By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
BATTLE CREEK – Taylor Krupp wasn’t worried as he watched New Lothrop teammates fall by two, three and five-point decisions during Saturday’s MHSAA Division 4 Team Wrestling Final at Kellogg Arena.
He was just waiting for his turn to shine.
Similarly, his team had been waiting for Saturday's opportunity. The Hornets watched Hudson build on an MHSAA-record five-season championship streak over the last three years, but never got to take on the Tigers in a Final, having fallen in three straight Semifinals that all came down to their final matches.
Finally Saturday, the Hornets and Krupp advanced to a championship face-off with the Tigers. And Krupp’s pin at 160 pounds keyed a comeback 33-22 win that gave New Lothrop is first MHSAA title since 2004.
“We always wanted to wrestle Hudson. The last five years they’ve been on top of the mountain, and it’s always been a goal,” Krupp said. “We wrestled Hesperia, wrestled Carson City … but we always wanted to wrestle Hudson. We finally got to wrestle, and we’re glad with how it turned out.”
Hudson last season tied Davison’s record of five straight MHSAA team titles won from 2002-06 and entered Saturday afternoon with a third straight senior class that had never finished lower than first in Finals competition.
New Lothrop, meanwhile, carried a banner during Saturday’s pre-Finals “Grand March” that displayed the years of all 12 Hornets team titles – 11 on the left side and only 2004 on the right, looking almost like it was added there in anticipation of more soon to come.
That date finally will have company.
Hudson built a 22-10 lead with only five matches left, but it was not enough to carry the Tigers through the Hornets' strongest weights. Senior Josh Wendling at 152 pounds started a run of five straight New Lothrop wins to finish the match.
New Lothrop’s closing run was not without some well-calculated strategy on the part of coach Jeff Campbell. He could’ve left undefeated Krupp wrestling at 171 like he had in the Semifinal and will next weekend at the Individual Finals, and gotten some sure wins – but didn’t feel that lineup would add up to enough points to overtake the Tigers.
Instead, he wrestled Krupp at 160, followed with sophomore Caleb Symons at 171 and then continued with 189-pounder Cody Symons. Krupp got the pin, Caleb Symons – with only about 25 matches to his credit this season – got a major decision to put the Hornets ahead, and Cody Symons followed with another pin to guarantee the championship.
“The job Caleb Symons has been doing in practice, we decided this was the way we wanted to go a couple weeks ago. He’s really earned the chance to go and gave us the confidence to do that,” Campbell said. “He’s kinda been our secret weapon.”
Total, New Lothrop won at eight weights. Freshman Connor Krupp (103), junior Dalton Birchmeier (125), sophomore Steven Garza II (135) and senior Owen Wilson (215) also added points into the Hornets’ team total.
But some losses also were wins. New Lothrop freshman Erik Birchmeier did fall to reigning MHSAA Individual Finals champion JD Waters by major decision – but avoided a pin. Senior Aaron Bauman fell to Hudson two-time individual champion Cole Weaver, but only 4-1. Sophomore Cole Hersch fell to 2013 individual runner-up Isaac Dusseau, but only 3-1.
“Hudson obviously is a great team, but if you wrestle your game, anything can happen. And that was a perfect example,” Krupp said. “Me, Cody, (we) didn’t win us the match. What won us the match were the guys who stayed off their backs and didn’t give up bonus points.”
Nine of the Division 4 Final’s matches pitted Individual Finals qualifiers. Three matches remained scoreless after the first round.
Seniors Weaver, Waters and Dusseau all wrestled in their fourth team championship matches for Hudson, all also part of the lineup during their freshman season of 2011.
“I’m always proud of them, win, lose or draw. These boys have tasted victory; now they’ve tasted defeat,” Hudson coach Scott Marry said. “That builds character for later on. They’re going to have to pick themselves up and they’re going to have to act like classy young men now.
“You can’t always win. Now it’s the other side of the fence. It’s OK.”
Hudson, top-ranked entering the postseason and top seeded going into this weekend, finished 35-5 and will have 14 participants at next weekend’s Individual Finals at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
New Lothrop, ranked No. 2 and the second seed, finished 31-1 with its only loss by five to Lowell – which beat St. Johns to win Division 2 on Saturday.
The Hornets have 13 Individual Finals qualifiers and have made the MHSAA Team Quarterfinals all 13 seasons under Campbell.
“Jeff Campbell is the classiest guy I’ve ever met,” Marry said. “If there’s anybody in the state who I would want to have the state title if it wasn’t my kids, I’d want it to be Jeff Campbell. I’m so happy for him and his program.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Taylor Krupp has his hand raised in victory after a pin in his 160-pound match during Saturday’s Division 4 Final. (Middle) Hudson coach Scott Marry (left) and New Lothrop coach Jeff Campbell shake hands after the Hornets' victory. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)