D2 Preview: Lowell Aims to be 3rd to 5

February 22, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

After becoming the fifth school in MHSAA history to win four straight Team Wrestling Finals last year, Lowell can become just the third to make it five consecutive this weekend at Wings Events Center.

The Red Arrows will be chasing the record for longest streak held by Davison 2002-06 and Hudson 2009-13, and are seeded No. 1 again heading into Friday’s Quarterfinals – but with last season’s runner-up Warren Woods Tower right behind at No. 2.

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 2, listed by seed. Quarterfinal matches begin at 6:45 p.m. Friday, with Semifinals at noon Saturday and the championship match that afternoon at 3:30 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 Lowell

Record/rank: 17-4, No. 1
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference White
Coach: RJ Boudro, fourth season (86-11) 
Championship history: Seven MHSAA championships (most recent 2017), six runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Nick Korhorn (28-8) soph. 119 Dawson Jankowski (22-9) soph., 125 Zeth Strejc (21-9) fr., 130 Jeff Leach (24-7) jr., Doak Dean (29-9) fr., 135 Avry Mutschler (35-4) jr., James Fotis (30-10) soph., 145 Austin Boone (37-1) soph., 171 Austin Engle (30-7) sr., 189 Dave Kruse (35-3) sr., 215 Connor Nugent (33-11) sr., 215 Keigan Yuhas (15-1) sr., 285 Tyler Deloof (29-7) soph.
Outlook: Lowell will try to win a fifth straight Division 2 title led by a reigning individual champion in Boone and 2017 placers Leach, Mutschler and Kruse. They are four of nine Individual Finals qualifiers who also took the mat for last season’s championship match win over Warren Woods-Tower. The Red Arrows marched through the District and Regional rounds this time giving up a total of 34 points over four matches. Two of this year’s losses were to Division 1 top-ranked Detroit Catholic Central and Division 3 top-ranked Dundee.

#2 Warren Woods Tower

Record/rank: 25-5, No. 3
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red
Co-coaches: Greg Mayer and Russell Correll, 18th seasons (352-238)
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2017.
Individual Finals qualifiers: Joe Haynes (40-4) fr., 112 Dru Wilson (34-14) fr., 119 David Stepanian (38-2) jr., 125 Chaise Mayer (46-1) jr., 145 Keff O’Connell (29-13) jr., 152 Jajuan Lovejoy (40-6) sr., 215 Joel Radvansky (38-4) jr., 285 CJ Sheir (30-17) jr.
 The Titans reached their first MHSAA championship match last year and gave Lowell a run before falling 32-21. Nine upperclassmen (but just three seniors) dominate the lineup, with Mayer a two-time Individual Finals runner-up and O’Connell, Lovejoy, Radvansky and senior Austin Frederick (152, 11-7) all placers a year ago. Haynes, Wilson, Stepanian and Mayer give the team strength at the lightest weights and are backed up by two more freshmen with at least 26 wins apiece this winter.

#3 Gaylord

Record/rank: 35-1, No. 4
League finish: First in Big North Conference
Coach: Jerry LaJoie, 24th season (666-131-2)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Chayse LaJoie (40-3) soph., 119 John Sosa (31-6) soph., 125 Derek Giallombardo (45-3) sr., 140 Jacob McKnight (33-6) soph., 160 Nick Brewster (22-8) sr., 171 Cade Foster (45-3) sr., 285 Joe Markham (44-4) sr.
Outlook: Gaylord got past nemesis and No. 8-ranked St. Johns at the Regional to return to the Quarterfinals for the third time in four seasons after missing a year ago. Chayse LaJoie is a reigning Individual Finals champion, and Markham, Sosa and Giallombardo also were placers in 2017. Nine expected starters have at least 30 wins, including three of five seniors who will take the mat – but seven starting sophomores indicate good things are yet to come as well.

#4 Eaton Rapids

Record/rank: 26-4, No. 5
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference White
Coach: Joe Ray Barry, sixth season (190-42)
Championship history: Eight MHSAA championships (most recent 1999), nine runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers103 Robert Davids (33-5) fr., 125 Chris Haynes (35-9) soph., 135 Chad Haynes (30-8) soph., 140 Caleb Fish (43-2) soph., 152 Brayden McNamara (35-9) jr., 160 Austin O’Hearon (40-1) sr., 215 Dallas Price (28-12) sr.
 Eaton Rapids is back at the Quarterfinals for the first time since finishing Division 2 runner-up in 2015. After winning their District matches by a combined 147-3, the Greyhounds got past rival Mason and upset No. 2 DeWitt at the Regional. O’Hearon is a reigning individual champion but one of only three senior starters. Fish also was an Individual Finals placer last season and is one of seven underclassmen expected to take the mat.

#5 Stevensville Lakeshore

Record/rank: 21-1, No. 6
League finish: First in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West
Coach: Bruce Bittenbender, 48th season (911-256-2)
Championship history: Two MHSAA runner-up finishes (most recent 1994).
Individual Finals qualifiers: Riley Bettich (38-2) soph., 103 Bailey DeLaTorre (30-10) soph., 125 Shane Williams (33-7) soph., 140 Tony Williams (39-2) sr., 145 Kearri Myrick (25-10) sr., 160 Cody Carlisle (40-3) sr., 189 Ryan Rush (30-13) sr., 215 Zeke Rohl (29-10) soph., 285 Tyler Hill (34-2) sr.
Outlook: Lakeshore is back at the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2012, led by the winningest coach in state wrestling history in Bittenbender. The Lancers got past rival and No. 7-ranked Niles at the District before giving up a total of 20 points in sweeping the Regional. Bettich was an individual runner-up last season and Tony Williams also placed at the Individual Finals. Interestingly, the starting lineup is split evenly between seniors and sophomores, and almost evenly with seniors at seven of the eight heaviest weights.

#6 Goodrich

Record/rank: 25-5, No. 9
League finish: First in the Genesee Area Conference
Coach: Kenneth Sirignano, eighth season (record N/A) 
Championship history: Two MHSAA championships (most recent 2009), two runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Caleb Teague (38-4) jr., 125 Carson Turnbow (32-12) jr., 160 James Penfold (11-1) jr., 171 Juwan Vines (31-8) soph., 189 Honour Kline (40-4) jr., 285 Blake Coffell (38-5) jr.
 Goodrich had a nice run in Division 3 over the previous two decades with all four of its championship match appearances between 1997-2009. This is the Martians’ second Quarterfinal trip in Division 2 after they also made it in 2016, and they haven’t let an opponent get closer than 19 points during this postseason run. Coffell and Kline were Individual Finals placers last season.

#7 Allendale

Record/rank: 35-7, unranked
League finish: First in O-K Blue
Coach: Duane Watson, 30th season (606-235)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers125 Asher Meekhof (46-7) sr., 135 Gabe TeBos (45-6) sr., 145 Nathan Wynsma (43-4) jr., 160 Dillon Reeder (29-13) jr., 215 Jordan DeGroot (43-8) soph., 285 Adam Ginn (30-12) sr.
Outlook: Allendale will make its second straight Quarterfinals appearance after giving up 40 points total over four District and Regional matches. The Falcons are bringing six Individual Finals qualifiers instead of five a year ago, when they entered the weekend seeded fifth. Wynsma was an individual placer last season and Meekoff placed in 2016 – the latter is one of nine senior starters.

#8 Tecumseh

Record/rank: 24-7, unranked
League finish: First in Southeastern Conference White
Coach: A.J. Marry, third season (62-29)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Vincent Perez (49-0) jr., 119 Joshua Hilton (41-15) jr., 125 Kellen Patton (39-7) jr., 140 Kyle Yuhas (38-13) soph., 160 Gabe Bechtol (34-8) sr., 171 Clayton Boatright (24-21) jr., 189 Ryan Roberts (47-6) sr.
Outlook: It’s tough to imagine a more accomplished No. 8 seed. Tecumseh will be wrestling in its seventh Quarterfinal in eight seasons, bringing in seven Individual Finals qualifiers – one more than last year’s team that fell to Lowell 41-20 in the opener. Patton was a repeat individual placer last season and Perez also placed at the Individual Finals – and both are among 11 starters who should return for another run in 2019 as well.

PHOTO: Lowell’s Keigan Yuhas and Warren Woods Tower’s Jajuan Lovejoy lock up during last season’s Division 2 championship match. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

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

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)