-breakers. Again no decision was reached.

Ultimately, it took a phone call to the head of wrestling at the MHSAA and a decision was finally made 45 minutes after the end of competition.

Norway was declared the winner on the eighth tie-breaker, based on information received from Ryan and the officials.

The Knights then received their first regional championship trophy, due to their 16-11 edge on first points scored through the 14 bouts. The victory sends them to the state quarterfinals Feb. 22 at Battle Creek.

“At the beginning of the season, we set goals to win the (Mid-Peninsula) conference and district,” said Norway coach Nick Burkland. “Winning the regional is icing on the cake. We treated this as our state championship and the kids responded. St. Ignace has a great wrestling team and great kids.”

Norway gained a 36-24 advantage on Jake Wetsel’s 8-6 overtime victory over Kasey Bunker in the 130-pound match.

Richard Bentley, Jr. (135) then pinned Jake Julian in one minute, 40 seconds to pull the Saints within 36-30.

Teammate Jason Brown (140) followed with a pin of Cody Spade at 2:44, forcing the tie and discussions that followed.

“I was in disbelief when we gave up that six (points) because Cody is a good wrestler,” said Burkland. “I really thought he could win that match.”

The meet was tied at 24 after St. Ignace’s Bill Bentgen (119) took a 5-0 decision from Tim Huddleston.

The Knights, however, won the next three matches to gain their 12-point cushion.

“We told the guys it takes 14 matches to reach the end result,” said Saints’ coach Richard Bentley, Sr. “We also told them every point is important. The pin at 130 pounds was huge. We knew this would be a tight meet, although I think we and Rogers City were preparing more for each other. Give Norway credit. They’ve come a long way. They picked up some good freshman and sophomores the past few years and have turned into a strong program.”

Norway reached the title match by topping Rogers City 39-27.

“This is only the second time we made it out of the district,” said Burkland. “To have just four kids four years ago and now to reach this level is unbelievable. We’re there for the kids. We begged them to come out and we’ve worked them hard. We also want to attribute some of our success to our youth program, where we now have 60-plus kids.”

St. Ignace dispatched Westwood 66-9 in the other semifinal. Derek McClennan (119) earned his 100th career win by taking a 15-8 decision from Westwood’s Trevor Swanson.

Westwood, making its first regional appearance in 10 years, gained its victories in Francois Montbrun’s 14-6 conquest of Anthony Cartwright at 171 and Cameron Lawry’s pin of Cody Therrian 55 seconds into the 215 bout.

The Patriots wrestled with Josh Argall (160), who was out with a shoulder injury.

“Cameron’s pin fired up the troops a little,” said Westwood coach Dan Carlson. “But we were short three wrestlers tonight which makes it hard to keep up with a strong team. You just can’t win that way. We knew the injury was there. Then, we found out two of our guys were academically ineligible right before we left and the other kids were kind of down coming in here. Although, just making it this far is way better than last year.”