Clinton Finishes Chase for 1st Title

February 29, 2020

By Jeff Chaney
Special for Second Half

KALAMAZOO – Last year when Clinton wrestling co-coach Jeff Rolland walked off the mat after the Division 4 Team Final, he said, “Until someone beats them, they are the one everyone in chasing.”

“They” are the Hudson Tigers, who had just beaten Rolland's up-and-coming Clinton team to win their third-straight Division 4 title. 

So Rolland and his Redskins went back to work during the offseason, recalling how they felt wrestling for a championship only to come up short against a program that is comfortable on that stage. 

Spin it forward one year, and Clinton found itself back on the big stage against the Tigers, and that hard work and self-confidence paid off. This time, Clinton beat Hudson 36-27 on Saturday at Wings Event Center, clinching the first team wrestling championship in Redskins history.

"This took us believing in each other as a family," Rolland said. "We believe this program is a family, (kindergarten through 12th grade), to the parents and the community, and this took us digging down and focusing on who we are – focusing on us."

That focus was tested even before this weekend began, as top-ranked Clinton entered Friday’s Quarterfinals as the third seed in Division 4.

The Redskins then had to go through a very tough New Lothrop team in the Semifinals to get to Hudson.

"We felt we had enough. We just had to come and compete and prove it," Rolland said. "We took on the mantra that it was us against everybody. Until we prove, we are going to get the three seed, we are going to get the hardest matches. And we said good."

But it wasn't all good for the Redskins, especially early.

Starting at the 119-pound weight class, Hudson jumped out to an 18-0 lead through the first four matches, thanks to a pair of pins from Caden Natale at 130 and CJ Berro at 135 and a pair of decisions from Tyler Bolenbaugh and Jackson Miller at 119 and 125, respectively. 

But then came the strength of Clinton's lineup, and the Redskins went on to win eight of the next nine weight classes to earn their first team title.

During that stretch, the Redskins got technical fall victories from AJ Baxter, Kent McCombs and Brayden Randolph and a pair of pins from Logan Badge and Jack Voll. 

Badge said his team was not too worked up by being down so much early.

"We were still confident in ourselves," said Badge, a returning Individual Finals champion.  "We knew our capabilities, knowing we were able to score and get bonus points when we needed." 

Hudson coach Scott Marry was proud of his team, even though it fell short of the goal it sets for itself every season.

"They are very tough," Marry said of Clinton. "I thought everything went well. We wrestled a very good dual. We had our opportunities, and that is all you can ask for. You have to give them credit. I'm not going to say anything bad that we did. I'm just going to say they did better."

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) A Clinton wrestler works for control on top while his Hudson opponent goes for a foot during Saturday’s Division 4 Final. (Middle) Clinton and Hudson wrestlers work to gain control. (Click for more from

Lowell Enters Another Elite Group of Champs with 11th-Straight Finals Win

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

February 24, 2024

KALAMAZOO – There’s nothing quite like the roar of a crowd after your team has clinched an MHSAA Team Wrestling Finals title.

That’s true whether it’s for title No. 1, or, in the case of Casey Engle and his Lowell teammates Saturday, for their program’s 11th-straight Division 2 championship.

“It’s unreal,” Engle said. “It’s something I look forward to every year.”

Lowell extended its record run of wrestling team titles by defeating Freeland 49-21 in the Division 2 Final at Wings Events Center.

The Red Arrows joined the Grosse Pointe South (1976-86) and Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett (1980-90) girls tennis programs in winning 11 straight Finals titles. Only East Grand Rapids boys swimming & diving, winning 15 straight from 1948-62, and Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice boys lacrosse – with 13 straight from 2005-17 – have longer Finals championship streaks in Lower Peninsula or statewide competition.

“I mean, it’s possible (to reach 15),” said sophomore Jarrett Smith, whose pin at 106 pounds clinched the title. “It’s hard to predict that far, four years into the future. We’re losing some key guys, but we graduated 14 last year, five this year, so we’re returning some firepower.”

Lowell is always returning firepower, and it’s consistently adding it, too, giving new waves of Red Arrows the chance to raise a wooden mitten. 

That’s why for coach RJ Boudro, each title remains just as sweet as the last.

“Why would it get old?” said Boudro, who has been in charge for 10 of those titles. “Look at the crowd. When I first walked in here, I looked up, and you see that we have more fans here than anybody else, and that’s what it’s about. Next year will be fun, too. When you can still bring crowds in and you can do it 11 years in a row, there’s more to that than just winning. If it was just about winning, why else would they come? They would probably think it was a foregone conclusion. They love the kids; they love the community.”

One could forgive an outsider for believing it’s a foregone conclusion when Lowell takes the mat for the Division 2 postseason, as it’s won the Final by more than 20 points in each of the past five seasons and in seven of its 11 straight championship victories.

The Falcons’ Elijah Murphy, left, locks up Lowell’s Ari McFarland at 215. So to avoid that feeling creeping into his wrestling room, Boudro makes it clear the Red Arrows’ responsibility isn’t just to win on the mat, but to strive for something bigger.

“We’re not doing it to just win state championships,” Boudro said. “We’re trying to find out who we are, we’re trying to be better men, better women, better coaches. So, it’s not just about winning, it’s about being a better person. Whether I’m a coach or a kid, just trying to find a way to be better. When you’re doing that all the time, you get better, but you feel like you have a purpose. Every single guy on the team feels like they have a purpose, and that’s really important.”

Just 14 wrestlers can step onto the mat in a single dual, and the same number is the max a team can enter into the individual postseason, so accomplishing that can sometimes be as tough as anything else for Lowell wrestlers, and certainly helps motivate them throughout the season – foregone conclusions or not.

“One of our signs up there I saw, it says, ‘Tradition never graduates,’ and it’s true,” Smith said. “We just keep the kids coming. Even our B Team, C Team are competing at the highest level. At the beginning of Districts, we had 17 ranked guys, and you can only send 14. So we have just great partners all around.”

Freeland, meanwhile, was making its first appearance in a Final, after getting to the Quarterfinals for the third time in program history. 

“Outstanding. Outstanding. They’ve been giving their all every match,” Freeland coach Scott VanLuven said. “They’ve been doing it all year. We beat Brighton, we weren’t supposed to. We beat (Bay City) John Glenn in our conference, then we had to beat them again in our District Final when we weren’t supposed to. No one gave us really a chance down here, I think. But they believed, and they did well.”

The Falcons (25-3) still had a shot with three matches to go, trailing 31-21. But Smith put a quick end to that with his pin at 106, and that was followed by a pair of pins from Cole and Carter Cichocki at 113 and 120, respectively.

Of the Arrows’ nine wins in the dual, eight came by either pin or technical fall, as Jackson Blum (138), Jared Boone (165) and Engle (190) also won by pinfall. Logan Dawson (132) and Owen Segorski (144) each won by tech. Cody Foss (126) opened the dual with a win by decision for Lowell (22-3).

Fabian Facundo (150) and Bringham Smith (285) each won by pin for Freeland, while Noah Graham (157), Gibson Shepard (175) and Elijah Murphy (215) all won by decision.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Lowell’s Cole Cichocki, left, lines up against Freeland’s Michael Wilson at 113 pounds Saturday. (Middle) The Falcons’ Elijah Murphy, left, locks up Lowell’s Ari McFarland at 215. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)