D2 Preview: Next Group of Stars Ready to Rise

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

March 31, 2021

Boiled down, this wrestling season has included a lot of new and a lot of different – but also a lot of opportunity for teams and athletes in all four divisions.

The new opportunities Friday for Division 2 Individual Wrestling Finals qualifiers might be considered the most bountiful of the weekend.

Only four returning champions are back in the field – meaning at least 10 new champs will be awarded. Only six of last season’s runners-up are back – so the championship matches at Grand Rapids’ Van Andel Arena will be filled with wrestlers earning that experience for the first time.

Even among those returning champs, three are only juniors – and their senior seasons would take on some added historic context if they can enter next winter coming off a repeat.

Below we look at 10 title contenders to watch Friday in Division 2, plus list all of the top seeds heading into the tournament, champs and runners-up back from 2020 and every wrestler who will make the trip to Grand Rapids with an undefeated record.

Even then, we surely missed a few who will end up making headlines Friday – but make sure to come back to Second Half late that evening as we’ll interview and report on all 14 Division 2 champions.

Wrestling begins that day at 10 a.m., and this season it’s a one-day event. Spectators remain limited, but all matches will be broadcast live on MHSAA.tv. See the MHSAA Wrestling Finals page for more information and to follow results this weekend.  

112 Nolan Wertanen, St. Joseph junior (32-0) – The reigning champion at 103 is the top seed at this weight and brings in a combined 78-2 record over the last two seasons.

119 Jack Parker, Spring Lake senior (25-1) – He’s the top seed at this weight after finishing runner-up at 112 a year ago and seventh at 103 as a sophomore.

119 Grant Stahl, Mount Pleasant sophomore (27-1) – After coming in second and finishing 39-3 at 103 last season, Stahl enters this weekend as the second seed at this weight.

125 Joe Haynes, Warren Woods Tower senior (20-1) – Last season’s champion at 119 also was second at 119 as a sophomore and third at 103 as a freshman, and is 149-17 over his varsity career.

130 Trevor Marsman, Cedar Springs senior (28-0) – Last year’s runner-up at 119 is a combined 80-2 over the last two seasons and enters his last Finals as a top seed; he also finished seventh at 112 pounds as a sophomore.

135 Zeth Strejc, Lowell senior (19-3) – The top seed at this weight is wrestling for his first championship after finishing runner-up at 130 last year and eighth at 125 as a freshman.

140 Micah Hanau, Stevensville Lakeshore junior (22-0) – He’s another reigning champion coming off the 2020 title at 130 to go with his fifth place at 125 as a freshman.

152 Jacob Gonzales, Holly junior (17-0) – The reigning champion at this weight also hasn’t lost a match since freshman year and is a combined 123-3 over his first three seasons; he also took seventh at 135 in 2019.

189 Cody Brenner, New Boston Huron senior (23-2) – After finishing runner-up last season at 171, Brenner is the second seed at his weight this weekend; he also placed third at 171 as a sophomore and eighth at 160 as a freshman.

285 Keegan Nugent, Lowell senior (27-0) – Last season’s runner-up at 215 finished 35-8 in placing for the first time and has taken another jump with an undefeated record and top seed heading into his last Finals.

Additional No. 1 seeds: 103 RJ Thome, Fremont junior (31-0); 145 Logan Slominski, Sparta senior (34-0); 160 Doak Dean, Lowell senior (24-2); 171 Jacob Lee, Lowell senior (18-1); 189 Vincent Scaramuzzino, Croswell-Lexington senior (23-0); 215 CJ Krum, St. Johns senior (33-0).

Also undefeated: 103 Cody Richards, Monroe Jefferson junior (18-0); 112 Max Montgomery, Spring Lake senior (27-0); 112 Adrian Rosas, Southgate Anderson senior (18-0); 125 Aaron Lucio, Stevensville Lakeshore sophomore (20-0); 130 Zack Hall, Lake Fenton junior (25-0); 140 Carter Hinson, Zeeland East senior (21-0); 152 Jacob Halsey, St. Joseph junior (31-0); 189 Adam Haselius, Jackson Northwest sophomore (24-0); 215 Ian Norscia, Southgate Anderson senior (15-0).

PHOTO: Holly's Jacob Gonzales, left, wrestles for the 152-pound championship during last season’s Division 2 Individual Finals.(Click for 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.)