Champion Teammates Harber, Bernard Spark Montrose's Mat Resurgence

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

March 9, 2022

Levi Harber was ecstatic Saturday after winning his own Individual Wrestling Finals title.

But when his Montrose teammate Aidan Bernard won about an hour later, Harber’s excitement spilled into raw emotion.

“So, me and Aidan, ever since way back, we’ve been wrestling together,” Harber said. “... For me to do it, that meant that he had to do it, too. It was weird. I couldn’t celebrate unless I knew my partner in crime did it, too. The reason I was so emotional was that the kid works so hard. Aidan works so hard. He wanted it so bad.”

Harber won the Division 3 285-pound title at Ford Field, and Bernard won at 135 pounds. Following Bernard’s win, the two seniors shared a tearful embrace, celebrating a moment that gave Montrose multiple champions for the first time since 2006, when the Rams were among the most dominant teams in the state.

Their accomplishment wrapped up careers that included a combined six all-state finishes and saw Montrose advance to the Team Quarterfinals four times.

“That group, as a whole, was pretty special,” Montrose coach Jason Perrin said. “I don’t know if it would be as fitting if that group left us and didn’t have a couple top-of-the-podium guys. When that group came in as freshmen, they were the two that led the way right out of the gate. Those two definitely highlighted that class, so it definitely was fitting.”

Harber won his Finals title with a second-period pin, while Bernard won his Finals match 8-1.

They had the same goal heading into this season, but were coming at it from different angles.

Montrose wrestlingFootball is where Harber’s future lies, as he has signed to play at Vanderbilt. He decided as a sophomore that’s what he wanted to do, but that didn’t detract from his work as a wrestler. He simply just worked.

Harber’s daily routine includes waking up and going to the weight room by 3:30 a.m., and when the pandemic didn’t allow him to do so, he was able to get some of the equipment from the school and work out at home.

And even after he signed, he continued to put that effort into both sports, something his Vanderbilt coaches appreciated.

“Division I coaches love wrestlers,” Harber said. “They love multi-sport athletes, so when I told the coaches that I was a wrestler, they loved it. Because, wrestling is different. It’s not only difficult to do, it’s mentally hard. Football coaches are looking for kids who are not only physically strong, but mentally strong, and wrestling makes mentally-strong people.”

Harber entered the season having taken third as a sophomore and second as a junior. His ambition to win it all only increased when he realized that nobody from Montrose had ever done it at heavyweight.

“He brought it to my attention, and I was like, ‘No, you’re wrong,’” Perrin said. “We have a wall in our wrestling room with all our state placers. I went into the room one day and looked at it and was like, ‘Dang, he’s right.’”

Bernard also plays football for the Rams, but his love is wrestling. He plans to wrestle in college and has offers, but has not made a public commitment.

After taking third as a sophomore and fourth as a junior, he dedicated his offseason to getting over the hump and standing at the top of the podium.

“Last year really made me want it the most,” Bernard said. “Coming in as the No. 1 seed and taking fourth, I was hungry. I was really putting in a lot of work, because I had one more shot.”

His offseason included a trip to Virginia Beach, and while wrestling a New Jersey state champion there, he injured his knee. He was told it was his ACL, but nothing that would require surgery.

Montrose wrestlingBernard took a week off before competing in the Disney Duals. He played through the injury during football season and wrestled through it in the winter. While he wore a brace, he said it wasn’t an issue – until the Finals. Twice in his victory Saturday, Bernard had to take injury time because of his knee. Afterward, he would say that nothing – not the knee, not even a broken bone – would stop him from finishing the match.

“To be quite honest, I don’t really know if I asked or knew the extent to which he was injured,” Perrin said. “Every time I turned around, he was still doing this or that – he played football. When he took the first injury time, obviously I was concerned, but I knew it was something that he’s going to be able to battle through because he has all year. When he took the second, we were concerned, but my mind immediately went to he can’t take a third, because then he’s done. We were definitely making sure that he knew to hustle back to the center.”

Bernard made his road to the championship match look easy, with a 6-0 victory followed by a pair of pins. But he accomplished it against a returning Finals champion and two other placers, including one who had defeated him twice the year before.

“I remember I told (Perrin) specifically, ‘You have to beat them all, or you can’t win the title,’” Bernard said. “That was my main thought the whole time. No matter who I came up against, if I couldn’t beat that person, I couldn’t win the title.”

Getting Montrose back to its early-2000s heights is a tall task. The Rams won team titles in 2003 and 2004 and had 10 individual champions from 2003-06. But thanks to the Class of 2022, it’s closer than it’s been in a decade.

Harber and Bernard are at the center of that, and according to Harber, it can be drilled down even further.

“It was Aidan Bernard,” Harber said. “That was our team captain. If I had to have one man on that team command the ship, it’d be Aidan. He showed up to practice on the worst of days and the best of days, and he was always setting the tempo for the rest of us.”

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 paulcostanzo3@gmail.com with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Levi Harber’s arm is raised in victory Saturday after his Division 3 championship win at 285 pounds. (Middle) Harbor and teammate Aidan Bernard hold up their charts after claiming titles at Ford Field. (Below) Bernard works to take his opponent to the mat. (Action photos by HighSchoolSportsScene.com; middle photo courtesy of the Montrose wrestling program.)

Hall, Stevens Teaming Up to Continue Dundee Championship Tradition

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

November 22, 2022

DUNDEE – How do you replace a legendary coach? 

Southeast & BorderFor the Dundee Vikings wrestling program, it takes two. 

Nate Hall and Garrett Stevens opened practice last week as the new co-coaches of the ultra-successful Dundee wrestling program, taking the reins from Tim Roberts, one of the winningest coaches in state wrestling history. 

“From day one, we’ve done a really good job of pushing each other and staying focused,” Stevens said. “The kids have been getting after it. Things are going well.” 

Dundee’s wrestling program is a rich one. Roberts stepped down with a state-record 10 MHSAA Finals titles over his 23 seasons as head coach. In all 23 of those years, Dundee won District championships, and in 22 of those 23 years the Vikings won Regional titles. Roberts not only accumulated 10 Finals championship trophies, but he also won more than 500 dual matches.  

Hall and Stevens have coached together for several years on the Dundee staff. Now they are dividing up duties and looking to start the next era of Vikings wrestling.  

“We know what we are up against,” Hall said. “We have a strong tradition to keep on. We understand two people going at it is probably the better route.” 

The move is not without precedent. In the conference that Dundee competes in – the Lenawee County Athletic Association – Clinton had co-coaches lead the Redwolves to the Division 4 championship two seasons ago. Division 3 powerhouse Richmond has utilized co-coaches in the sport as well. 

“We sort of applied together,” Stevens said. “We thought we could do this.” 

Dundee Athletic Director Ross Crow said he was hesitant at first to consider the co-coach idea, but after meeting with both realized it could work. 

Stevens, top, and Hall stand with their retired coach and mentor at various events. span>“After sitting down with them and having a lengthy discussion, I realized they have an extremely organized and articulated plan as to how they are carrying the torch moving forward,” Crow said. “Whenever I have a question, I either text or e-mail both of them on a group thread. They both chime in and more often than not, the answer is exactly the same for both of them. It's a really good fit, as they are close friends and have no egos.” 

Stevens is a 2007 Dundee graduate. He wrestled for Roberts. His dad was a Dundee wrestler as well, graduating in the 1970s. Stevens brings his connection to the Dundee wrestling community to the table as well as years of coaching experience. 

Hall is from nearby Blissfield, where he was an all-state wrestler. He wrestled for Grand Valley State’s club program and was a coach there as well. He returned to southeast Michigan to coach with his father – Adrian Madison head coach Scott Hall – and joined the Dundee staff when he became a physical education teacher at the middle school about five years ago. 

As co-head coach, Nate Hall handles a lot of the organizational duties, especially anything involving the school district, since he works there. Stevens brings a technical side of the sport with him. 

The duo believe they can make it work because of the chemistry between them. 

“I was always more of a technical wrestler,” Stevens said. “I think Tim (Roberts) felt I could help connect with the kids and teach them how to do a few things differently. 

“After I graduated from high school, I got away from wrestling for a while, but in 2011, Tim reached out to me and asked if I wanted to get back involved and it seemed like a no-brainer. I missed it. I liked being around him and there were some things I could bring to the table. I was chomping at the bit once the opportunity opened for me.” 

Stevens said Roberts was wonderful to learn from because he was such a great person and sought out input from his staff. 

“Tim’s approach to coaching was unique,” Stevens said. “He’s very open-minded and understands there is so much more to learn. You constantly want your kids and program to grow. Every year I coached with him, he changed something every year. He was constantly modifying, tweaking, and seeking out help and advice from others.” 

Hall likes how things have started. 

“It’s going very well so far,” Hall said. “Tim didn’t leave the well dry. He’s got an established program and an established wrestling community that has been supportive of both Garrett and I so far.  

Stevens and son Brady, and Hall and daughter Kimberly, celebrate the 2020 championship.“We’ve got a tremendous senior class – three state champions and another kid that was third in the state last year. Their leadership is really going to be a huge aspect of our success this year.” 

The Vikings also have 14 freshmen.          

“We’ve hit the ground running,” Hall said. “We provide a lot of opportunities in the offseason for kids to get into the wrestling room and stay active. Most of our guys are active throughout. The freshmen are a real promising group that we can keep the ball rolling,” Hall said.  

The veterans in the wrestling room include Kaden Chinavare, a Central Michigan University signee who won an Individual Finals title as a sophomore; Aiden Davis, a two-time Finals champ headed to Bucknell; and Braeden Davis, a Penn State University recruit looking for a fourth consecutive Finals title in 2023.  

“The biggest thing with this group, I would say, is their willingness to push each other in the right manner,” Hall said. “We’ve got a lot of successful individuals, and they are already going out of their way to make sure each person around them is getting the most out of their reps they can get. 

“The team chemistry is already a big part of it.” 

Both coaches admit there is pressure to maintain a program that is not just known at the state level, but nationally.  

“If you’re not feeling that pressure, maybe you’re not taking it as seriously as it needs to be taken,” Hall said. “We are here to help kids accomplish their goals, and pressure is a part of that – especially at the elite level a lot of our wrestlers want to compete at.” 

Despite the turnover in coaching, Dundee’s goals remain high. 

Dundee opens with the Grappler Gold, will go to Davison, then compete at a big invitational in Ohio. They Vikings will compete at Detroit Catholic Central and the Hudson Super 16 in late January. 

“We always want to aim high,” Stevens said.

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Nate Hall, left, and Garrett Stevens walk together during the opening march at an MHSAA Team Finals; retired coach Tim Roberts is behind them, waving. (Middle) Stevens, top, and Hall stand with their retired coach and mentor at various events. (Below) Stevens and son Brady, and Hall and daughter Kimberly, celebrate the 2020 championship. (Top and below photos by Kathy Killion.)