All eyes on Grandville Four after postseason ban
Grand Rapids – Grandville’s wrestling team made headlines last week when the Michigan High School Athletic Association imposed a postseason ban on the school for a rule violation.
The Bulldogs, ranked No. 10 in State Champs final top 25 rankings, exceeded the maximum of 14 regular season competition dates allowed by one and were barred from competition in the team state tournament.
Eight wrestlers were also deemed ineligible to compete in the individual state tournament for competing in all 15 regular season events.
Grandville filed a formal appeal on Feb. 10 regarding the MHSAA’s decision to ban the team from postseason competition.
Supporters took to social media in support of allowing the wrestlers to compete in the individual tournament due to the fact that the violation occurred as a result of an oversight on the part the coach Ryan ‘Bubba’ Gritter and athletic director Brian Parsons.
The MHSAA ultimately chose not to here Grandville’s appeal, citing ‘Due Process Procedure Rules’ leaving just six wrestlers eligible to compete in last Saturday’s individual Division 1 district tournament.
The ruling was met with a great deal of opposition within the community and heartbreak for the wrestlers and their families.
“I was flabbergasted when I found out,” junior Sam Greco said. “When we appealed the decision, I remember getting the text from my dad saying ‘we tried’ and my heart sank.
“I think the only way to benefit from this situation is to let it light a fire under you. It gives me even more motivation to work harder this summer and come back next year with a purpose.”
Greco was the No. 3 ranked wrestler in the 171-pound weight class according to michigangrappler.com and was one of four ranked Bulldog wrestlers disqualified.
Seniors Jeremy ‘Booney’ Merryweather, ranked No. 2 at 160, Dalton Lopez, ranked No. 15 at 119 and Kasey Osterink, No. 13 at heavyweight, were also banned.
Merryweather placed seventh in the state at 152 pounds last season.
“Booney definitely took it the hardest out of all of us,” said Greco. “We are close because I work with him every day in practice and I told him it’s not the end of the world.
“He is definitely good enough to wrestle in college and I told him that just because this window closed for him, doesn’t mean another one can’t open.”
The six wrestlers allowed compete in postseason, had the difficult task of putting an emotionally draining week in the rear view mirror and focusing on their performance in the individual district held at Grand Haven.
“It was a lot different this week in practice,” said Mason Priest, one of four wrestlers to advance to Saturday’s regional at Portage Northern. “Early in the week we were still really down about what happened and it was definitely tougher to focus and prepare.
Priest, a junior ranked No. 7 at 130, fell to Rockford’s No. 12-ranked Andy Hansen in the finals, 5-4.
“It just wasn’t the same wrestling without our teammates,” Priest said. “We were missing them being out there with us, It just doesn’t feel the same knowing they should be out there wrestling.”
Also advancing for Grandville was senior and No. 6 ranked Josh Brower (135), junior Cam Bush (No. 3 at 152) and senior Alje Buiter (No. 8 at 145). All three captured district titles.
As part of a team that has been punished for breaking of a rule, regardless of the circumstances or severity, personal character is something people will start to question.
“We did break the rules, it was an accident but we have to accept the consequences,” said Priest. “We just need to learn from it and prove to people that might not have a best opinion of us wrong.”
What once was a very promising 2016 season for the Bulldogs wrestling team now rests its hopes on the postseason performances of four wrestlers.
“It definitely puts more pressure on us to perform,” Priest said. “We want to prove it to ourselves by doing well, but we want to do well for our teammates to.”
The ‘Grandville Four’ will be helped in the fact they will have no shortage teammates in their corner.
“I think my role now is just to help out those guys as much as I can,” Greco said. “We are all still in the room practicing with them trying to get them better and know we just need to try to be as supportive as we can.”
The individual state championships are slated for March 3-5 at the Palace of Auburn Hills.