Bay City John Glenn Continues Climb, Seeking Next Step As Finals Contender

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

December 21, 2022

In each year of Matt Bishop’s time as head coach of the Bay City John Glenn wrestling program, the team has taken a step forward.

Bay & ThumbIt won the Bay County Championship in Year 1. Won a District championship in Year 2. Advanced to the Regional Final in Year 3, where it lost a tight dual against Gaylord. 

So, while the goal now of winning a Regional and earning the program’s first trip to the Division 2 Team Wrestling Finals may look more like a leap from the outside, it’s just another step to the Bobcats.

“We’ve had stepping stones the last four years,” junior captain Garett Forgash said. “It used to be the county tournament, then Districts, now it’s Regionals. Every time, we’re going to find that new stepping stone.”

John Glenn looks like a team poised to take that next step. The Bobcats are ranked No. 4 in Division 2, and already have another Bay County Championship and a dual victory against Gaylord under their belt this season.

They’re led by returning all-state finishers Forgash, who placed seventh a year ago, and sophomore Connor Greer, who was runner-up at 112 pounds and didn’t lose a match until the Final.

Seven other returnees were Regional qualifiers, including senior captains Lane Huizar – another Individual Finals qualifier – and Aidan Lupisella. 

But beyond that is a roster that has ballooned to 44 wrestlers and bought into what Bishop is preaching – work hard, focus on doing the right things on and off the mat rather than winning or losing, and success will eventually come.

“I think a lot of it has to do with our youth program, and them seeing our success, especially with winning Counties,” Lupisella said. “Every year, we’ve seen this steady little incline, and this year, we grew probably close to 20 kids. I think a big part is our success and the way we carry ourselves. I think people want to be around that. Everyone is attracted to success, and everyone is attracted to being classy. When people see that, they want to be part of it.”

John Glenn’s Garett Forgash (gray singlet) works toward a pin. That’s something Bishop and his coaching staff had to build. The former all-state wrestler came back to his alma mater as an assistant coach for the 2018-19 season, and took over as head coach the next year. 

Before John Glenn was taking any steps on the mat, steps were being taken behind the scenes to improve. That started with the school’s administration, which gave the Bobcats their own space to practice – including a locker room and daily transportation – at the district’s administration building. 

Bishop also has built a coaching staff he feels can help move his program forward. It includes Collin Webber, who he called one of the best young coaches in the state, and former Corunna coach Chad Briggs, who is coaching the middle school program. 

“Last year and this year, we’ve been able to grow that staff to about 10 guys; it’s been good,” Bishop said. “When you have some success, people tend to want to be a part of that program, and we’re starting to see that a little more in the last year or two. We had to build our middle school program. Our middle school numbers when I started were around 10 to 12 kids. Now, we’re close to 50.”

Then there’s the constant build of the program’s culture, which Bishop stresses above all else.

Lane Huizar establishes control during his match. “It’s really important for us to realize this is a high school sport, and keep that in perspective as much as we can,” he said. “We want to win. I’m probably as competitive as anyone out there. In order for us to do that at the highest levels, we have to not worry about winning and losing. … It’s hard, especially for kids that had a lot of success at a young age. But for us, it’s about competing a certain way, training a certain way, and letting the chips fall where they may.”

As those chips continue to fall in the Bobcats’ favor, Bishop and his staff have been able to focus more on some of the little things needed to help the program take its next step.

That includes hammering home the importance of getting – and not giving up – bonus points in a tight dual, and just generally dealing with the pressure that comes with that. Multiple discussions have had that focus over the past two years, as has John Glenn’s schedule, which has become much tougher as the team strives for bigger goals.

“When we got through Districts (in 2021), it was a nice celebration, and we felt good about ourselves,” Lupisella said. “At Regionals, I felt that maybe we didn’t put our best foot forward. We gave up a bunch of bonus points. I think what kind of moved us forward to be able to compete better was coaches talking to us every day and building our confidence. Telling us that we’re up there with the top teams. And the fact that we had gotten through the District and it was in our rearview mirror, we could now focus on the next step.”

The Bobcats aren’t taking anything for granted, but they also aren’t shying away from talking about taking that step and securing a trip Feb. 24 to Kalamazoo for Team Finals weekend. 

And recent history has shown that when a stepping stone is ahead, John Glenn finds a way to get there.

“It’s what we’ve been working for since I’ve been here, is going to the state team tournament,” Huizar said. “It’d be pretty awesome.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Bay City John Glenn’s Aidan Lupisella attempts to escape from the grasp of a Saginaw Swan Valley opponent. (Middle) John Glenn’s Garett Forgash (gray singlet) works toward a pin. (Below) Lane Huizar establishes control during his match. (Photos by Maddy Huizar.)

Imlay City's D'Ambrosio: Calm, Cool & Contending for School's 1st Mat Championship

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

February 7, 2024

Dominic D’Ambrosio’s answer when asked at 5 years old if he wanted to start wrestling was probably a clue for what was to come.

Bay & Thumb“I remember when my dad asked me if I wanted to wrestle,” D’Ambrosio said. “I think I just said, ‘Sure.’”

It’s not that D’Ambrosio would be nonchalant or aloof when it came to wrestling. He’s quite the opposite, actually. The work he’s put in has him unbeaten at 43-0 as a senior, ranked among the top four at 138 pounds in Division 3, and threatening to become the Spartans’ first Individual Finals champion.

The clue was that D’Ambrosio was going to be calm and cool on the mat, and have a grounded view of the sport off it, which has also helped him reach those heights.

“When I was younger, I got an award for being a cool cucumber – the Cool as a Cucumber award,” he said. “When I lose, I just look at it as I can get better from it. At the end of the day, it’s just a game. It’s serious, the work you put into it, but it’s not so serious. If you lose, you just want to get better. I just like to get the work done.”

To be fair, D’Ambrosio doesn’t do much losing.

He’s dropped just nine matches during his four-year career, compared to 159 wins, and a third of those losses came against Dundee four-time Finals champion Braeden Davis, who is now unbeaten and ranked No. 5 in the country at 125 pounds as a true freshman at Penn State.

D’Ambrosio, right, takes to the mat during his early years in the sport. D’Ambrosio was 14-0 as a freshman when COVID-19 ended the Spartans’ 2020-21 season short of the postseason. He placed third at the Finals as a sophomore, and fifth as a junior.

He has his eyes on the ultimate prize this year, and for a moment he allowed the thought to get him out of his even-keeled nature. But even that doesn’t last long.

“It would be pretty special,” he said. “I’ve been working hard for it. But, either way, I’m just going to go and leave it all out there.”

D’Ambrosio is the son of Imlay City coach Tony D’Ambrosio, which in some cases could create more pressure. But not this one. And a lot of that could be credited to Tony.

“We always tried to keep the pressure low and just have fun,” said Tony D’Ambrosio, who is in his 10th year at the helm in Imlay City. “We just focus on getting better. He’s always just wrestled. It’s just how he is. Dominic doesn’t even look at the brackets. He doesn’t find out who he’s wrestling until he shakes hands.”

What happens after they shake hands isn’t what one would expect from someone who could win that same Cool as a Cucumber award every year. 

D’Ambrosio’s matches typically don’t last long. Of his 159 wins, 105 have come by pin, including all three of his wins at the 2023 Individual Finals. As a junior, he set the school pin record at 41. This season, 32 of his 43 wins have been by pinfall.

Just four of his matches have gone beyond the first period this season, and only two of those have gone the distance. 

“This year, he’s really been turning it all on,” Tony D’Ambrosio said. “He didn’t start pinning a lot until later on into middle school and high school. It’s just basic stuff, not anything fancy. He’s a nice kid, but when he’s on the mat, he’s going to turn you over.”

D’Ambrosio, right, works to pin an opponent. Dominic isn’t a thrower, and his pins aren’t the result of catching an opponent in anything fluky. He’s just meticulous, and able to take advantage of any opening he’s given.

“I’m (working on a half Nelson) 100 times, 200 times during the week, so I’ll be able to hit it during the weekend,” he said. “If I got somebody’s head, nobody is getting out of it. I can just flow really well into a pinning sequence.”

As he pins his way through the season, D’Ambrosio is racking up awards. He’s been named Most Valuable Wrestler at four tournaments bouncing between 138 and 144, and at one point found himself ranked No. 1 by Michigan Grappler at 138.

As you would expect, he hasn’t allowed that to get to his head, and as his father puts it, “the only ranking that matters is the podium.”

With District tournaments this week, D’Ambrosio now can focus 100 percent of his efforts on getting to the top of that podium. But don’t expect the pressure to mount in his house or on the mat.

“It would be special,” Tony D’Ambrosio said. “But, again, as long as he goes out there and just does what he does, and does his best – it’s kind of like the NCAAs, you have to have a good weekend. It doesn’t dictate who you are. It would be awesome, and it’s a great goal to have. It would be a great goal to accomplish and be the first (from Imlay City). But wherever he ends up, I’m going to be proud of what he’s done.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Imlay City’s Dominic D’Ambrosio, right, wrestles to a fifth-place finish at 132 pounds in Division 3 last season at Ford Field. (Middle) D’Ambrosio, right, takes to the mat during his early years in the sport. (Below) D’Ambrosio, right, works to pin an opponent. (Top photo by High School Sports Scene; other photos courtesy of the D’Ambrosio family.)