Was that a wrestling championship or a family reunion?
For Hesperia, it was both. Panthers senior Zack Yates (47-0) earned his second straight state title, winning the 125-pound class. But in order to do so, Yates had to face off against his teammate and cousin, sophomore Logan Eaves.
It might have seemed awkward, but for Yates, Eaves was “just another guy I’m wrestling for the state title,” and he won the match on a 15-0 technical fall 13 seconds into the second period.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” Yates said. “You can’t go out there and say, ‘It’s my cousin, you don’t have to wrestle hard.’ You have to wrestle as hard as you can for a state championship, and it’s going to pay off.”
Eaves (41-13) was somewhat surprised to be in that position.
“It turned out pretty well,” he said. “Just coming into the tournament, I was going to be happy with placing, but I did a good job starting off and ended up getting some big upsets.”
However, he wasn’t surprised Yates did so well in the final bout.
“I’ve wrestled him for quite a while,” Eaves said. “He is really tough.”
With two Panthers on the mat, that left a vacancy in one of the coaches’ chairs. That was filled by Dan Yates, Zack’s older brother and a fifth-year senior on the University of Michigan team. Dan was Michigan’s “Mr. Wrestler” in 2009, finishing his career at Hesperia with three state titles and a 248-9 mark.
“It means the world to have my brother in my corner in the state finals my senior year,” said Zack, who finished with 204 career wins.
And the 125-pound bout wasn’t even the only match featuring two Panthers going head-to-head. At 103, sophomore Davian Gowens (24-3) major-decisioned his senior teammate Corey Agens, 14-6.
“It was odd to wrestle him, I see him every day in practice and we go at it,” Gowens said. “I didn’t really want to beat him, it sucks. I was hoping he would lose (in the semifinals) so I wouldn’t have to wrestle him.”
The Panthers, who lost to perennial power Hudson in the team semifinals, brought seven qualifiers to the individual state tournament and were 21-0 entering Saturday night’s final session, creating a flurry of activity for coach John Dingledine.
“Seven wrestlers to the finals, that’s pretty special … and that guarantees us a couple of wins, too,” he said. “They’re a great group of kids. They bring it every day to practice, they work hard, and they’re very talented, and it showed.”
Three other Hesperia wrestlers reached the final bout only to finish as runners-up: Trenton Roesly (135) lost, 10-5, to Watervliet’s undefeated senior Brock Thumm, Chase Siersma (140) lost, 9-4, to Hudson’s undefeated senior Cole Weaver, and Mark Workman (160) was decisioned, 13-7, by New Lothrop’s Josh Wendling, who won for the second year in a row.
Weaver’s win was the first of three consecutive for Hudson. J.D. Waters (145) pinned Lutheran Westland’s Zachary Francis, and Kyle Johnson (152) got by Highland Park’s Ali Rashad, 5-4.
Wendling’s victory was followed by New Lothrop teammate Taylor Krupp, who decisioned Kent City’s Shane Rodenberg, 6-5, to finish 56-0.
Whittemore-Prescott’s Ryan Prescott (285) also finished the year undefeated (34-0) in winning his second straight title match.
Other champs included Onaway’s Joe Traynham (112), Erie-Mason’s Logan Griffin (119), Jonesville’s Carter Ballinger (130), Springport’s Jacob Cooper (189) and Laingsburg’s Kevin Koenig (215).