Clio's Williams Caps Season of All Wins, All by Pin, with Finals Victory

By Scott DeCamp
Special for

March 5, 2023

DETROIT – Khloe Williams wasted no time securing her second career state championship during Saturday’s MHSAA Individual Wrestling Finals at Ford Field.

It took the Clio senior only 30 seconds to post a victory by pinfall over Kalamazoo Loy Norrix sophomore Heaven Cole in the 170-pound title match.

All four of Williams’ victories this weekend resulted in pinfalls that took a minute or less. In fact, all 32 of her matches this season resulted in wins by pinfall.

“I just wanted to do that this year. I just wanted to pin everyone,” said Williams, who won a Michigan Wrestling Association state title as a freshman, finished second in MWA as a sophomore and then runner-up again in last year’s MHSAA Tournament.

Immediately following her victory over Cole (14-2) on Saturday, Williams stopped long enough to conduct an interview, but she had places to be. Two mats over from hers, a Clio teammate was vying for a Finals title of his own.

“I was trying to watch Jacob,” she said about Clio senior Jacob Marrs, who was wrestling in the Division 2 190-pound final as Williams wrapped up her match against Cole.

Marrs lost a 4-2 heartbreaker in his championship match.

Williams and Marrs have known each other a long time and they’re cut from the same cloth, according to Clio coach Tony Vance.

He said Williams tends to be businesslike, and that she’s very talented – but she also puts in the work.

“Her and my 190-pounder (Jacob Marrs), I mean, they’re both very technical wrestlers and they grew up wrestling since they were 5, 6 years old, and they’ve been around each other for a long time,” Vance said.

Would you believe that wrestling isn’t necessarily Williams’ favorite sport? She’s been wrestling for 13 years. She followed in older brother Kam’s footsteps. He was a Finals runner-up in high school.

Softball is No. 1 for Khloe Williams now, however. She intends on playing it at Mott Community College.

Williams plays center field, showing that in addition to her prowess on the mat she can also cover some ground in the outfield.

When asked if it would be difficult to give up a sport like wrestling in which she’s had so much success, she just shrugged.

“Kind of, a little bit,” she grinned.

“She’s very humble. She just comes in the room and works hard – doesn’t really have much to say. She’s there every day. She puts her work in,” Vance said.

“That comes from her family. She comes from a very hard-working family. Her dad was a very good wrestler in high school, her brother was a state finalist in high school, so … she’s been around wrestling since she was 5 years old.”


Champion: Madison Nieuwenhuis, Plainwell, Fr. (34-7)
Decision, 4-3, over Mackenzie Burger, Mount Pleasant, Sr. (26-12)

Nieuwenhuis was dealing with a few broken bones in her left foot, but she wasn’t thinking about any kind of pain. As for thousands of eyeballs watching her from the stands, that was more stressful for her.

She suffered the injury a few weeks ago in practice.

“It was definitely nerve-racking,” she said. “Not as bad yesterday, but seeing all the people just right there watching you and you’re in the middle mat – it was definitely nerve-racking, but it also raised my spirits.”


Champion: Nakayla Dawson, Westland John Glenn, Fr. (41-2)
Fall, 3:33, over Natalie Gibson, Remus Chippewa Hills, Soph. (25-6)

Posting 41 victories in a freshman wrestling season is quite a feat. It’s almost as impressive as capturing a state title in one’s first year in high school.

Dawson accomplished both of those things.

“I just went out there and did me – didn’t really worry about who I was wrestling or what they placed or what their rank (was),” Dawson said.


Champion: Sky Langewicz, Algonac, Soph. (46-5)
Decision, 5-3, over Sunni LaFond, Gaylord, Soph. (30-15)

Langewicz captured her second Finals title in as many years, this time bumping up a weight class after winning at 105 pounds and finishing with a 19-0 record as a freshman.

On Saturday, she took a 2-0 lead in her Finals rematch against LaFond and rode it out.

“I think that’s the best part of it to be honest because, like, growing up I was always singled out, always, because I was the only girl,” Langewicz said. “I was always singled out, and I was always the only girl anywhere. It’s really cool to see this many girls. We grew enough to have our own, entire division, which is really cool.” 


Champion: Faith Burgess, Grand Blanc, Soph. (29-3)
Fall, 2:49, over Morgan Irwin, Westland John Glenn, Sr. (30-7)

Moments after she captured the Finals title, Burgess raced up the stairs with one thing in mind.

“I was sprinting to my parents. It’s very big. It’s what I look forward to the most. I like celebrating with family and friends,” said Burgess, who noted she’s also been working on her diet and cardio plan.

“(I) kind of have faith in just my pursuit for the week – get it done.”


Champion: Cecilia Williams, Mason, Fr. (23-5)
Fall, 5:28, over Isabella Cepak, South Lyon East, Soph. (45-10)

Williams tore the UCL in her left arm in January, but she wasn’t feeling too much pain Saturday at Ford Field – she was feeling just fine after capturing a Finals title in her first try.

“When I got into the season, I was going to wrestle in the guys’ division at 113, but I tore my UCL and I actually have surgery Monday,” she said. “It didn’t heal in time for guys’ Regionals so I was like, ‘I’m going to (compete with the) girls.

“It’s hard to do cradles and stuff because it pulls on it, but it was easy today. It didn’t hurt it that much.”


Champion: Margaret Buurma, Fowlerville, Soph. (31-7)
Fall, 2:35, over Jamie Cook, DeWitt, Soph. (28-7)

Buurma captured her second-straight Finals championship, having collected the title at 115 last season.  She did not take anything for granted, calling Cook “an amazing competitor.”

She leaned on her team to help pull her through the tough moments this season.

“I bonded with this team. They’re all, like, siblings to me. This team, it was definitely a different feeling. I hung out with these kids most every day,” Buurma said. “Even when we weren’t wrestling, we were doing something together. Even when I was upset, they were the ones there saying, ‘Hey, it’s OK, you’ve got the next one. Just focus on what’s ahead of you.’”

Milan’s Angelina Pena, left, and South Lyon East’s Tyler Swanigan lock up in the 130-pound title match.


Champion: Angelina Pena, Milan, Jr. (21-5)
Decision, 5-0, over Tyler Swanigan, South Lyon East, Jr. (38-15)

Pena made it two Finals titles in a row, adding one at 130 pounds after winning it at 120 last season. This time, she defeated another reigning champ in Swanigan, who won the 130-pound title last season.

How can Pena possibly top that going forward?

“Well, maybe training harder over the summer and me getting straight pins (at Finals weekend) next year – we’ll see,” said Pena, who posted three pins Friday before earning her decision Saturday.

“I train with all my friends, who are girls state champs. I’d like to thank my dad and my mom, all my coaches who’ve put in the effort to coach me through the difficult times.”


Champion: Serenity Hayes, Whittemore-Prescott, Soph. (34-6)
Decision, 1-0, over Caylynn Chandler, Birch Run, Sr. (13-3)

Hayes had not defeated Chandler in any previous meetings, but she got the win Saturday when it counted most. Despite the earlier setbacks, she entered with confidence.

“A level to where I wasn’t cocky, but just enough to where I thought I could win,” said Hayes, who placed seventh at 130 pounds last year.

“Especially being only a sophomore and only (at the Finals) for a couple years, I’m really happy.”

Whittemore-Prescott’s Serenity Hayes takes the mat for her championship bout.


Champion: Ryen Allen, Goodrich, Jr. (7-2)
Decision, 5-2, over Danni Swihart, Hanover-Horton, Sr. (35-7)

Allen finished second at 125 pounds last season after capturing a Michigan Wrestling Association championship as a freshman.

She didn’t like the feeling of being runner-up, so she went to work.

“I needed to put more work in. I was not the best that I could be and after I lost last year, I put in all the work I could,” she said. “I went and focused on nationals after, and after that I knew this year was going to be my year and I made it my year.”


Champion: Lydia Roope, St. Charles, Sr. (25-7)
Fall, 4:36, over Rihanna Venegas, Riverview Gabriel Richard, Soph. (23-5)

Roope trailed 4-2 in the third period when she surprised many – maybe even herself – by recording a pinfall.

“I don’t remember (which move she made) honestly. I don’t really remember. I just thought I was in neutral and I thought, ‘I have to score here,’” she said.

“It’s just amazing. My senior year … I don’t know if I’ll ever get a moment like that again on this stage. It feels absolutely amazing.”


Champion: Maddie Hayden, Caledonia, Fr. (25-4)
Decision, 7-5, over Brynn Green, Howell, Sr. (27-3)

After posting a hard-earned win over Green and capturing the title in her first try, it didn’t really hit Hayden until she looked up at her coaches and saw the joy in their faces.

All the hard work this season paid off.

“It’s a lot of ups and downs, obviously,” Hayden said. “I mean, everybody will tell you that, but I think the downs are really what helped me the most. Persevering through the downs really helped me get back up, and I really think that’s what’s shaped me into the wrestler I am now.”


Champion: Sabrina Nauss, Brighton, Jr. (13-0)
Fall, 1:09, over Gabriella Allen, Marcellus, Jr. (30-5)

Last season, Nauss received some fanfare for becoming the first female to win an MHSAA Individual Finals match at Ford Field.

This weekend, she was all business. On Saturday, she went to work and posted a quick pinfall.

“This one, I came in and I knew what I had to get done and I had laser focus. I got my first takedowns, and I just came in and did what I needed to do,” she said.

“Just staying focused and going out there and doing a job, just like normal – sticking to my basics.”


Champion: Mady Frisbie, Belding, Soph. (21-12)
Decision, 5-0, over Lillianna Garcia, Grand Blanc, Jr. (20-9)

After losing in this championship match last year, Frisbie went to work and came into this season with a different mindset. She guarded against “getting too cocky or getting too doubtful.”

She brought a growth mindset into this season and left with the championship. She learned some lessons.

“That it’s OK to lose. It really hurt when I lost last year, but I (learned) that losing makes you better and that’s not what it’s about, really. It’s not everything,” Frisbie said.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Clio’s Khloe Williams shows her chart after capping her high school career with a championship Saturday. (Middle) Milan’s Angelina Pena, left, and South Lyon East’s Tyler Swanigan lock up in the 130-pound title match. (Below) Whittemore-Prescott’s Serenity Hayes takes the mat for her championship bout. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)

Manuel Sisters Bring Pair of Titles Back to Romeo, Just Getting Started

By Scott DeCamp
Special for

March 2, 2024

DETROIT – Romeo wrestling coach Justin Gides was a busy man Saturday afternoon at Ford Field.

He guided sisters Belicia and Kaili Manuel to back-to-back MHSAA Individual Wrestling Finals championships on the same mat in the 140- and 145-pound weight classes, respectively.

Sounds like the Manuel pipeline may be far from drying up, too, as Gides noted there are seven Manuel sisters in total.

“I think they’ve got me busy for the next 15 years,” he said with a hearty laugh.

Belicia Manuel, a sophomore, started it off with a tight 8-7 decision over Waterford Kettering senior Emily Medford. It was Belicia Manuel’s first Finals title and made her 23-0 on the season.

Kaili Manuel, a freshman, followed with a 14-4 major decision over Riverview Gabriel Richard junior Rihanna Venegas. That made Kaili’s season record 26-1.

Between the Manuels: Two championships and a combined 49-1 record.

“I was just thinking about my family coming and watching me, and I just really didn’t want to lose in front of them,” smiling Belicia Manuel said.

“Definitely a new experience,” she added. “Having this big crowd watching me is kind of scary, but we pulled through.”

When asked who holds the upper hand in family room tussles, Belicia took the more diplomatic approach and declared a tie.

Kaili has been wrestling since she was in kindergarten, while Belicia picked up the sport in third grade.

“They’re training partners, they work together all the time, every day. They’re always at each other’s mat, they notice the small things,” Gides said. “Honestly, I could probably make them the coach some days – they know so much. They’re so detail-oriented. There will be times I’ll go to yell something and they’re already yelling at their sisters, ‘You’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do this.’ They’re big students of the game.

“I mean, it’s crazy, man. They’re good kids, they train every day. They’re two of seven of them. There’s seven daughters, they all wrestle. They train year-round – they love it.”

Champion: Madison Nieuwenhuis, Plainwell, Soph. (18-0)
Medical forfeit over Olesya Mullins, St. Louis, Soph. (19-1)

Saturday’s Finals match was easier than last year’s for Nieuwenhuis, now a back-to-back champion, not that she wanted it to happen this way.

“I’m glad that I made it (to the championship bout), but a little sad that I didn’t get to wrestle,” said Nieuwenhuis, who like last year dealt with an injury on the way to winning a title.

In 2023, she had a foot injury. This season, it was a fractured bone in her wrist.

Nieuwenhuis hopes to be fully recovered in time for the World Team Trials.

“I guess just making it to the Finals (is the highlight this season),” she said.

Champion: Natalie Gibson, Remus Chippewa Hills, Jr. (18-2)
Fall, 0:54, over Tricia Pyrzewski, Gladwin, Sr. (42-5)

Pyrzewski had success against Gibson this season, but this time Gibson didn’t even give Pyrzewski time to think.

The bout was over in a hurry. Gibson captured her first championship after finishing runner-up at 105 pounds last season. This was her third Finals trip.

“Honestly, I think I just caught her and we’re super competitive with each other. She’s beat me twice already this year,” Gibson said. “I caught her in a perfect moment and I stuck her – it was super quick.

“We had a game plan and it kind of went with our game plan, but it just turned out a lot more perfect than we planned.”

Gibson has been wrestling for 11 years, picking it up from her older brother’s influence.

She hopes to be right back in the same spot next season.

“Honestly, I’m stunned -- a little bit in disbelief,” Gibson said. “Super proud of all the work and everything that my coaches and I have put in and that they continued to do with the support.

Champion: Nakayla Dawson, Westland John Glenn, Soph. (9-0)
Fall, 2:25, Cheyenne Frank, Oxford, Soph. (15-1)

Some believed that the Finals match at 110 pounds was going to be Dawson vs. Sky Langewicz of Algonac, with Langewicz having won Finals titles the last two years. But Frank earned an 8-4 decision over Langewicz in the Quarterfinals.

Dawson captured the 105-pound championship last season, so bumping up a weight class pushed her a bit.

“I mean, I feel like this year was a little bit more challenging because I bumped up a weight class, but it’s kind of the same,” Dawson said. “Girls, they’re just really flexible and they’re hard to get into turns and pins. But, yeah, it’s pretty much the same.”

Dawson did match up with Langewicz, but it was in the Feb. 18 Regional Final at Birmingham Groves, where Dawson earned an 8-5 decision.

Dawson made sure to keep the right mindset and stay focused in the Final. Her career goals are clear.

“Trying to go all four (years of winning championships),” she said.

Champion: Sunni LaFond, Gaylord, Jr. (30-6)
Decision, 13-9, over Gracey Barry, Grand Haven, Jr. (34-2)

LaFond broke through after runner-up finishes as a freshman and sophomore, but it was far from easy. She seemed to be in control of her Finals match Saturday, but Barry battled to the very end and made it very interesting.

“It was really intense. I did not think that it was going to be that tough to win it, but it was worth it in the end,” said LaFond, who absorbed two bloody noses in the bout.

After the match was over, LaFond ran up the stairs of the press risers and gave her mom a hug in the front row of stands. Moments later, she was greeted by well-wishers and wrestlers with whom she’s familiar.

“I didn’t feel nervous before, I just felt like it’s just another tournament, it’s not anything special,” she said. “I mean, yeah, it’s states, but it definitely feels really good.” 

Kaili Manuel, right, works to gain control during her 145-pound championship match against Riverview Gabriel Richard’s Rihanna Venegas.

Champion: Lola Barkby, Sturgis, Jr. (17-3)
Decision, 4-2, over Faith Burgess, Grand Blanc, Jr. (25-1)

Barkby finished runner-up as a freshman and took fourth as a sophomore, but she said that different training and changing up her style yielded the results she was seeking.

You might say she kept her nose to the grindstone, so to speak. She had marks on her face to prove it.

“I’m not too happy about the mat burn on my face, but it’s a part of it,” Barkby said with a smile.

When Barkby placed second in 2022, she lost to eventual four-time state champion Angelina Pena in the 120-pound weight class.

This time, it was Barkby’s turn to leave the mat a champ.

“I mean, this is the best season that I’ve had and my team, we competed really well as a team this year,” Barkby said.

Champion: Tyler Swanigan, South Lyon East, Sr. (12-1)
Fall, 3:45, over Jamie Cook, DeWitt, Jr. (30-3)

Swanigan collected her second championship in three years. Previous experience seemed to pay off.

“My sophomore year was my first year competing at high school sports, so nerves were a lot higher coming into today being in the Finals three years in a row,” Swanigan said.

For the Finals match, Swanigan said that getting a lot of sleep, eating healthy, and drinking a lot of water helped.

She’s certainly poured enough time into it.

“I’m very happy this is the way I ended my high school career,” Swanigan said. 

Champion: Angelina Pena, Milan, Sr. (16-2)
Fall, 3:25, Isabella Cepak, South Lyon East, Jr. (10-2)

Pena won a fourth-straight championship, including the third in a row since the MHSAA added a girls division for postseason competition. She captured the 120-pound title as a sophomore and 130-pound championship as a junior.

“I mean, it’s similar (to the other three) in the fact that I won and I held the same amount of respect for all of my opponents regardless of how they lose,” Pena said. “I think it’s different (in how) it gets harder every year, you know. All the girls are getting better, they’re training all year, and you’ve just got to keep training and keep putting in more work than they are.”

Pena is proud of the growth of girls wrestling at the high school and lower levels.

She said that her Milan coach, Adam Cabarello, launched a youth program at the school and he’s invited her to come to his practices.

“The more I come in, the more girls I see. We’ve got, like, seven or eight girls in there right now. It’s really nice to be able to mentor,” Pena said. “I think it’s just going up from here. Exponentially, we’ve already seen a giant increase in the amount of girls that are joining wrestling or making it to Ford Field. I think it’s great.”

Champion: Margaret Buurma, Fowlerville, Jr. (24-1)
Major Decision, 11-2, over Paisley Denault, Clarkston, Soph. (28-2)

Buurma is a three-time champion, also achieving the feat at 125 pounds last season and 115 as a freshman.

Former Fowlerville and University of Michigan standout Adam Coon has influenced her career.

“Quite a few times over the summer when we’re training freestyle stuff, he comes in, he works with us, he tells about his journeys through high school and college and then through all the Olympic stuff and World teams,” Buurma said. “He’s somebody who I strive to be like with his success in wrestling, but also his success in the academic field and his success as an overall person.”

Buurma said she felt a little more stress and anxiety coming into the tournament.

“In the end, it’s a wrestling tournament, and we’re here because we like wrestling,” she said. “Winning’s just always a bonus.” 

Champion: Maddie Hayden, Caledonia, Soph. (11-0)
Fall, 0:49, Brynn Campbell, Holt, Sr. (30-7)

Hayden defended her title at 155 pounds, but she also overcame obstacles in the form of injuries.

“I think it’s definitely trusting my training. I had a couple of injuries, too, so I was out for a while. That was a big obstacle to overcome, too. I mean, I wanted to repeat, but my goal was also to overcome those obstacles as well,” Hayden said. “So just trusting in my training, trusting in my faith that I was going to be all right and that I could do it again because I did it last year.”

In late December or early January, she broke her fingers. Hayden was back on the mat for a week before she hyperextended her elbow.

The injuries may have seemed like a curse to some, but Hayden took them on as a challenge. They certainly didn’t seem to hinder her performance Saturday.

“Like, going into Regionals and state, I had only been wrestling a week in the past two months,” she said. “It was definitely scary coming in here with not a lot of wrestling, but that was also a fun thing. ‘Let’s see how good I could do off of not a lot of practice.’”

Champion: Maddison Ward, Niles Brandywine, Jr. (37-1)
Fall, 5:48, Heaven Cole, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix, Jr. (17-2)

The bear hug with her coach said it all immediately following Ward’s pinfall.

She summarized it with one word: “Amazing.”

“Like, I’ve been waiting for it for the longest time,” she said.

In her first Finals appearance, Ward pinned her way through the bracket.

“This year made it special because I knew I would be able to make it into the Finals this year, and it’s just exciting to be able to wrestle in the Finals – I’d never done it before,” she said.

Champion: Sabrina Nauss, Brighton, Sr. (9-0)
Fall, 1:35, Gabriella Allen, Marcellus, Sr. (25-3)

Nauss became just the third four-time state champ in Michigan high school girls wrestling history.

In another historical note, two years ago she was the first female to win an Individual Finals match at Ford Field.

“Just a lot of emotions right now. Excited. I’m excited about what’s to come next, but I’m also sad for what I’m leaving behind,” she said. “I’m leaving one of my coaches, who has coached me from the start until the very end. … I’m excited. I’m excited for the future. I’m excited for college, and there’s just so much going on right now.”

Nauss collected the 170-pound title in 2022 and 190-pound crown in 2023 at MHSAA Finals. Her freshman year, she won a championship at the Michigan Wrestling Association state tournament.

She was all business in Saturday’s Final, taking charge and trying to put it away early.

“I mean, I just wanted to come in and get the job done,” she said. “Like I’ve said before, this is a business trip for me. This is my job, so when I come in, I want to come in hard. I want to get the first takedown and I’m trying to score the most points, so coming in with a pin was my ideal for finishing the job.”

Champion: Madasyn Frisbie, Belding, Jr. (6-1)
Sudden Victory, 4-2, over Braelyn Flemming, Spring Lake, Jr. (18-4)

The now two-time champion Frisbie has been through her share of pain on the wrestling mat.

“I’ve had a really tough season because I missed the majority of my season because I dislocated my (right) shoulder,” Frisbie said. “When I got to come back, it was probably the best day of my life.

“And then I went to Regionals and lost in the Regional Finals, and I never want to have that feeling of losing again. I mean, that’s just what drove me. I decided I wasn’t going to lose, so I didn’t.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Romeo’s Belicia Manuel, right, takes on Waterford Kettering’s Emily Medford in Saturday’s championship match at 140 pounds. (Middle) Kaili Manuel, right, works to gain control during her 145-pound championship match against Riverview Gabriel Richard’s Rihanna Venegas. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)