Constantine will grapple with Coloma Wednesday night in the regional semifinals and the Falcons have a surprise freshman to thank for helping them get there.
Gracie Plank, who wrestles at 103 pounds, earned a pivotal pin against Dowagiac with just a few matches remaining — helping lead the Falcons to the D3 team district title last Thursday.
Plank, who wrestled in middle school, is in her fourth year in the sport and grew up looking up to her sister, Kaitlyn Hill, who after a successful prep career at Constantine now takes to the mats for Campbellsville University in Kentucky, home to one of the top female wrestling programs in the country.
“She was my role model, the person who inspired me to wrestle,” said Plank, who has goals of qualifying for state as both an individual and a member of the Falcons’ team before her time at Constantine is done.
Her prep career hasn’t gotten off to a fast start on the mats, but coach Mike Baker said the win at districts was more than just a turning point for her, but one that inspired the entire team.
“She hasn’t been super successful, and for that to happen it really gave her some confirmation that ‘I do belong here’ and ‘I really am bringing something to the team’ rather than just taking forfeits (when the other team doesn’t have anyone at 103 pounds),” Baker said. “She energized everybody. She ran a perfect half on top, it’s what we always have worked on.”
Plank, who checked in overweight on Thursday, worked extra hard to make weight before her first match and then earned Constantine points by way of a void. And then in the second match registered the pin, earning the Falcons six points.
“If it weren’t for my team encouraging me and helping me to get better I don’t think I’d be where I’m at right now,” Plank said. “And my coaches are really amazing at teaching me and helping me to prefect my moves.”
It’s her willingness to work and learn both on and off the mats that has impressed Baker.
“She is just a really well balanced kid,” he said. “She misses half of practice every week because she does Science Olympiad so she is on top of her academics. When she is at practice she wants to be treated just like the guys. If we are giving corrections on moves she wants that too, you don’t have to treat her any different.”
Plank, who is a cheerleader for the Falcons’ football team in the fall, will go up against a familiar foe in Coloma’s Teo Mastral tonight, having already faced him twice on the season and having lost both times. She said she has studied what went wrong in those prior meetings and has been working extra hard at practice and trying her best to get stronger so she gives herself the best opportunity to win.
“In her first match this year, she wrestled Mastral and stopped his shot initially, but ended up giving it up and went to her back and got pinned,” Baker recalled. “But I think she has a little more confidence now so it will be interesting to see how this match goes.”
And whether she is successful or not this time around, her No. 1 goal is to help Constantine keep advancing as a team and to help prepare the Falcons who qualified for the individual regional tournament.
Constantine has eight individuals who have qualified for the regional field: Zach Harrison (130 pounds), Corey Anthony (135), Devyn Begley (112), Noah Harrison (119), Jack Jones (140), Roy Solis (145), Kaman Nusbaum (130) and Jaxom Alwine (125).