The pinnacle of sports is crowing a champion at the end of the season. The emotional rollercoaster of victory coupled with the anguish of defeat are a gamut of feelings that few will truly ever experience. But with the youth wrestling program at West Ottawa these are the status quoi. This past weekend, a new crop of athletes competed and qualified for a chance at the MYWAY (Michigan Youth Wrestling Association) State Individual State Champion ships.
With its inception last season, the Panther Elite program had 4 youth state qualifiers. This year they are bring 11. “While we have had a youth program that last few seasons, the Elite portion of our club was created to give advanced wrestlers a better workout and a better opportunity to compete on the state wide and eventually national stage,” said West Ottawa Wrestling Director. “These kids are reshaping the culture of this program.”
The Panther Elite Wrestling Program is an off shoot of the Little Panthers Wrestling Club at West Ottawa. With specialized practices and advanced technique covered, these practices have proven to being a determining factor for the success of the club. This is coupled by the wide array of coaching staff that volunteers their time with the young grapplers. This includes 4x MHSAA state finalist and former Michigan State standout Dr. Karl Nadolsky.
“While we have an amazing coaching staff from top to bottom, a great selling point to the community is having a guy like Nadolsky in the room,“ Lancaster said. “He has a great wealth of knowledge with the ins and outs of the sport, and offers up great guidance for these athletes.”
Nadolsky is not the only coach/parent this season. Panther Elite has a robust staff of volunteer fathers that are dedicated to their children as well as the sport. Their hours in the room have really paid off for each of their state qualifiers.
"Josh Shults, Derek Foster, Troy Cates and Arik Jurries do an amazing job with these athletes. We are truly blessed to have such dedicated staff working within a community they are care a lot about."
Abel Anaya is a 10-year-old from Holland. Abel joined Panther Elite this year bringing a strong work ethic and natural athletic ability. Wrestling in the novice division the majority of the season, Abel made the jump to the open division and placed 2nd at the West Regional finals in a crowded field. Also joining Anaya from Holland is Braylon Cates. Braylon in a real journeyman wrestler going to tournaments almost every weekend which started back in last December. Braylon currently has a MYWAY record of 36-8 for the season and was also able to make the jump from novice to open division, placing 2nd in the West Regional for his age and weight.
Brothers James and Owen Foster from West Ottawa both qualified this season. James, a fifth grader has been wrestling since kindergarten and is one of the veterans of the program as he gets ready to transition to Middle School next year. This is his 3rd time qualifying for MYWAY States by placing 3rd overall in the West Region in a very tough age group. James also wrestles the Olympic styles and placed 2nd in Michigan at the MUSAW Freestyle and Greco Roman State Finals last year.
His brother Owen also started wrestling in kindergarten and is one of the original Panther Elite club members. Owen wrestles all year round with Myrmidon Training Systems here in Holland competing in national level tournaments, WAAAM, Beach and Olympic Style Wrestling. Owen is a two time NUWAY All American, 3 time MYWAY State qualifier, and placed 3rd in Michigan for both Freestyle and Greco in 2018. Owen has a combined middle school and MYWAY record of 45-11 for this season and is aiming to place at States for his final season of MYWAY. Everyone is excited to see what he can do in high school next year. Owen finished 3rd in the West Region for his age and weight.
Hunter Jurries is a freshman from Zeeland East who we claim as our own since his father, Arik Jurries, is one of our club coaches. Hunter has been wrestling his whole life and offers his expertise to the youth when he can attend practices. Hunter will compete at MYWAY State in the high school division, the clubs lone state qualifier.
Alexzandir (Zandir) Kladder is an 11-year-old from West Ottawa. Another journeyman wrestler and 2-time State qualifier, Zandir has an insatiable drive to compete and wrestles in tournaments almost every weekend. His hard work and competitive spirit will have a positive impact on the West Ottawa Wrestling program for years to come. Zandir finished 4th for his age and weight in the West Region.
Karl (Trey) Nadolsky is a 7-year-old from West Ottawa. Trey is following in the footsteps of his highly accomplished father Coach Nadolsky. From the moment Trey stepped on the mat he already had a natural athletic awareness you cannot be taught. This is Trey’s second state tournament qualification in as many years of wrestling. The Nadolsky legacy is in good hands with Trey.
Brother and sister Chase and Layla Shults join us from Zeeland. Chase is a second time state qualifier and is the West Region Champion for his age and weight. He is a tour de force achieving an impressive MYWAY record of 8 first place tournament finishes this season in one of the most athletic divisions. Chase’s speed, technique and strength makes him one of the strongest wrestler’s in our club. His six-year-old sister Layla is in her second year of wrestling and qualified for state this year becoming the West Region Champion for her age and weight. Layla is the youngest female wrestler and smallest in our prgram, tipping the scales at 37lbs! She is competing with the boys and finished 1st place in 5 MYWAY tournaments this season.
8-year-old Brycen Soto from Holland competing in his first MYWAY season and another wrestler that made the jump from novice to placing in open at the West Regional. Brycen has a positive enthusiasm for wrestling and one of the most fearless double-leg attacks on the team.
Abrielle Vander Zwaag is a West Ottawa middle schooler. Abby joined the program this season, transitioning from gymnastics to wrestling. In her first year wrestling she competed right away in MYWAY tournaments and WO Middle School. Her athleticism and flexibility from gymnastics carried over well into wrestling. Abby placed 3rd in the West Region and will compete against all the boys at State. She will also compete in the all-Girls State competition that weekend as well.
The MYWAY Individual State Championships will be held March 29-31 at Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Fans can follow results at trackwrestling.com