By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
This weekend’s Division 1 team wrestling field at Kalamazoo’s Wings Event Center is power-packed again, and that might be an understatement.
Detroit Catholic Central is wrestling for its third straight Division 1 title, but four other teams that have won at least one championship over the last 13 seasons also will compete. The eight teams at Friday’s Quarterfinals have a combined 80 Individual Finals qualifiers who will go on to Ford Field next weekend as well.
Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 1, listed by seed. Quarterfinal matches begin at 2:15 p.m. Friday, with Semifinals at 9:30 a.m. Saturday and the championship match that afternoon at 3:45 p.m. All matches this weekend will be viewable live on a subscription basis on MHSAA.tv. For Friday’s schedule and results throughout, check the MHSAA Wrestling page.
#1 Detroit Catholic Central
Record/rank: 23-1, No. 1
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League
Coach: Mitch Hancock, 12th season (270-45)
Championship history: Thirteen MHSAA championships (most recent 2018), two runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Anthony Walker (26-9) fr., 112 Caleb White (19-7) jr., 130 Camden Trupp (35-6) soph., 135 Joshua Edmond (33-2) jr., 140 Marc Shaeffer (18-4) jr., 140 Derek Gilcher (28-2) jr., 145 Logan Sanom (33-3) jr., 145 Kevon Davenport (31-1) sr., 152 Cameron Amine (33-0) sr., 152 Joseph Urso (36-7) sr., 160 Manuel Rojas (24-7) fr., 189 Easton Turner (34-3) sr., 215 Brendin Yatooma (35-3) jr., 285 Steven Kolcheff (32-3) jr.
Outlook: The Shamrocks are seeking their third straight Division 1 title and sixth in eight seasons, and haven’t lost to an in-state opponent in three seasons. DCC hasn’t given up a team point during this MHSAA Tournament, shutting out all four opponents through the District and Regional. Edmond, Gilcher, Davenport and Turner were Individual Finals champions last year with Amine and Kolcheff runners-up and Yatooma, Sanom and Shaeffer placers. Davenport will be seeking his fourth title and Amine his third next weekend at Ford Field.
Record/rank: 31-0, No. 2
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West and overall
Coach: Tony Greathouse, sixth season (151-27)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2015, runner-up 2018.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Aiden Smith (33-15) fr., 119 Sam Freeman (43-4) jr., 119 Mason Shrader (29-5) soph., 125 Eddie Homrock (49-2) jr., 135 Zach Johnson (39-6) soph., 140 Rhett Newton (14-2) sr., 152 Victor Grabowski (40-10) sr., 152 Harley Berne (28-8) jr., 160 Dane Donabedian (44-9) jr., 171 River Shettler (46-2) sr., 189 Greyson Stevens (46-4) jr., 215 Luke Stanton (25-1) jr., 285 Colby Ford (40-14) sr.
Outlook: The Bulldogs enter seeded second for the second straight season. Brighton shut out two postseason opponents and defeated No. 10 Holt in the Regional Final to get back to Kalamazoo, after finishing first in a league that included two more top-five teams in Division 1. Stanton, Shrader, Homrock, Johnson, Donabedian, Grabowski and Shettler all were Finals placers a year ago, Shettler a runner-up. Brighton defeated possible Semifinal opponent Davison by 11 in its season opener.
Record/rank: 15-2, No. 3
League finish: First in Saginaw Valley League
Coach: Roy Hall, 21st season (538-97-1)
Championship history: Eight MHSAA championships (most recent 2006), five runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: Aden Williams (21-4) fr., 112 Owen Payne (25-10) fr., 119 Steven Garty (31-6) sr., 119 Andrew Chambal (34-3) jr., 125 Jaron Wilson (8-1) jr., 140 James Johnston (30-5) soph., 145 Landon Kish (20-16) soph., 152 Brian Case (18-7) sr., 160 Alex Facundo (33-2) soph., 171 Jay Nivison (23-9) jr., 189 Cal Stefanko (28-2) sr., 189 Trevor McGowan (20-8) sr., 215 Jimmy Colley (11-3) fr.
Outlook: Davison has reached the Semifinals six straight seasons and will wrestle Friday in its eighth straight Quarterfinal. Chambal and Facundo are reigning Finals champions and Stefanko was a runner-up last season, and Garty, Case and Nivison also were placers. Nine upperclassmen bolster a lineup that fell to Detroit Catholic Central by only six points Dec. 21.
#4 Westland John Glenn
Record/rank: 29-5, No. 4
League finish: First in KLAA East
Coach: Bill Polk, 21st season (423-124)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Josh Mars (40-13) fr., 112 Ty Cowen (45-12) soph., 125 Caleb Meekins (49-4) sr., 135 Kyle Borthwell (44-4) sr., 145 Brenten Polk (49-5) sr., 160 Graden Bowen (37-16) sr.
Outlook: John Glenn will wrestle in its third straight Quarterfinal and has missed making its first Semifinal the last two seasons by a combined six points. The Rockets edged No. 8 Temperance Bedford by two points in last week’s Regional Final. Meekins and Brenten Polk were Individual Finals placers last season and help lead a lineup with 13 upperclassmen – including eight seniors – expected to start.
Record/rank: 29-3, No. 5
League finish: Second in KLAA West
Coach: Todd Cheney, 27th season (761-109-2)
Championship history: Division 1 champion 2016, five runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Patrick Wlodyga (43-9) fr., 119 Wyatt Nault (27-4) jr., 119 Ethan Kinch (31-10) fr., 130 Kyle Kantola (45-0) sr., 135 Corey Cavanaugh (38-4) sr., 135 Bryce Cheney (39-10) soph., 145 Devon Pietila (32-20) sr., 152 Avery Dickerson (41-7) fr., 160 Tanner Culver (37-5) sr., 160 Reece Potter (21-2) sr., 215 Jon Hartman (31-20) sr.
Outlook: Hartland has moved up two seeds from last season as it prepares for its 18th straight Quarterfinal appearance. After navigating the KLAA, the Eagles didn’t give up more than 16 points in any of four District or Regional matches. Kantola was an Individual Finals runner-up last season, and Nault, Cavanaugh, Culver and Potter all were placers as well.
Record/rank: 30-2, unranked
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference Red
Coach: Brian Richardson, 10th season (210-109)
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2009), three runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 130 Trenton Wachter (47-1) soph., 135 Evan Kaser (38-11) jr., 140 Connor White (41-5) sr., 145 Jack Richardson (40-4) sr., 160 Noah Anderson (12-1) sr., 171 Cole Gleason (33-9) soph., 189 Tyler Waterstrat (35-5) sr.
Outlook: Rockford is coming off its third straight District title and returning to the Quarterfinals for the first time since finishing Division 1 runner-up in 2010. White and Richardson were both Individual Finals placers a year ago and two of eight senior starters expected to take the mat.
#7 Macomb Dakota
Record/rank: 27-5, No. 6
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red
Coach: Ed Skowneski, seventh season (207-45)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Brendan Ferretti (49-0) soph., 119 Nick Alayan (45-3) sr., 125 Justin Tiburcio (37-3) sr., 125 Bradley Weiand (34-15) jr., 130 Andrew Barrett (37-12) sr., 140 Brandon Alkazir (38-14) sr., 145 David McFadden (25-21) soph., 160 Eli Andary (42-12) sr., 171 Dustin Solomon (49-3) sr.
Outlook: This will be Dakota’s fourth straight Quarterfinal and sixth in seven seasons under Skowneski. Ten upperclassmen including seven seniors bolster the lineup after the team made the Semifinals a year ago for the second straight season. Alayan will be seeking his first individual championship next weekend after finishing runner-up the last two seasons, and Ferretti, Tiburcio and Solomon also were placers in 2018.
Record/rank: 26-5, No. 7
League finish: First in Oakland Activities Association Red
Coach: Joe Wood, second season (44-15)
Championship history: Class A champion 1991, runner-up 1995.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 125 Cole Wiegers (40-8) sr., 130 Mackenzie Hanselman (36-11) sr., 135 Conor Donahue (38-6) sr., 135 Grady Castle (35-9) soph., 140 Ethan Polick (35-10) sr., 145 Jacob Billette (37-7) sr., 160 Devin Trevino (42-4) sr.
Outlook: Clarkston is competing at the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2007, with a two-point Regional Semifinal win over No. 9 Oxford the key victory of this run. Billette was a Finals placer last season and this winter is one of six seniors holding down the middle weights.
PHOTO: Josh Edmond, here at last season’s Individual Finals, is one of four returning champions leading DCC on its quest for another team title. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
Bruce Bittenbender’s impact on the sport of wrestling in Michigan is immeasurable.
And the fact that he’ll no longer occupy a chair next to the mats at Stevensville Lakeshore High School is almost unfathomable after a legendary 52-year career there.
His list of accomplishments over that span is staggering, though the incalculable number of lives he touched — a realization that came from the outpouring of messages from his former student-athletes following his retirement announcement in late March — is what Bittenbender believes is the most important part of his legacy.
“It is absolutely heartwarming,” Bittenbender said at his retirement press conference April 1. “In many cases (some students) are on the edge. I had a guy say to me yesterday, ‘Coach, I didn’t have a father. I want to thank you.’
“How many state titles is that worth? There is a lot of that I appreciate.”
What can be quantified are the competition results during his tenure.
Bittenbender leaves with a dual meet record of 981-270-2 — the most victories in state history and the second most in the country. The program claimed 28 District titles, 13 Regional championships and 33 conference titles. The Lancers were undefeated in duals four times (1976, 1978, 1984 and 1986) and finished as MHSAA Finals runners-up twice (1986 and 1994).
“There are no shortcuts to being successful,” Lakeshore athletic director Greg Younger said. “Coach is always here. He’s probably here more than most teachers (although he retired in 2010). He is in the building early and often. He’s scrubbing the mats. I know it doesn’t magically happen. He’s always here preparing for a match and doing something here, talking to kids in the halls and building those relationships.
“He’s been a testament to hard work and what it takes to really have a goal all the time. When he steps into the wrestling room he’s always prepared, he’s always planning for tomorrow and he’s always planned for what’s coming up next. Nothing has ever surprised him.”
There were a total of 26 Individual Finals champions and 116 state placers under his watch, with Micah Hanau (also a winner in 2020), Zamuel Thompson and Aaron Lucio the most recent to have stood atop the podium and celebrate championships with Bittenbender last month at Ford Field.
Shane Williams (2020), Riley Bettich (2018), Tyler Humes (2010), Tyler Daniel (2009), Ryan Huebner (2002), John King (1992), Scott Mabrey (1992), Mark McKie (1992, 1991), Jason Cluff (1988, 1987, 1986), Dave Strejc (1988), Matt Cluff (1987, 1986, 1985), John Spear (1986), Gary Smith (1981, 1980) John Murphy (1979), Doug Smith (1978), and Rick McGrath (1974) all were guided to the state’s top individual level by Bittenbender.
For his accomplishments, Bittenbender was named Regional Coach of the Year 11 times, Michigan Wrestling Coach of the Year by the Coaches Association (2002) and National Coach of the Year twice, by the National Federation of State High School Associations (2002) and National High School Athletic Coaches Association (2010). His rightful spot in the Michigan Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame was claimed in 2010, and he was inducted into the National Coaches Association Hall of Fame the following year. In 2012, his home state honored Bittenbender with an induction into the Pennsylvania Wrestling Hall of Fame, and Milligan University (Tenn.), where he wrestled four years, did the same in 2019.
“We went through three years of pulling teeth and hard work,” said Bittenbender, who took over at struggling Lakeshore in 1970. “Finally, we hit pay dirt. We got a kid to be state champion (in 1974), Ricky McGrath. This guy opened it up. After that, kids wanted to be Lakeshore wrestlers.”
But there were thousands of others that also laid bricks over the years to help build the program up to where it is today.
“There were a lot of kids that weren’t state champions here; there were a lot of kids that weren’t District champions or Regional champions or even conference champions,” Bittenbender said. “But they were here everyday, they were working everyday, they were part of this program and you’ve got to give those kids credit.”
Ryan Quinn takes over the program after serving as assistant coach.
“I’m incredibly blessed, grateful and humbled to be part of this school, to be taking over the reins of such a successful wrestling program,” Quinn said. “It is truly an honor to succeed Coach Bittenbender. He has made such a lasting impression on my life in such a short period of time. I know with confidence he has made lasting impacts on all who are involved in his as well. His fingerprints will forever remain on this school district and wrestling program.”
Bittenbender thanked his family, all the parents, volunteers and sponsors that supported the program over the last 52 years.
“It was a great place to live; it was a great place to coach. I’m lucky. It is a great community, my kids got a great education here, and it has been great to see kids go on to be good fathers and go to work every day,” he said.
“I want to thank my family over the years. If you’re going to be a wrestling coach’s wife, you’ve got to be something special. We’re going to spend a lot more time together.”
When Bittenbender was named 2010 National Coach of the Year, Nebraska’s Tom Osborne was the keynote speaker. Bittenbender recalled him saying: ‘If you want to know if you’re a good man, write down the 10 things you want the guy to say in your obituary. If he says eight of them, you’re a good man.”
“I hope I’m a good man,” Bittenbender said.
Wes Morgan has reported for the Kalamazoo Gazette, ESPN and ESPNChicago.com, 247Sports and Blue & Gold Illustrated over the last 12 years and is the publisher of JoeInsider.com. He can be reached at email@example.com with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Retiring Stevensville Lakeshore wrestling coach Bruce Bittenbender, right, embraces Zamuel Thompson after Thompson’s Individual Finals championship win last month at Ford Field. (Middle) Lakeshore’s Matt Cluff lifts Eaton Rapids’ Scott Bolin during their 1986 Class B championship match. (Top photo by HighSchoolSportsScene.com, middle photo courtesy of the St. Joseph Herald-Palladium.)