Column: Inaugural wrestling match something out of a movie

Published 5:30 pm Thursday, December 15, 2022

I am not sure you could have written a better movie script than what I witness in realtime at Southwestern Michigan College Wednesday night.

Niles and Dowagiac, along with the Soutwhestern Michigan College wrestling team, combined forces to create the inaugural Black & Blue on the Mat wrestling match.

The rival Vikings and Chieftains already have the Black and Blue Game between its two football programs the final week of the regular season. Before Dowagiac moved into a new conference more than a decade ago, that game was one of the longest continuous rivalries in the state of Michigan with more than 100 games being played betwen the two schools.

With a large and boisterous crowd on hand, the Dowagiac wrestling team raced out of a 36-0 lead, only to have Niles come roaring back to tie the match at 36-36 with one bout left.

With the Chieftains sending out a veteran against a freshman, the final outcome swung in the favor of Dowagiac, which took advantage of the situation to pick up the victory.

It has been a long time since I have been to a wrestling match with that much excitement surrounding it. It reminded of the early days of my career with there were a lot of matches like Wednesday night’s.

Unfortunately, wrestling has fallen upon hard times. Teams are struggling to fill all the weight classes. I am hoping with the Michigan High School Athletic Association adopting new weight classes this season that numbers will begin to increase.

The other thing I loved about Wednesday’s match between Niles and Dowagiac is that there was just one forfeit, there were sevearal decisions and a lot of solid wrestling.

Too many times when I travel to a match it takes almost as much time to drive to the school as it does to complete the match. That is because wrestling has become littered with forfeits. Someimes more than half theweight classes.

That is not competition. That is a waste of time for pretty much everyone involved with the excepton of those lucky few who actually get to the mat and do more than just get their hand riased by the official.

Wrestling is one of the tough high school sports to compete in. Not only do they have to drill and prepare for matches, but many of them half to cut weight in order to wrestle in the weight class they want to or the team needs them too.

After putting all that time in drilling and cuttting weight has got to feel frustrating to the wrestlers when they find out they do not have an opponent that night.

That was not the case at SMC Wednesday, which is part of the reason why the fans were so worked up and the action was so exciting to watch.

Plans are already under way to make next year’s Blue & Black on the Mat match even better. I am not sure they can top the action from the first one, but I am in favor of anythig that showcases wrestling.

 

Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached at scott.novak@leaderpub.com