Archive for January 2014
First-year players highlight promising future for women’s hoops
Assistant Sports Editor
When freshmen first arrive at Grand Valley State University, they are rounded up during an orientation program called “Transitions” and tagged with lanyards — filled with schedules, maps and other guiding content — to be worn around the neck.
The lanyards are for the benefit of the incomers, as is the Transitions program, but both leave a mark. Freshmen, who have a tendency to travel in flocks, can be identified with ease anywhere they go until they build up enough courage and comfort to remove the lanyards.
When the five members that compose the Laker class of 2017 — forwards Kayla Dawson and Piper Tucker, guards Taylor Lutz, Keyara Wiard and Janae Langs — have been identified, it hasn’t been for being rookies.
“Our freshmen have been great for us,” lone senior Dani Crandall said. “They came in with a ton of talent but had to transition from high school basketball to college basketball, where the pace is so much faster, there’s a shot clock and other nuances.
“They have handled themselves very well and have made the transition with ease.”
The freshmen outnumber Crandall 5-to-1 and, by count, make up a third of the roster. They also, by count, have accounted for about a third of the team’s statistical production in a variety of categories, despite only making 10 combined starts.
As a collective unit, the freshmen have logged 30.6 percent of the Lakers’ available minutes on the court; have scored 21.4 percent of the points; collected 27.4 percent of all rebounds; and contributed 31.4 percent of all assists, 26.7 percent of steals and 41.0 percent of all free throws made.
Freshmen members have also led GVSU in scoring six times in 16 games this season and in rebounds nine times.
“To have three freshmen in the rotation on a consistent basis is huge,” Crandall said. “Extremely huge. That doesn’t happen at other programs. Our freshman are truly that good, and they’re building their confidence — getting more comfortable with the ball and being on the court — every time out.”
In a season-opening performance against Truman State University on Nov. 22, Tucker led GVSU with a game-high 15 points and six rebounds. The Lakers won the game 81-68.
In a 74-67 victory against Lake Superior State University on Jan. 23, Dawson tallied a career-high 24 points and 11 rebounds to become the first Laker to record a double-double on the season. It was her fourth time leading the Lakers in scoring in the last five games.
In that same victory, Lutz made her first career start as a Laker and produced 14 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Not just freshmen, but starters. All three have started together in the Lakers’ last two games and have improved with every game and every practice.
“They’re doing great things that are pushing the older kids to get better, and there’s friendly competition all over our team,” Crandall said. “It’s nothing personal, and more times than not, when somebody shows someone else up, there’s a pat on the butt afterwards, but it’s that healthy competition that makes us better.”
The freshmen categorize themselves as “close” but have been also categorized by their work ethic. They frequently visit the gym together to get in extra repetitions and have also noticed the value of the exchange between upper- and underclassmen.
Not entitled. Not satisfied. Hungry.
“Our leadership that we have on our team has helped us to transition as much as anything,” Dawson said. “Without Dani or Meryl (Cripe) or Kat (LaPrairie), our captains, we wouldn’t be producing or adjusting the way that we are. They’re leading us through it and helping us to become better players.
“The older girls will point things out to us and teach as we go, but we also learn just watching.”
Head coach Janel Burgess has also noticed the dynamic.
“The thing that makes them special as a class is their collectiveness,” Burgess said. “They’re a driven group, probably the hardest-working class that I’ve ever recruited, and their success has come because they’re gym rats.
“They were talented when they got here, but they’ve really bought into the system, learned from more experienced teammates and have grown a ton since they got on campus.”
Dawson is the team’s third leading scorer with 9.1 points per game, and she ranks fifth in rebounds. Tucker is fifth in scoring with 6.3 points per game and fourth in rebounding. Lutz is tied for sixth in scoring with 5.6 points per game and is second on the team in assists.
Not novelty outliers, but consistently relied upon producers.
“They’re getting so many valuable minutes — minutes that in all reality, have made them sophomores for us,” Burgess said.
Dawson was a semifinalist for Miss Basketball of Wisconsin as a senior — a two-time team captain who was not only rated as a top-five defender in the state, but also a state champion in 2012.
Lutz was a two-time Northern Indiana Conference first-team selection and finished runner-up in the state finals.
Tucker was a member of the Lansing State Journal ‘Dream Team’ and helped her team finish in the state quarterfinals as both a sophomore and a junior.
Not just producers, but winners.
“They know how to win,” Burgess said. “They’re competitive and refuse to think about anything that doesn’t concern the team’s benefit.”
GVSU’s version of the “fabulous five” have not donned high-top fades, intentionally baggy shorts or black socks, but they have left an identifiable mark. The kind of mark that can be seen from afar — like a lanyard.
It will be interesting to see how bold of a mark the five can leave with 10 regular season games left and three full years of eligibility to follow.
Not freshmen. Student-athletes. Ready and able now, brimming with talent and potential.
“We’re representing pretty well as a class, pushing the upperclassmen, and it’s good for the team,” Tucker said. “I’m glad to be a part of it.
“We’ll hopefully get more wins in upcoming seasons, go further in the GLIAC, win some championships, but we also want to continue to play well together like we are now. That’s how we can build on what’s already here at GVSU.”
To read the original post “’Freshman Five’ fit in fast at GVSU”, click here at the Lanthorn online.
Assistant Sports Editor
Sophomore Gabe Stepanovich of the Grand Valley State University club wrestling team labored to make his way to the mat to square off against Junior Francois of the University of Central Florida in what would be his final bout of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association Championships (NCWA) tournament, hosted Friday and Saturday in Atlanta, Ga.
Despite wrestling down from his usual 157-pound weight class, Stepanovich entered the circle under the weather, exhausted and disadvantaged on paper, pitted against a scholarship Division I student-athlete.
Unconventional in his craft, Stepanovich patiently rotated around his opponent with hands on his knees, prepared to strike like an Alligator from the bank with all the energy he could muster when the opportune moment to strike presented.
A few slow rotations and explosive strikes later, Steponovich took a 11-2 majority decision in the bout and completed a 5-1 performance at 149 in the tournament.
“Gabe is the funkiest wrestler I’ve ever seen, but it’s his style and he owns it,” GVSU senior captain Kyle Horr said. “This weekend, he just focused on what the team needed from him and didn’t let anything stop him — not even being sick.
“It was awesome to see him work so hard and have no energy after to even sit up straight.”
Despite Steponvich’s victory, GVSU was defeated 24-19 by UCF in the fifth place final and finished sixth in the tournament, gaining 19 points towards the NCWA Championship to be held in March.
Grand Canyon defeated Shorter University 23-19 in the first place final to win the tournament title and the 25 points GVSU had hoped to earn for their trip to Texas for the NCWA Championships in a month.
It may not have been the finish the Lakers had aspired to when they departed for Georgia, but with an incomplete lineup hampered by injury that competed against steep competition, GVSU, like Steponovich, dug deep to accomplish what needed to done.
“Considering how young we are and some of our injuries, we went and competed with some tough teams as best we could,” GVSU sophomore Bruce Rau said. “We wrestled above our seed and beat a couple full scholarship Division I teams, which was satisfying, but we have a mentality of being the best and we’re not quite there, yet.”
Horr, like Steponovich, also finished 5-1 during the tournament at 141, as did junior Bobby Tymes at 165 and freshman Nick Verran at 184. Sophomore Joe Stolp also turned in a gritty performance and went 3-3 at 125.
The Lakers also showed glimpses of being a team that can become very completive, even against more highly regarded competition, come March.
“Kyle and I work to be staples in the middle of our lineup, Nick (Verran) did a great job with the weight bump and really impressed as a freshman and I thought as a team, we were rarely outclassed and grinded out great wins,” Tymes said. “We won some hard fought duals, showed that we have a really good tournament team, which is all that matters come March, and we will be seeing most of the schools again at nationals in Texas.
“We have a strong lineup that will be ready to go by then.”
Through a long bus ride back north, GVSU continued bonding and building memories as they had in between bouts down in Georgia. Just as they will in the Laker Classic meet to be hosted Saturday in Allendale, working daily towards making an even a more triumphant bus ride back on the next return north.
“This trip was an opportunity to test ourselves in areas where we needed to be tested,” Rau said. “We understand the areas where we need to improve and we will be putting in the work every day for the next month to get ourselves to the next level of being a top contender.
“We’re going to get healthy. We’re going to become better wrestlers. We have 19 points behind us. We want to be the best and we’re eager for March because we know what we’re capable of. We’re in it.”
GVSU women edge LSSU, lose at Northwood
Lakers shake up starting lineup before 1-1 week
Assistant Sports Editor
The Grand Valley State University womens basketball team trotted out its fifth different lineup of the season during a 74-67 victory over Lake Superior State University on Thursday.
It was the lady Lakers’ first home game in almost three weeks. It was GVSU’s first win in their last four games. It was a game that was highlighted by retro uniforms unveiled for a ‘Throwback Thursday’ promotion, and characterized by a team — not just a starting five — that wore them.
“We were looking to create a little bit of a different look on the defensive end, while also keeping ball handlers out on the other end,” GVSU coach Janel Burgess said of her new-look starting five. “We came out of the gates strong with the new rotation, even though we were undersized, and that’s exciting that we can succeed with a variety of looks.”
Senior guard Dani Crandall compiled her first double-double of the season during the win with 15 points and 10 rebounds that she paired with five assists.
Although it was freshman forward Kayla Dawson that beat Crandall to the punch and tallied the first double-double for the Lakers on the season, notching a career-high 24 points and 11 rebounds, in just the second start of her career with GVSU.
“I wouldn’t have had any of my points without my teammates, so my performance is just a reflection of a great team effort,” Dawson said. “We were diving after lose balls, being aggressive, playing with passion and a lot of heart.”
Freshman teammate Taylor Lutz also got the start, the first of her career at GVSU, and scored 14 points to accompany a career-high six rebounds and five assists.
GVSU outrebounded LSSU 49-36, and hauled in 23 offensive board, but despite the discrepancy on the glass, the score remained tied at 31-31 at the conclusion of the first half. It wasn’t until the second stanza that the Lakers made their move.
Just as it had done in the first half, GVSU started the second half firing at and filling the basket. The Lakers scored seven unanswered points and never looked back.
“It was very exciting,” Lutz said of her first start. “I love playing with those girls and being back at home on our court, it just feels right. It was a fun game and we were motivated to come out, finally back home, and start the game well — which we did. We also finished and it was good to put a W up on the board.”
On Saturday afternoon, GVSU returned the same starting five to the floor, but was unable to replicate Thurday’s result back away from home. The Lakers’ led by seven points at halftime, but were outscored 47-31 in the second half and fell, 73-64, to Northwood.
Dawson once again led the Lakers in scoring and paced GVSU with 13 points. Crandall added 11 points and the two combined to knock down 9-of-16 shots and collect 14 rebounds. Crandall also dished out a game-high six assists.
Sophomore center Jill Steinmetz netted a career-high 12 points to go along with eight rebounds, after chipping in 11 points in Thursday’s win. Steinmetz also helped to get the Lakers’ off to another quick start and scored five points in the opening 4 minutes and 45 seconds of play.
“Jill is playing really aggressively, rebounding the ball well and finishing plays,” Burgess said. ” I’m proud of how she has progressed here and we need her to continue to take what the team is giving her.”
Up 9-4 early, Northwood responded with a 9-4 run of its own during another five minute span to tie the game at 13-13. Crandall then drained consecutive 3-pointers to kick start a 10-4 run for the Lakers and to propel GVSU to a 33-26 lead at half.
GVSU shot 41 percent and held Northwood to just 29 percent from the field for the first 20 minutes of regulation. In the second half, the Lakers went 8-of-11 (72.7 percent) from the free-throw line. Northwood shot 20-of-24 (83.3 percent) from the line.
“Our Momentum definitely changed in the second half, Burgess said. “We did a great job of penetrating and preventing penetration in the first half, but didn’t do that nearly enough in the second half. Ironically, Northwood did and that ended up being the difference.”
Through the first 10 minutes of the second half, Northwood got off on a 23-8 run. The Lakers got no closer than within five points the rest of the game.
“This was probably one of the hardest games that we’ve played, effort wise, all season,” Crandall said. “We were all over the place, had hustle plays, played together, especially in the first, and did the little things we always talk about. They made a run to start the second half and that’s how the game was won — we just didn’t have a long enough answer to that big run.
“It is a little disheartening and upsetting to lose even though we played a good game, but we have to realize how hard we played and focus on the improvements that we have made. The people that we needed to step up, stepped up in the last two games.”
GVSU (9-7, 7-5 GLIAC) will play next Thursday on the road against a Saginaw Valley State University (8-7, 6-6 GLIAC) team that just defeated Michigan Tech (12-4, 10-2 GLIAC) at Michigan Tech 71-68 with a buzzer-beater before returning home to play four consecutive contests back home in Allendale.
With eyes towards the GLIAC tournament, the Lakers will have to be ready to respond again, regardless of the uniform, the starting five, the leading scorer, or the location of the game.
“We just have to continue to grind it out,” Burgess said. “Saginaw is always tough, but they’re a strong penetrating team, something we’ve had some struggles with, and are coming off a big win. It will be another challenge for us, as we continue to hunt for consistency.”
To read the original post “GVSU women edge LSSU, lose at Northwood”, click here at the Lanthorn online.
Lakers manage ups and downs, look for consistency in last stretch
Assistant Sports Editor
Dear Grand Valley State University students, fans, parents, guardians, Louie the Laker and to whom else it may concern:
The Lanthorn provides regular updates to you about your team’s progress by publishing weekly articles, box scores and, in this our latest edition, by sending home a report card. Once a semester, we provide you with updates on your teams’ achievements, as they adhere to our own regimented standards.
Included in this particular midterm report card is important information detailing the GVSU women’s basketball team and their performance halfway through the 2013-2014 season — on and off the court.
There is also information about how the Lady Lakers have fared in obtaining measurable objectives, with 12 games remaining to make the mark.
OVERALL GRADE: B
RECORD: 8-6 (6-4 GLIAC)
The Lakers have been unable to amass more than three consecutive wins this season but have also avoided accruing more than three straight losses. Currently in a three-game skid, GVSU will return home Thursday to don retro uniforms and tend to a currently unblemished record while playing in Allendale, Mich.
“We’re just maybe a little above average production on a consistent basis,” head coach Janel Burgess said. “Not trying to be easy or hard — just transparent, and our young ladies know that. I’m eager for us to continue to grind it out this season and enjoy each and every opportunity daily to get better.”
At times this season, in a 77-68 victory over visiting Findlay University for instance, the Laker offense has played at an A level. The offense has even played at an A grade for entire stretches of games, like it did during a three-game period between Jan. 2 and Jan. 9, but an A at times is not an A.
It’s a glimpse.
“Our shots don’t always fall when we need them to, but we take care of the ball, have great ball movement and can be very hard to defend with our great depth,” Burgess said. “We are very capable of playing at an A level; we just need more consistency.”
Sophomore transfer Bailey Cairnduff leads the Lakers with 12.6 points per game and has scored in double figures in 11 of 14 games this season, including a 29-point career-high outburst in a game against Walsh University.
Senior guard Dani Crandall is second on the team with 10.5 points per game but leads the Lakers with 39 assists and 43 free throws made. Junior Kat LaPrairie averages 8.1 points per game.
Freshman forward Kayla Dawson has scored in double figures in seven games this season and is fourth in scoring with a 7.7 points per game average. Classmate and guard Piper Tucker is fifth with 6.8 points per game.
“The upperclassmen know the offense like the back of their hand, but the newbies and the freshmen are starting to get the hang of it,” junior point guard and igniter of offense Meryl Cripe said. “Sometimes we get a little rushed, a little excited and we could afford to be more patient sometimes, but I think we’re on the right track.”
The Laker defense has done enough to stay in games, like it did in back-to-back games in Ohio in mid-December; GVSU held Tiffin to 52 points before limiting Old Dominican University to 55.
The Laker defense has also forced steals — 93 to their opponents’ 79, but has broken more than it has bent and has struggled with lapses, particularly during a most recent road trip to the Upper Peninsula.
“To be honest, in the sense of where we’ve been in the last four games, we’ve given up way too many points and we can’t afford to do that,” Burgess said. “We’re so streaky. When we’re on, we’re on and we can shut people down, but lately, we’ve lost our way a little bit.
“I think we’re forgetting some little things that are hurting us in the end and we’ve got to get back to our basic principles.”
When the Lakers do what they do best, they run like water. And when they’re at their best, there are few levees that can contain them.
“When we get the opportunity to get out in transition, we’re in great shape,” Burgess said. “Our defense has to embrace itself because we’re tremendous when we can get up and down the court and set the tempo, as we did against Findlay.”
BENCH: A-minus / B-plus
Cairnduff and Crandall lead GVSU with 27.6 and 26 minutes per game on average, respectively.
Although there are seven Lakers that average 15 minutes per game or more, including two freshman, Tucker and guard Taylor Lutz, who average more than 20 minutes per game, and another, Dawson, who averages 15.8.
“Our freshmen are continuing to come along, but we’re still looking for some depth in areas that we haven’t found it in, yet,” Crandall said. “We have consistency issues at times, but I think overall, they’ve done great things for us.”
The Lakers frequently rotate up to 10 players in and out and have adjusted their starting five throughout the season.
“Our depth off the bench is awesome and has been a huge advantage for us this season,” Cripe said. “It throws our opponents off guard and keeps our legs fresh, which allows us to push the pace like to do.”
FRONT COURT: C-plus
Junior Daina Grazulis and sophomore Jill Steinmetz are both listed as centers for GVSU, although sophomore power forward Grace Sanchez has also received time at the 5-spot.
Steinmetz has paced the Lakers with nine blocks, but it’s guards Cairnduff (5.1) and Crandall (5.4) who lead GVSU in rebounds per game. As a team, the Lakers have been out-rebounded 558-545.
“Paint production and having a low post presence has really been a struggle for us and we have to be able to fill that void,” Crandall said. “I think that’s one of the areas where we’re lacking and we’re waiting for something to happen.
“All of our post players have potential, but they’re still working to figure out how they can impact the team.”
GVSU has not defined its season through star play as it has in years past, but when it comes time to call upon a star effort for success, it’s generally the Laker backcourt that answers.
Crandall and Cairnduff combined lead GVSU in virtually all meaningful statistical metrics, while Cripe provides a pulse for the team in a more understated role.
“Our turnovers have been manageable and we do a good job of handling the ball, but a lot of the shots that we’re missing, that’s on us — both outside and inside the paint,” Crandall said. “We’re able to get into the paint, but then we’re also missing bunnies.
“We just have to stay tough, hungry and finish.”
CONSISTENCY: B-minus / C-plus
A key ingredient listed in most any recipe for success, consistency has been the buzzword of the season for the Lakers and an ingredient that the team has struggled to measure.
“When we’re consistent, we’re getting our wins,” Burgess said. “When we show our youthfulness, we have our losses.”
What the Lakers lack in consistency, they make up for in cohesiveness.
Despite mixing in seven new members to the squad, leaders like Crandall, Cripe and LaPrairie have gotten everyone on board and on the same page.
“In my four years, this is the best chemistry we’ve had, on and off the court,” Crandall said. “We truly enjoy playing with each other and everyday when we come to practice. Some teams dread practice, but we have fun with it even in tough situations — after losses, for example.
“We all stick together, and that’s huge, especially since we’re so young.”
The Lakers are good now and have the opportunity to finish strong in the GLIAC North, but perhaps the most exciting concept associated with this compilation is how good they can be.
The Lakers will graduate only one student athlete, Crandall, at the conclusion of this season, and as a team, they’re still putting all the pieces together.
And as much as a report card is to serve as a litmus test and assessment, it’s in equal parts a challenge. If the Lakers rise to it, expect the next report card to go straight to the fridge.
“We have the potential to have a report card of straight As,” Crandall said. “I’m going to leave my footprints here, but this team is young, has a lot of potential and is going to do big things for the program — and the upperclassmen embrace that idea.
“We’re in a little bit of a slump that we have to get out of, and we have to get back to doing the little things for us to get out of it, but if we can do that, our future can be phenomenal. What we want to accomplish can be accomplished.”
To read the original post “Midseason Grades: GV shows promise”, click here at the Lanthorn online.
Laker women drop second, third straight away games
Assistant Sports Editor
At the conclusion of the season, there will be a momentary silence from dribbled basketballs and shoe scuffles that will separate a new season from the old. Banners will be raised, and there will be one team in the ranks of NCAA Division II women’s basketball that will be able to rightfully claim itself a champion.
It won’t necessarily be the team that scored the most points, or even the team that won the most games. It will be the team that endured. Through a four-game road stint that traversed the entire polar range of the GLIAC North conference, that’s exactly what the Grand Valley State University basketball team did.
“It was long, but we endured,” head coach Janel Burgess said upon arriving back in Allendale from a 10-hour bus ride at 3 a.m. Sunday. “Our chemistry and work ethic have been really strong, even though we have three losses here in a row, and we won’t let a skid derail us as a team.”
On Thursday, the Lakers dropped an 81-66 decision to Northern Michigan University, and on Saturday, GVSU concluded a tour of the Upper Peninsla with a 76-54 loss to Michigan Technological University.
It was the Lakers’ third consecutive road loss in the GLIAC in as many chances.
“After four road trips in a row, we have to understand that when you are on the road, you must start well and always rely on your defense,” Burgess said. “The offense will come and go on the road and errors will always be quickly multiplied.”
On Thursday, the Lakers managed to outscore the Wildcats 38-31 in the second stanza but were stifled by a sluggish start that put them behind what proved to be an insurmountable 50-28 deficit at half.
Freshman forward Kayla Dawson scored a career-high 15 points, junior point guard Meryl Cripe contributed nine points, which matched her season-high, and sophomore guard Bailey Cairnduff recorded her 10th consecutive double-digit scoring performance with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting to go with six rebounds.
The combined efforts were not enough to overcome or contain a trio of Wildcat scorers that each netted an upwards of 18 points. NMUshot a lights-out 57.7 percent from beyond the arc, and drained 15 3-pointers while notching a 27-of-50 mark from the field.
“The Northern game wasn’t one of our better games,” GVSU senior guard Dani Crandall said. “We didn’t do the things that we needed to do and their shooting percentage was pretty unbelievable.”
The Lakers returned to the court in Houghton, Mich. on Saturday afternoon, but again struggled to recapture the hot shooting that carried the team through the holiday.
GVSU did convert 5-of-12 shots from 3-point range (41.7 percent), but shot only 30.8 percent from the field as a team in the loss.
Crandall led the Lakers with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting to accompany five rebounds and an assist. Freshman guard Taylor Lutz played 30 minutes and scored a career-high 15 points, eight of which came at the free-throw line, and Cairnduff pulled down a team-high seven rebounds. Junior forward Kat LaPrairie came away with three steals.
“We challenged our kids after the game against Northern Michigan and we started off against Michigan Tech much better defensively and offensively,” Burgess said. “We’re still striving for consistency. We have a lot of young ladies that are contributing. We just haven’t all done it together, yet.”
After falling behind 9-2 in the opening four minutes of action, the Lakers strung together a 12-4 run behind Crandall, who netted seven points during the stretch, to take their first lead of the afternoon.
GVSU then built a five-point lead, its largest of the day, but the Huskies quickly retorted with a 23-8 run to close that half from which the Lakers were unable to recover from.
“The road is always difficult,” Cripe said. “You’re away from home, there are other things around you and being in a different gym is tough. You already have a few strikes against you going in, but it’s a great learning experience.
“You learn that you have to fight through adversity. Nothing’s going to be handed to you and you’ve got to fight and earn every point that you get. We’ll grow from this.”
GVSU will return home Thursday to face off against Lake Superior State, and will unveil retro jerseys during a ‘Throwback Thursday’ promotion. It will be the Lakers’ first game at the Fieldhouse Arena since it beat Findlay University on Jan. 4.
“We’ll look forward to getting back to doing what we do, especially when it comes to the little things,” Cripe said. “It’s a long season — a marathon, not a sprint.
“There are a few things for us to grind out and fix , but we’re sitting in a good spot heading into the core of the GLIAC North season, where anybody can beat anybody on any given night in this conference. Truth is that all the teams we’ll see are teams that we can beat. We just have to stick to us, and there’ll be a lot of good things ahead.”
Starting with a good night sleep in a warm bed — at home.
“Last week we were down about as far south as we’ll travel for conference play,” Crandall said. “We just traveled about as far north as you can go. It’s been tough on the road and we’re really excited to be home on Thursday. Sleeping in your own bed can make a big difference and it’ll be good for us.”
To read the original post “GVSU endures the road”, click here at the Lanthorn online.
Lakers hope to accrue points for NCWA Nationals
Assistant Sports Editor
It takes a series of moves — reversals, takedowns, maybe even a pin — to win a bout. It takes a string of bout victories, compiled by a team, to win a meet. It takes an accumulation of wins and points to grapple away a national wrestling championship.
As the Grand Valley State University club wrestling team wrestles toward fulfilling national championship aspirations after coming up just four places short last year, the Lakers have saved up their collective experience, points and wins, but detoured through a meet on Jan. 15.
The Laker club wrestling team traveled to Reeths-Puffer High School to compete against Muskegon Community College — a squad that recently took sixth place at the national junior college tournament — in the Rick Stenberg Memorial Wrestling Duals; a fundraiser honoring the recently deceased father of two MCC wrestlers where all the proceeds from the event went to a scholarship fund for a future Reeths-Puffer student.
Hampered by injury and weight class adjustments — namely a gap in the upper ranges of weight class — GVSU did not compile its best performance of the season.
The Lakers lost the dual by a score of 31-18 but notched a pair of victories as sophomore Tyler Dempsey won a 3-2 decision in the 141 weight class while senior team captain Kyle Horr took home a 5-3 victory in the 149 weight class.
“Giving up a weight class and a few other voids, we were pleased with the performance,” Horr said. “It wasn’t our best showing of what we can do, but we’re going to continue to get better.”
Both Dempsey and Horr will wrestle down a weight class in the upcoming National Duals to be hosted in Dalton, Ga. The trip, which will include about 20 other Laker wrestlers, will be started on a bus departing Thursday. The meet, which will take place on Friday and Saturday, will provide the Lakers an opportunity to show almost immediate growth.
“Getting some practice at 141 is nice because when I go down to 133, I feel so much stronger against my opponents,” Dempsey said. “We’ll go in with an expectation of winning every single match down there, and we’re all looking to make an impact for the team.
“To get the job done down there in Atlanta, to get after our goals, to collect all-American status — whatever it takes — and hopefully turn it all in for a championship ring.”
GVSU has participated in the National Duals annually for years, although the tournament has never meant more to the Lakers’ prospective season. New rule changes implemented this year will allow for teams to accrue points from the team duals towards the national individual tournament — and a potential national championship.
The better the finish at National Duals, the more points a team gets to carry into the national tournament. As GVSU discovered in a fifth-place finish at nationals last year, every point counts.
“We’re excited to be bringing great depth down this year because of the increased implications,” Horr said. “It’ll be a big deal for us, and we’re excited for a strong team showing.”
GVSU did not return its fourth-place finisher at 165 (Austin Geerlings), seventh-place finisher at 197 (Carl Worthy) or third-place finisher at 235 (Frank Bastien,) from last year’s fifth-place team, and with teams like the University of Central Florida and Grand Canyon University expected be in attendance, GVSU will be tested to travel beyond the quarterfinals.
If it does, a number of Laker dark-horse contenders such as freshman Miguel Correa, who has been medically unable to wrestle all season, and hungry returners like Horr, Dempsey and sophomores Gabriel Stepanovich and Bruce Rau could all challenge for titles.
“Miguel’s a real solid kid, and once we get him back on the mat, he’s going to be a tremendous help,” Rau said. “And then Kyle, he finished fourth last year, but he was right there. He lost in the semifinal match in the last five seconds and there’s no question what he and guys like Gabe, and myself, that were very close last season, have in mind for this season.”
Mats will be laid across gym floors in Georgia for the Lakers to wrestle upon, creating holds and escapes like artists. Proverbial canvases will be hung for the Lakers to paint as they will, with every stroke, every leg lock and every match.
“We have a young team, but we return a lot of guys that came up just short of all-American status last year,” Horr said. “If we get those guys that lost over the hump this year, we’ll be national champs.
“There’ll be strong competition and we’re not the only team that came close, but we’re excited to make this trip and see where we stand. To set the bar.”
To read the original post “Club wrestling team heads to Nationals Duals”, click here at the Lanthorn online.
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