Fruitport’s Chris Hendricks had never been to the state finals, and didn’t even wrestle his freshmen year, but on Saturday the senior became Michigan’s Division 2 heavyweight champion.
Hendricks (45-1) won a 6-3 decision over Tecumseh’s Preston Pelham (55-2) at the Palace of Auburn Hills to claim the honor.
“It was pretty sweet,” Hendricks said. “It’s different than anything else I’ve ever done. I can’t really explain how good it felt.”
Hendricks, who also won a decision over Pelham earlier in the season, said he began to gain confidence as the match drew nearer.
“I was actually more nervous when I first woke up,” said Hendricks, who credited coach Jack Nummerdor with helping him to stay calm. “When I went out there the nerves went away. I had wrestled the kid before. I knew if I just wrestled my match and pushed the pace I’d be fine.”
When the big guys did match up, there was a bit more athleticism than usual for the weight class. Pelham was on the smaller side after bumping up from 215 last year, and the 260-pound football-standout Hendricks has plenty of speed for his size.
“There was a lot of movement — shots being taken,” Hendricks said. “Neither one of us throw, so we didn’t really lock up that much. I think it was a lot of movement for a heavyweight match.”
Hendricks, who became Fruitports’ first heavyweight champion since Matt Brink won three titles from 1994-97, transferred to the school from Mona Shores after his sophomore year. That season was his first competing in the sport as a high school athlete, and in a world where it seems like the top wrestlers come out of the womb grappling, Hendricks took to the sport very quickly.
Read more of this story in Saturday's print edition or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.