Gielczyk: Mason County Central’s Shoop Makes History

Mason County Central hadn’t celebrated an individual state wrestling champion in 31 years, until Jacob Shoop ended the drought when he was the last man standing on Saturday, Feb. 4 in the MHSAA Division 3 finals at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

It was the culmination of a lifelong dream for the Spartan senior, who closed out his career with a 52-1 record this year.

And he hardly worked up a sweat in the championship match, rolling to an easy 17-1 victory that did not even get to the end of the second period. The official waved it over after only 3:39 of the match.

The second after the referee raised Shoop’s hand signaling his victory, he immediately leaped into the arms of Spartans’ head coach Jim Allen as the two embraced near the circle, each shedding tears of joy. Allen has been at his side throughout Shoop’s incredible journey, beginning when he was 4-years old and coaching him the last four years.

Mike Root was the last Spartan to be crowned an individual state champion in 1986, earning the Class C 167-pound title. There have been some close calls since, but no one has been able to get through the two-day tournament at the top of the heap since.

It had been 20 years since any wrestler from Mason County had won an individual gold. The last to do it was Joel Trim of Ludington, who came away with the Division 2 160-pound title in 1997. Jeff Henry was the Spartan’s first ever champion in 1977, or 40 years ago.

Shoop revealed that Henry actually made the trip to watch the tournament, and spoke to him before the final match.

"We talked a little bit," Shoop said. "He said I was a good listener. Before the (final) match, he told me I’d take care of him."

Henry called it right.

Going into the match, Shoop confessed he was nervous and excited. But, he also said he felt ready and had no doubts about his ability.

Eyeing his opponent from across the mat, Shoop thought he could see he was overwhelmed and perhaps feeling a bit awed by the whole atmosphere.

"Then again, there’s a lot of people looking at you down there," added Shoop. "I just went out there and got after him, I guess. I got a first period takedown in a couple of seconds, and I just kept scoring, and scoring, and scoring."

Every wrestler’s goal is to win a state title, but Shoop felt added motivation once he learned how long it had been since the Spartans had celebrated one.

And that two other Spartans had finished second the last two years.

"It just gave me a little extra boost to do a little better," Shoop said. "I cried. It was amazing. Knowing everything that I did to get to that point, and then to actually win it. Everything paid off. My first round I pinned a kid in the first period, and the next two matches went three periods.

"The semifinal match was pretty close, actually, it was only 2-0. I don’t know, I kind of wrestled tough the whole through and I did my best to leave everything on the mat."

Shoop admits needing to make certain adjustments in his practice routine with the Spartans losing several wrestlers to graduation and finding new faces filling the roster.

But, after a little bit of a rough start, Shoop soon began to get his act together.

"I had the (171) pounder to work out with every day, so it was still nice," said Shoop. "We were young, and had a lot of gaps in the lineup. At the beginning it was kind of rough, but we got used to it and just kind of went with it.

"Towards the end of the season, the beginning of the post-season, I just started picking up the intensity. I feel like I peaked at the right moment. I think this was probably the best post-season I’ve ever had."

His freshman year, Shoop wrestled at both 125 and 130, before stepping up to 135 his sophomore year.

Last year he alternated between 145 and 152. This year, he wrestled at 152 and 160. What was the biggest difference?

"Strength, I would say, is the biggest factor," Shoop said. "I would say at 160 I was one of the smallest, and I didn’t like that. It doesn’t seem like that much between 152 and 160, about 10 pounds. But, it’s a lot."

What did he work on the most since last season?

"On my feet wasn’t one of my best positions," said Shoop. "I also don’t think it was one of my worst ones. But, I definitely knew I had to get better on my feet. I really focused on that after last season.

"I realize it’s all on me, and I don’t have to depend on anyone. Yes, there’s team duals. But, when you’re out there it’s just you, and you have to do your job. There’s no one out there to help your, and there’s no one out there for you to lean on."

Now that the realization that he won the state title is finally starting to sink in, Shoop can focus on getting ready to wrestle at the next level.

Shoop signed a National Letter of Intent to join the Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa. Grand View’s wrestling team won its sixth NAIA national title this year.

One champion is joining another.

Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist and sportwriter who worked a total 36 years — interrupted for an 18-month period from 1997-99 — at the Manistee News Advocate as sports editor until 2006 and is now retired. He currently is a freelance sportswriter for the Ludington Daily News. 

Categories: Wrestling