PREP ZONE | WRESTLING

Beecher and Grant Park a good tag-team combination

2012-02-02T18:00:00Z 2014-03-25T19:05:28Z Beecher and Grant Park a good tag-team combinationBy Mike Nieto mike.nieto@nwi.com, (219) 933-3232 nwitimes.com
February 02, 2012 6:00 pm  • 

GRANT PARK | There have been some great wrestling tag teams through the years.

In the early 1970s in pro wrestling there were Dick the Bruiser and his cousin The Crusher, Bruiser and Ernie "Big Cat" Ladd, Hammond's own Handsome Jimmy Valiant and his "brother" Luscious Jon, and Nick Bockwinkel and Ray Stevens.

Recently, another great tag team has emerged -- two schools that are co-oping for wrestling. Beecher and Grant Park high schools are in the second year of the arrangement and it is working out well. The eight miles that separate these two communities are joined through wrestling.

For Beecher junior Devin Mahnke, he said he would not be where he is without the co-op. As a freshman, he wrestled independently in a handful of matches and made it to the Class 1A state meet. This year he is 20-1 and has a chance to make it to the Class 1A finals at 170 pounds and maybe win it.

"We are like a family," Mahnke said. "For me, I would not have had the mat time or the experience without this arrangement. Being in the room, working with these guys only made me better.

"It has worked out great because I have made friends with these guys. We are a family."

Coach Byron McNally, who wrestled for Bloom and was an assistant coach there, said it has been a great experience for the kids.

"These kids have come together and sometimes that is tough when you are rivals in other sports, but they work together for one common goal," McNally said. "They work hard in the room and support each other. I know it's tough for the Beecher kids having to drive to practice, but they make it and they want to compete.

"We are one team."

Sophomore Kevin McNally, a Grant Park student, agrees that two schools combined make for a stronger program.

"We want to become a great program and this is the beginning," McNally said. "The more kids you have in the room, the harder you will push and get better.

"This is making us better wrestlers and it has also made new friendships. We do a lot of things together off the mat."

Nicole Thomsen, a Beecher junior, said it has been great.

"It's a way for kids who did not make the basketball team to participate in a different sport," Thomsen said. "Last year was an experiment and it worked out well. We have become a pretty close-nit team and made new friends. You spend 16 hours at a meet and on a bus, you become good friends quickly."

What they also share in common is gaining respect from their respective communities. The team practices in a small gym at the Grant Park Elementary School. The mats are from Purdue. Currently, the program is holding a fundraiser to buy two competition mats.

"We would like to have some home meets," said Brenden Coletti, a Grant Park student. "I think that way we can show the fans what we are about and get more people out to wrestle.

"We are not concerned with what we don't have (a wrestling room), but we make the best of what we have."

He said Mahnke's success will be great for the program.

"If Devin can win state or place, that is even better for us," Coletti said. "People will see what we are about."

Thomsen said she has also gained respect. Being a female wrestler, last year some opponents did not take her seriously, but that has changed.

"They know I am here to stay that I didn't come out just for publicity," Thomsen said. "After matches this year, (opponents) come up to me after we shake hands and say 'You've improved 110 percent from last year' and that makes me feel good and want to get better."

***

McNally and his staff are also proud of the fact all but two of the 15 wrestlers have a 3.0 GPA or higher.

"We stress wrestling, but there are more things in life," McNally said. "We give trophies for outstanding wrestler, most improved, but we give bigger trophies for academics."

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Follow The Times

Fan Poll

Loading…

Which school has the area's best boys cross country team?

View Results

Follow your school

Duneland Conference

Chesterton Trojans
News
Crown Point Bulldogs
News
Lake Central Indians
News
LaPorte Slicers
News
Merrillville Pirates
News
Michigan City Wolves
News
Portage Indians
News
Valparaiso Vikings
News

Greater South Shore Conference

Bishop Noll Warriors
News
Calumet Warriors
News
Lake Station Eagles
News
Michigan City Marquette Blazers
News
North Newton Spartans
News
River Forest Ingots
News
Wheeler Bearcats
News
Whiting Oilers
News

Great Lakes Athletic Conference

Clark Pioneers
News
Gavit Gladiators
News
Hammond Wildcats
News
Morton Governors
News

Hoosier Conference

Rensselaer Bombers
News

Northwest Crossroads Conference

Andrean 59ers
News
Griffith Panthers
News
Highland Trojans
News
Hobart Brickies
News
Kankakee Valley Kougars
News
Lowell Red Devils
News
Munster Mustangs
News

Northwestern Conference

Lew Wallace Hornets
News
Roosevelt Panthers
News
West Side Cougars
News

Porter County Conference

Boone Grove Wolves
News
Hanover Central Wildcats
News
Hebron Hawks
News
Kouts Mustangs/Fillies
News
LaCrosse Tigers
News
Morgan Twp. Cherokees
News
South Central Satellites
News
Washington Twp. Senators
News
Westville Blackhawks
News

Independents

Bowman Academy Eagles
News
Calumet Christian
News
Campagna Academy
News
Covenant Christian Knights
News
E.C. Central Cardinals
News
Hammond Baptist Swordsman
News
Luther East Eagles
News

Chicago Catholic League

Mt. Carmel Caravan
News
Seton Academy Sting
News
St. Francis deSales Pioneers
News

Chicago Public League

Washington Minutemen/Minutewomen
News

East Suburban Catholic

Marian Catholic Spartans
News

Metro Suburban

Illiana Christian Vikings
News

River Valley Conference

Beecher Bobcats/Ladycats
News
Illinios Lutheran Chargers
News

South Suburban Blue

T.F. North Meteors
News
T.F. South Rebels
News

Southland Athletic Conference

Bloom Twp. Blazin' Trojans
News
Crete-Monee Warriors
News

SouthWest Suburban Blue

Homewood-Flossmoor Vikings
News

SouthWest Suburban Red

Thornridge Falcons
News
Thornton Wildcats
News
Thornwood Thunderbirds
News