D2 Preview: On the Cusp of History

February 27, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

A year ago, Fowlerville's Adam Coon shared The Palace of Auburn Hills spotlight with the latest wrestler to win four MHSAA individual championships, St. Johns' Taylor Massa. 

This weekend, Coon will attempt to become the 17th to accomplish that historical feat. 

See below for 10 contenders to watch this weekend, plus others who enter the tournament undefeated or coming off runner-up finishes in 2012. Follow all the matches beginning with Thursday's first round live on MHSAA.tv, and click here for results at MHSAA.com. And check back with Second Half later Saturday night for full coverage from the Finals, including comments from all 14 champions. 

10 to watch

285: Adam Coon, Fowlerville senior – Attempting to becom the 17th in MHSAA wrestling history to win four individual titles, and is the favorite entering 51-0.

125: Zac Hall, St. Johns junior – Trying to add a third individual championship after winning 112 last season and 103 in 2011, and is 44-0 after last weekend’s Team Finals.

130: Jacob Schmitt, St. Johns senior – Going for his fourth championship match appearance after winning 103 in 2010, 125 last season and finishing runner-up at 112 in 2011; enters 47-0 this winter.

135: Anthony Gonzales, Holly senior – Looking for his third championship after winning 130 last season and 112 in 2010; comes into the weekend 50-3.  

140: Kyle Simaz, Allegan junior – Going for his first championship after finishing runner-up at 130 last season and at 119 in 2011; enters 57-1.

145: Ben Whitford, St. Johns senior – Comes in 33-0 and looking to add a second-straight championship after winning 140 last season.

152: Josh Pennell, St. Johns senior – Looking to finish his final season undefeated (he’s 36-0 coming in to this weekend) and with his first championship after finishing runner-up at 119 in 2010.

152: Kenny Cross, Hastings senior – Striving to finish strong in his first Individual Finals appearance and with a 49-0 record coming into the weekend.

171: Brett Dempsey, Mattawan senior – Just missed last season’s championship match at this weight, finishing third, and enters this weekend 52-0.

215: Brian Moran, Fowlerville senior – After finishing fourth at last season’s Finals, looking to graduate with a title and perfect season after entering this weekend 52-0.

Also undefeated: Chelsea junior Steve Bleise (135, 42-0), New Boston Huron sophomore Logan Ritchie (160, 52-0), Chelsea senior Mike Hovater (189, 39-0), Lowell junior Garett Stehley (189, 27-0), Lowell senior Taylor Kornoely (215, 33-0).

Other returning runners-up: Hamilton senior Collin Welcher (119, 46-2, 103 in 2012), Lapeer West senior Dean Somers (119, 43-1, 112 in 2012), St. Johns sophomore Logan Massa (135, 38-2, 119 in 2012), Holly senior Mason Cleaver (135, 50-2, 125 in 2012), St. Johns senior Payne Hayden (189, 41-1, 215 in 2012).

PHOTO: Fowlerville's Adam Coon (far left) stands at the top of awards podium after claiming a Division 2 championship last season. (Click to see more at 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.)