MCC WRESTLER VEMEMA WINS OUTSTANDING WRESTLER AWARD: JAYHAWKS QUALIFY EIGHT TO NATIONALS
Harper College – Palatine, IL – NJCAA Great Lakes District – February 18th, 2023
The Jayhawk grapplers had a great showing with 8 wrestlers punching tickets to the NJCAA National Tournament, highlighted by the tournament outstanding wrestler award winner, 184-pound champion Kayleb Venema (Whitehall).
The Great Lakes District has grown to 11 teams this season and had 58 bids to the national tournament at stake. The top 5 finishers in each weight class qualified and there were 8 wild card selections. The Jayhawks finished 4th in the team standings behind Triton College, Harper College and Southwest Michigan College.
Venema was the lone champion for the Jayhawks, winning the toughest weight class in the tournament in dramatic fashion. Kayleb was the 5th seed at the tournament, despite his outstanding season with a 33-8 overall record. The Whitehall grad started off by defeating #4 seed Jeivan Ross of Triton who is ranked 10th in the country by fall in 2:11, avenging a loss in December. In the semifinal, he faced Giovanni Jackson of Harper College who is a returning All-American and is currently ranked 1st in the Country and defeated him with a 13-11 decision. In the championship match, he faced his conference rival Jimmy Colley of St. Clair County Community College, who defeated him in the conference finals 2 weeks ago and won by fall at the 3:53 mark. His outstanding effort on the day earned him the Great Lakes District MVP honors. Finishing in 3rd place on the day were 174 pounder Gerrit Andrus of Reeths-Puffer and 197 pounder Dakota Veltman of Byron Center. 4th place finishes were earned by 125 pounder Jacob Blawat of Reeths-Puffer, 133 pounder Ayden Sturtevant-Roesly and 285 pounder Jack Stuart. Finishing in 5th place was Rice Robins of Holton. The 149-pound weight was, once again, the deepest weight in the tournament. Although Max Brown of Whitehall did not place in the top 6 in his weight today, he has defeated the 4th place finisher and the 6th place finisher during the season multiple times and was awarded a wildcard berth to nationals for his season accomplishments, in fact the 149-pound weight from the Great Lakes District will send 8 wrestlers in all to the national tournament. “I’m extremely proud of this team, we preach family every time we break it down after practice and before contests,” said Coach Mark Brunger. “While we didn’t win a team championship, you can’t overlook how much these guys support each other, stick together, and appreciate our time together, I wouldn’t want it any other way.” Brunger continued, “I’m so proud of Kayleb, the season hasn’t exactly gone according to plan for him. He dropped to 184 from 197, got in the best shape that I’ve ever seen him, and he has taken on a leadership role on the team. Despite all of that he has more match losses this year than he had the last two years combined, including losses to two of the guys in his bracket today. Since the loss to Colley, I’ve been talking about this premonition for today, that we would avenge the losses to Ross and Colley and he would knock off Jackson in the Semis, I just knew he would do it. He has worked too hard, and he truly is a far better wrestler this season than he was the previous two. I’m so happy for him, and I must admit, I was kind of overcome with emotion when he fulfilled the vision.”
Next up for the Jayhawks are the NJCAA National Championships at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa on March 3rd and 4th.
Full brackets can be viewed by going to www.trackwrestling.com and searching Midwest District.