Taylor Massa enters his final high school wrestling competition today at The Palace of Auburn Hills the same way he started it -- without a loss.
Massa is one of 896 wrestlers who will compete this weekend. But he can become just the 16th in MHSAA history to graduate with four individual championships. And his 217 consecutive wins rank fifth on the all-time MHSAA list. With three wins this weekend, he’d move up to fourth.
“Taylor has absolute dedication to the sport. During the season he is on the mat seven days a week training,” St. Johns head coach Zane Ballard said. “Off the mat, he’s a normal teenager who likes wake-boarding and hanging out with his friends. He also is a very good student.”
The MHSAA Individual Wrestling Finals begin at 2 p.m. today. They continue through the Semifinals early Friday evening and into the championship matches Saturday afternoon. Click for a full schedule, plus brackets and results as they are filed.
After claiming titles at 145 pounds as a freshman, 152 as a sophomore and 160 a year ago, Massa has his sights set on the 171-pound crown. He also led the Redwings to three straight team titles, the most recent last weekend at Battle Creek.
Massa was on the mat all of 3 minutes and 8 seconds in pinning three opponents at the Team Finals. He spent most of the rest perched just behind his coaches, helping instruct his teammates with the knowledge that has made him nationally recognized and earned him a scholarship to Michigan.
His leadership has continued to grow in step with his elite mat skills over the last four seasons. Ballard said Massa mediates conflicts between teammates on top of passing on advice.
“We all help each other, show each other what’s happening,” Massa said. “You can’t get good without your partners. I look to my partners for advice. We’re all really good at different things.
“I think a lot of kids come to me if they have questions. (But) you know, if I’m not doing something right, I’ll ask someone that’s doing it better than I am what I’m doing wrong.”
If he's done something wrong on the high school mat, it's been tough to tell.
Ironically, Massa’s first individual championship at the Palace in 2009 came at the expense of Greenville’s Jordan Thomas, 5-2, in a battle of freshmen. Since that season, Thomas has stayed a weight heavier than Massa, winning the title at 160 in 2010 and at 171 a year ago. Thomas goes for his third consecutive championship, at 189, this weekend. He and Massa will lead the Finals Grand March together as flag bearers on Saturday.
After this spring, Massa will join the Wolverines and study pre-med. He’d also like to make a push for the Olympics, and already has competed internationally.
But for all the accolades, Massa prefers to let his actions do the talking.
“He is a quiet and unassuming person,” Ballard said. “You would never know he wrestles unless the topic is brought up.”
MHSAA four-time champions
Mike Mills, Mt. Pleasant—98-112-132-138 (1976-79)
Gregory Elie, Escanaba—98-105-112-119 (1980-83)
Robert Mariucci, Iron Mountain—112-126-145-155 (1981-84)
Michael Murdoch, Montrose—119-132-145-145 (1983-86)
Larry Raether, Iron Mountain — 112-119-132-132 (1984-87)
Brandon Chesher, Adrian 112-125-134-145 (1993-96)
Jeremiah Tobias, Manchester — 125-130-135-145 (1997-00)
Nick Simmons, Williamston — 103-103-119-119 (1998-01)
Andy Simmons, Williamston — 112-130-135-140 (1999-02)
Roger Kish, Lapeer West — 160-171-189-189 (2000-03)
Joe Mendez, Lowell —103-112-130-135 (2002-05)
Brent Metcalf, Davison —130-140-145-145 (2002-05)
Justin Zeerip, Hesperia —125-145-152-160 (2004-05-06-07)
Mark Weber, Goodrich - 103-112-125-135 (2005-08)
Kyle Waldo, Rockford – 103-103-112-119 (2006-07-08-09)
(NOTE: Detroit Catholic Central’s Alex Mooradian also is competing for a fourth MHSAA title this weekend. Click to read more about his accomplishments.)
PHOTOS: (Top) St. Johns Taylor Massa and (middle) Greenville's Jordan Thomas. See more photos at High School Sports Scene. Report was compiled by the MHSAA's Rob Kaminski.