It was already going to take some upsets and a few bonus points here and there for Three Rivers’ wrestling team to get past No. 4 Niles Wednesday in a Division 2 regional semifinal match at Battle Creek Harper Creek.
But when 119-pounder Jordan Blades lay nearly motionless on the mat, face down and in serious pain after a hard takedown, it shook the Wildcats bench. As much as head coach Pete Bachinski refused to use Blades stretcher exit — which was 25 minutes after the injury happened — as an excuse, it sucked the life out of a Three Rivers squad that at the time was down just 10-9 after five matches, including a forfeit at 112 pounds.
Those upsets and bonus points never materialized after that en route to a 46-21 defeat. The good news is coaches and medical staff believed Blades didn’t suffer serious injury and that a trip to the hospital was precautionary.
Five Three Rivers wrestlers will compete at Saturday’s D2 individual regional tournament at Mason, but a 21-9 campaign ended for the rest of the squad.
“We knew we had tough matches going on and it was just how are we matching up and how are we wrestling?” Bachinski said. “I’m proud of the kids. We went after them. … [Niles is] ranked they’re for a reason.”
The evening started at 189 pounds, where Brandon Verwey (individual regional qualifier) earned an 11-4 decision. Sam Harris followed with a hard-fought 4-2 decision at 215 and heavyweight Fellow individual qualifier Dallas Recker claimed a 6-3 win to give the Wildcats an early 9-0 advantage.
But a strong Niles outfit still had six grapplers waiting in the wings that were either ranked among the top 10 or listed as honorable mentions in the latest MichiganGrappler.com rankings.
Evan Griffioen, who made it through the district bracket at 103 pounds, ran into HM Andrew Flick, who got the Vikings on the board with a major decision. Ninth-ranked Brandon Meek (112) won by forfeit to give Niles a 10-9 advantage with nine matches remaining.
Josh Dayhuff, another honorable mention at 119 pounds, won by injury default when Blades was unable to continue, and Niles earned a technical fall at 125 to start pulling away.
Pins in the next three weight classes officially slammed the door on the Wildcats. Shawn Brew (individual qualifier) won by void at 160 and Bailey Miholer-Wortinger ended the match with a pin in 1:36 to give Three Rivers its final six points.
“This group has been a fun group,” Bachinski said. “I think they enjoyed their whole season, we accomplished a lot and we had good memories that we’re going to take with us.”