The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

The Student News Site of Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley Lanthorn

GV men’s wrestling makes return after three-decade hiatus in a win over Cornerstone

GVL / Alena Visnovsky

Following a 30-year hiatus, the Grand Valley State University Lakers varsity men’s wrestling team made their long-awaited debut on Wednesday, Nov. 1 with their home opening match against the Cornerstone University Eagles. In their first match back, the Lakers would pull away victorious with a 30-12 win.

After disbanding in 1993, the program was revived with the help of a three million dollar donation from former GVSU wrestling alumni. Former Laker wrestler John Harris (class of 1977) and his wife Diane Harris’ huge donation funded a massive chunk of the revival.

Leading the way for the Lakers is head coach Joey Simcoe. Previously, Simcoe found success at Tiffin University, where over his 11-year span with the Dragons, he earned four Great Midwest Athletic Conference Coach of The Year awards and coached two players to NCAA Division II National Champions, including 15 All-Americans.

Simcoe said he took his career to GVSU after looking at positions at the Division II level and feeling that GVSU was a perfect match.

“Grand Valley has every quality that I was looking for in an institution,” Simcoe said. “We have all the opportunity here for students to get their degree and wrestle. Knowing that we would be able to have a really nice facility and support, this decision was more of a ‘why not?’” 

Being tasked to start a new program, the Lakers’ head coach also went into the process of putting the team together.

“We got connected into the community quickly. I was able to get out and meet other coaches and continued to put ourselves out there and recruit,” Simcoe said. “It was a fun and crazy year leading up to this. We got to redefine who we were as a team and got to figure out who we want to be. We have a team of not just great athletes and wrestlers, but phenomenal humans, and that’s what it’s all about.” 

Beginning the new season for the Lakers was 125-pound freshman Aaron Lucia who faced junior Trevor Marsman from Cornerstone. Despite scoring early in the match, Lucia would fall to Marsman, giving the Golden Eagles the lead and their first win of the meet.

After Lucia’s loss, GVSU quickly rebounded when 133-pound freshman Collin Twigg would take the win with a pin against his opponent. Now ahead with a 6-3 score against Cornerstone, the Lakers would fight to maintain their lead through the next few matches.

Still, the Lakers struggled to find their footing early as junior Jak Keller in the 141-pound weight class fought back and forth against his opponent. With the point lead shifting each way, Cornerstone would take the match in a win by decision.

Looking to put GVSU ahead after a tough start for the Lakers, sophomore and 149-pound Chris Donathan, a transfer from Tiffin University who came to GVSU with Simcoe, dominated his match. Within the first few minutes of the match, Donathan would get a swift 20 points, giving him the win by technical fall.

Cornerstone would rebound before the halfway mark with a win in another contested competition. Wrestling at 157 pounds for the Lakers was Caden Jacobs. Jacobs fought back and forth but ended up losing by decision.

Heading into the final five matches GVSU led 11-9, but Cornerstone took the next one in a battle to make it 12-11.

In spite of Cornerstone now possessing the lead six wrestlers in, they would not find themselves with another point the rest of the event, as GVSU would dominate the last four matches.

Sophomore Josh Kenny, who previously wrestled at Muskegon Community College and NCAA Division I Campbell University, started the snowball effect to close out the meet for the Lakers. He was a national champion with MCC just a couple of years ago and exploded out of the gate, scoring 15 straight points to give him a huge win.

With a strong second-half lineup, GVSU would show no signs of slowing down for the remainder of the competition.

The Lakers’ only senior, 184-pound Seth Konynenbelt, dominated in the same way that Kenny did. Konynenbelt led GVSU to another win by technical fall, 15-0. 

Sophomore Wyatt Miller, a transfer from NCAA Division I Appalachian State University, looked to secure the win for the Lakers in his match in the 197-pound weight class. Miller went on to pin his opponent just a couple of moments in, giving his team six points and a 27-12 lead with one match left.

Miller’s dominance needed no scouting, and although he won his match, his expectations for the youthful team fell just short.

“I don’t scout my opponents, I just go out. As for the team, my expectation was to win all ten, but obviously, they didn’t do that, but we’ll get better,” Miller said.

Closing out the meet for GVSU in the heavyweight was freshman Owen Hawley. A low-scoring match would ensue, but Hawley fought hard for a 5-4 win by decision after slipping out of a late takedown attempt.

“We came in knowing Cornerstone has a lot of good guys and that they are on a winning path. We knew they would come out and fight hard, but we had to impose our will and fight tough,” Kenny said. “We have a really young team, but the few upperclassmen helped guide the way. We found a way to get it done in the end.” 

Donathan also acknowledged the youth of the team and felt like some of the difficulties showed because of that.

“A lot of young guys. We strive for greatness, it’s all we want, so it was a little disappointing tonight but we will bounce back,” Donathan said.

Still, ending their first match in multiple decades with a win was a boost for the Lakers’ program as they look to continue their success throughout the season.

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