By DOUG DONNELLY
OTTAWA LAKE – Whiteford school officials are exploring the potential of adding competitive cheerleading and resurrecting wrestling and golf to join the school’s athletic offerings.
“If we do determine there is a program that we wanted, it’s not something you want to start overnight,” said Whiteford Athletic Director Jason Mensing. “We want to create a systematic approach to it. You don’t start a wrestling program, for example, K-12, overnight.”
Whiteford hasn’t offered wrestling since the late 1980s and golf has been an on-and-off sport at the high school since the early 1970s. Whiteford has never offered competitive cheer at the varsity level.
One of the reasons Mensing feels the timing may soon be right to add to the Bobcat sports lineup is the addition of a new gymnasium that will be built as part of a millage issue passed by school district voters. The new gym, he said, would provide some flexibility for practices and events. Whiteford currently has just one gym at its high school. The timetable for the gym construction is about 2022.
Whiteford Superintendent Valerie Orr said the facilities is an important piece of the puzzle.
“We are pleased to be in a position to explore the possibility of adding additional competitive opportunities for our students,” she said. “Due the recent bond passage, we will have the facilities to support these programs fully.”
Mensing is open to suggestions.
“I want to hear from people in the district, from parents and kids,” he said. “I want to hear opinions. We’re not looking to rush a decision. We have time to truly do a thorough investigation. Our main goal right now is to get input.
“You look at costs, you look at revenues and you look at what sort of support you would need from booster clubs,” he said. “What are the actual costs? What are the potential revenues?”
Wrestling is the sport that is often talked about in the hallways at Whiteford, Mensing said. Right now, Whiteford offers only boys and girls basketball in the winter.
“I feel like if we are lacking, it’s in the winter months,” he said. “Wrestling is the No. 1 sport I hear from folks that they are interested in.”
Another boost to the wrestling idea is that, for the first time, the Tri-County Conference will most likely recognize the sport as an official league sport. League members Erie Mason, Madison, Morenci, Pittsford, and Sand Creek are all expected to offer wrestling this season and compete for an official league championship.
Competitive Cheerleading is another sport in which multiple TCC teams offer, as is golf.
“We are looking to only add sports that are offered by the TCC,” Mensing said. “Those are the three sports that are offered by the league that we don’t currently offer.”
Competitive Cheerleading is another sport that Mensing said is often requested by the members of the sideline cheerleaders program.
“Our girls are constantly talking about growing the sport of cheerleading,” he said.
Wrestling and golf have a varied history at Whiteford. Both became part of Whiteford’s sports lineup in the early 1970s. The Bobcats have had success in both sports, which were steadily in the school’s athletic offerings into the 1980s.
Whiteford’s biggest day in wrestling came in 1982 when both Paul Welly and Tim Seiler won state championships just minutes apart. The golf team won back-to-back Regional titles in the 1970s, won back-to-back TCC titles in 2001 and 2002 and has had All-State golfers in Bobby Plumer and, as recent as a couple of years ago, Connor Lenhart.
But, lack of numbers hurt both sports, which eventually dropped off the Whiteford sports list.
Mensing said it could be time to bring them back.
“I believe we could field a wrestling team now,” he said. “There is an interest there. We’ve had some Ottawa Lake kids go to other districts because they were looking for that experience.”
To offer your thoughts and input into the idea of Whiteford adding competitive cheerleading, golf, and wrestling, send an e-mail to Mensing@whiteford.k12.mi.us.