New Prairie claims bragging rights

December 17, 2018

MUNSTER — Between sophomore Chris McGrew and freshman Hunter Whitenack, New Prairie has roughly 560 pounds to choose from in the 285 weight class.

“Right now, it’s awesome,” Whitenack said after Saturday’s Munster Super Duals. “If I wrestle one, he’ll get the next one. If we each have a tough match and we’re tired, we can put a fresh body in and they’ll still give us team points.”

The massive Cougars duo, who are both starting tackles on the football team, combined to finish 5-0 on the day, helping the team to a 4-1 showing.

“It started last year with me and “L Rod” (Leighton Rodriguez),” McGrew said. “We switched on and off. He graduated, then Hunter was coming up and Hunter was just as good as “L Rod” and me, or even better.”

The two have a combined three losses -- McGrew two and Whitenack one. Ironically, McGrew beat the only wrestler to defeat Whitenack and Whitenack did the same with one of the foes who bested McGrew.

“That’s pretty weird,” Whitenack said.

At 6-foot-2, 275, McGrew is bigger than every wrestler in the NP practice room except for Whitenack, who goes 6-5, 285. Tactically, McGrew likes to tie up more, while Whitenack works his hands more.

“We have a really good coach (Kenny Eagle) who helps us every day,” Whitenack said.

The pair will continue to alternate duals and split dual tournaments up until the week of conference, when they will wrestle off, and they will do the same for the postseason.

“That’s going to be a whole different story,” McGrew said. “We’ll give each other a run for their money. It’s gonna be a day that’s full of tension.”

Whomever comes out on top, Whitenack expects big things, no pun intended.

“Whoever wins is going to state,” he said. “What do you mean qualifier? State champion. I don’t see anybody stopping us.”

Grant Johnson was the only Cougar to go 5-0, rolling through his 195 opposition.

“I wasn’t expecting too much,” Johnson said. “Just work on my technique. I started off a little slow, but got better as the day went on. That’s usually how I am.”

NP won La Porte County bragging rights with a 47-20 win over the Slicers in the opening round and a victory over Michigan City before losing to Lake Central for its sole blemish on the day.

“Every match is a new match. You get excited beating one team, you get down the next. I’d like to see us wrestle consistent throughout the tournament,” New Prairie coach Bobby Whitenack said. “It gets us ready for conference, sectionals. I felt like the kids hung together as a team. We’re getting guys where they need to be. Conditioning-wise, we’re all right. Our work ethic’s just where it needs to be. We’re getting a little better.”

The loss to NP was the only defeat of the day for La Porte, which forfeited 113 and 170 and had a couple wrestlers sick.

“How don’t you have a guy at 170 pounds? Unbelievable,” Slicers coach Louie Kuzdas said. “If I knew the secret, we’d be in good shape. It’s our first year with really lower numbers and that leaves some gaps. You start down 12 or so, it’s difficult to come from behind. I thought we started off a little sluggish and unfortunately we had New Prairie right out of the gate. We were looking at head-to-head stuff, future seeds. We’ll have several kids in the upper weights who will be competing across the board.”

That list includes Tyson Nisley (138) and Noah Perez (182), who both breezed to 5-0 marks.

“I feel like I was a little more aggressive than usual,” Nisley said. “No matter who I’m wrestling, I try to have the same mindset as if I’m out there facing a really good kid. You need to train your mindset. If you go out and just beat easy kids and don’t think much about it, when you face a harder guy, you have to change your mindset.”

Perez blitzed through his matches with five first-period pins.

“Just staying aggressive, trying to end them all as soon as I could,” Perez said. “I usually just try to not pay attention to rankings, stats, just keep my head clear and go into the match like it’s any other match. I like how I’m performing, but I know there are things I can still work on.”

Michigan City also showed promise with a 3-2 slate.

“That’s pretty good considering we had to forfeit 13, 20, 26, 95,” assistant coach Tom Vasbinder said. “We had a great day. The kids are working hard every day. They’re getting better. Their confidence is growing. Even when we’re losing matches, we’re wrestling hard. It’s 200 percent (better) now than the beginning of the season. They’re different kids.”

John Wilcher remained unbeaten (18-0) at 220 with four falls and a forfeit.

“I want to try to make it to the second day of state,” Wilcher said. “I’m working a lot harder. It’s my last season. I want to finish up strong. We’ve got more kids. It gives us more looks.”

Trae Anderson (138) was also 5-0 with three falls.

“The New Prairie win was big because it’s a matchup for sectional seeding,” Anderson said. “The last two weeks, practices have really picked up. We’re all coming together. We’re a lot better as a team.”

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