D1 Preview: Davison, Detroit Catholic Central Lead Returning Champs Charge

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

March 3, 2022

The MHSAA Individual Wrestling Finals returns to Ford Field this weekend, and Davison and Detroit Catholic Central will lead the way in Division 1 with four returning champions apiece.

After meeting again in Saturday’s Division 1 Team Final, those rivals dominate the list of 10 contenders we look at below – along with a list of other top seeds heading into this weekend, returning Finals runners-up and a few more making the trip to Detroit with an undefeated record.

The Grand March on Friday begins at 10 a.m., with wrestling through semifinals that evening. Wrestling begins again at 9 a.m. Saturday with championship matches at 3:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased at Ford Field. All matches will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv, and we’ll talk to all 14 champions in each division for our Second Half coverage published later that evening and overnight. See the MHSAA Wrestling Finals page for more information and to follow results this weekend.

112 Caleb Weiand, Macomb Dakota junior (44-0) – The top seed at his weight also entered last season’s Finals undefeated and suffered his only loss in the 103 championship match.

119 Drew Heethuis, Detroit Catholic Central junior (28-3) – Last season’s champion at 112 moves up a weight and is the top seed this weekend with only one loss this season to an in-state competitor (Dundee’s Braeden Davis).

119 Justin Gates, Davison sophomore (27-3) – Last season’s champion at 103 is up two weights, putting him on a course to meet Heethuis in the title match after losing to him 2-1 at last week’s Team Final.

125 Caden Horwath, Davison junior (26-0) – Last year’s champion at 119 is going for his third individual championship after also claiming the 103 title in 2020. He’s 96-2 for his career and hasn’t lost in two seasons.

140 Dylan Gilcher, Detroit Catholic Central junior (35-0) – He’s also wrestling for a third championship after winning 135 last year and 112 as a freshman. He’s 101-4 for his high school career.

152 Darius Marines, Detroit Catholic Central sophomore (31-4) – He debuted at the Finals last year by winning an all-DCC championship match at 145, and he’ll look to add another title as his weight’s top seed this weekend.

171 Manuel Rojas, Detroit Catholic Central senior (34-2) – The two-time reigning champ at 189 will attempt to close his career with a third-straight title, his only in-state loss this season at the Team Final to Davison’s Josh Barr 4-3. He also defeated Barr 3-2 at the beginning of January.  

171 Josh Barr, Davison junior (24-1) – He’s also seeking a third title after winning last season at 160 and at 152 as a freshman. He’s on the other side of the bracket from Rojas this weekend, setting up a possible tie-breaker to their season series with the title on the line.

215 Jimmy Colley, Davison senior (28-2) – He’s wrestling his fourth Finals at this weight, entering as the top seed and reigning champion after also finishing fourth as a freshman and third as a sophomore.

285 Joshua Terrill, Holt senior (39-2) – He’s the top seed and will attempt to take the final step up the podium after finishing runner-up at this weight a year ago.

Other 2021 runners-up: 140 Evan Herriman, Davison junior (17-3, 135 last year); 189 Remy Cotton, Davison senior (23-3, 189 last year for Traverse City Central).

Additional No. 1 seeds: 103 Ozia Wilson, Macomb Dakota freshman (44-0); 130 Elijah Bunn, Rockford junior (39-1); 135 Aiden Smith, Brighton senior (40-1); 145 Nathan Jerore, Brownstown Woodhaven senior (34-1); 160 Jaylon Riggins, Jackson senior (24-0); 189 Aidan Wardell, Midland Dow senior (41-3).

Also undefeated: 152 Noah Tgiros, Utica Ford senior (40-0); 285 Giulian Bodiu, Canton senior (25-0).

PHOTO Detroit Catholic Central's Drew Heethuis, top, controls his match on the way to a major decision during Saturday's Team Semifinals. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

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

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)