D3 Preview: Great Stories to be Told

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

February 27, 2020

This weekend’s Division 3 story is familiar. But last year’s finish no doubt has added to the buildup. 

Dundee or Richmond has won the last 10 Division 3 team wrestling championships, and they’ve faced each other in the deciding match eight of those 10 seasons. And for the third time in five seasons, last year’s title came down to the day’s final match – this time with Dundee earning the victory by the score of 26-25.  

Those headliners are the top-two seeded teams again at Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo, but hardly the only story in Division 3. Among others, Fremont and Kingsley are in Quarterfinals for the first time, and Alma has made a big jump over the last two years to fall in alongside the favorites at the top.

The Division 3 Quarterfinals will be wrestled at 4:30 p.m. Friday. Top seed Dundee will wrestle Dowagiac, No. 2 Richmond will take on Kingsley, No. 3 Alma will face Fremont and No. 4 Montrose will match up with Remus Chippewa Hills. Semifinals are noon Saturday, with 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.

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 3, listed by seed.

#1 Dundee

Record/rank: 20-1, No. 1
League finish: First in Lenawee County Athletic Association 
Tim Roberts, 21st season (535-75-1)
Championship history: Eleven MHSAA championships (most recent 2019), seven runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Braeden Davis (31-4) fr., 112 Kaden Chinavare (27-8) fr., 119 Jacob Fenbert (21-12) fr., 125 Aiden Davis (36-4) fr., 130 Austin Fietz (34-6) jr., 135 Casey Swiderski (32-1) soph., 135 Christian Killion (39-6) sr., 140 Kyle Yuhas (21-9) sr., 145 Tyler Swiderski (40-3) jr., 152 Dominick Lomazzo (17-4) jr., 160 Stoney Buell (38-3) jr., 181 Jaxon Guinn (31-8) sr., 215 Dennis Root (33-6) sr.
Outlook: Dundee has won two straight Division 3 titles and five of the last season, and this team remains built for now and the future with only four seniors among 13 Individual Finals qualifiers. After again winning an LCAA that included Division 4 top seed Hudson, Dundee gave up a combined 15 points over four District and Regional matches on the way back to Kalamazoo. Buell will be seeking his third individual championship next weekend, while Casey Swiderski will be seeking his second straight and Tyler Swiderski and Killion are both two-time Finals runners-up. Fietz and Guinn also are both repeat Finals placers.

#2 Richmond

Record/rank: 24-5, No. 2
League finish: First in Blue Water Area Conference 
Brandon Day, 16th season (476-98); Preston Treend, fourth season (94-14)
Championship history: Eight MHSAA championships (most recent 2017), seven runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Emmet Kettle (26-8) jr., 103 Noah Harris (23-8) fr., 112 Hunter Keller (32-3) jr., 119 JD Gross (27-12) sr., 119 Josh Barton (24-8) sr., 130 Austin Kilburn (16-3) sr., 145 Kevin McKiernan (20-15) soph., 171 Wesley Peters (30-9) soph., 189 Noah Montanari (29-3) sr., 215 Luke Davis (35-2) sr., 285 Dan McKiernan (28-5) jr.
Outlook: Richmond is the two-time reigning runner-up and like Dundee always finds its way into the championship mix. After emerging with another BWAC title, the Blue Devils defeated three of league foes and also Madison Heights Bishop Foley soundly over the last two weeks, giving up a combined 48 points over four postseason matches. Keller and Davis were Finals runners-up last season, while Kilburn and Peters were placers too and Gross and Dan McKiernan also will be returning to Ford Field after competing there a year ago.

#3 Alma

Record/rank: 24-2, No. 3
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference East
Coach: Randy Miniard, ninth season (212-95)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Gianni Tripp (33-13) fr., 130 Solomon Rosales (37-9) jr., 135 Dametrius Castillo (33-7) jr., 140 Jarrett Ferman (25-5) sr., 152 Jacob Munger (28-12) soph., 160 Justin VanBlaricum (30-5) sr.
Outlook: The Panthers have made another jump, from the sixth seed last season to third this weekend as they return to the Quarterfinals for the third straight year. Alma’s road again took it through Lake Odessa Lakewood, and the Panthers doubled up the No. 5 Vikings 47-21 to win the Regional title. Rosales, Castillo, Ferman and VanBlaricum all were Finals qualifiers last season, as was sophomore Josiah Baltierra (125/31-14). Castillo was an individual champion in 2018, and he, Ferman and VanBlaricum all placed a year ago. Senior Carlos Espinoza (171/30-11) gives Alma another 30-match winner.

#4 Montrose

Record/rank: 32-3, No. 4
League finish: Second in Mid-Michigan Activities Conference 
Steve Barnette, eighth season (172-79)
Championship history: Nine MHSAA championships (most recent 2005), five runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Seth Coffin (30-19) soph., 125 Aidan Bernard (45-4) soph., 152 Robert Skinner (28-6) jr., 171 Cody Smith (29-16) soph., 215 Levi Harber (44-4) soph.
Outlook: After last season ending a 13-year hiatus from the final weekend, Montrose is back for the second straight after wins over No. 8 Birch Run and No. 10 Otisville-LakeVille at the Regional. The lineup continues to be young and promising with only two senior starters but eight sophomores and a freshman in the expected lineup. Skinner was a Finals qualifier last season and senior Griffin Barnette (285/34-7) placed although he fell just shy of qualifying for Ford Field this season.  

#5 Remus Chippewa Hills

Record/rank: 24-5, No. 6
League finish: First in Central State Activities Association
Coach: Kevin Edwards, second season (52-7) 
Championship history: Division 3 runner-up 2016.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Robert VanVleet (30-16) soph., 119 Gavin Miller (27-7) jr., 119 Taylor Gibson (32-14) sr., 125 Ozaawa Manito (24-17) sr., 130 Carson Hayes (32-8) jr., 171 Gabe Petoskey (28-18) sr., 189 Chayton Wiggins (35-8) sr., 215 Colby Roosa (33-4) jr.
Outlook: Make it nine straight Regional titles for Chippewa Hills as they look to also make the Semifinals for the sixth-straight season. The Warriors edged No. 9 Shepherd 37-31 in the Regional Final to advance this time. Hayes and Roosa are returning Individual Finals placers, and bolstering those above is junior Carl Whipple (215/33-10), a Finals qualifier in 2019 and one of five 30-match winners this winter.

#6 Fremont

Record/rank: 24-4, No. 7
League finish: Second in Central State Activities Association 
Craig Zeerip, sixth season (129-60)
Championship history: Has not competed in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 RJ Thome (44-3) soph., 152 Trey Breuker (40-8) jr., 189 Michael Romero (33-15) fr., 215 Kyler Kolk (39-8) sr.
Outlook: The former Fremont and Ohio State wrestler and Hesperia head coach Zeerip will bring his alma mater to the Quarterfinals for the first time. After coming in second in the league to Chippewa Hills, Fremont edged Howard City Tri County 39-37 in its District Semifinal – but has doubled up all of its opponents since. Eight starters have won at least 30 matches, with seniors Matthew Halasinkski (140/38-10) and Chase Knudsen (160/36-9) among those joining Finals qualifiers listed above.

#7 Kingsley

Record/rank: 25-3, unranked
League finish: Second in Mid-Michigan Wrestling Conference 
Corey Crew, first season (25-3) 
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Justin Grahn (40-7) fr., 135 Aidan Shier (36-5) soph., 145 Kyan Fessenden (31-20) fr.
Outlook: In his first season leading the program, Crew has guided Kingsley to its first Regional championship and Quarterfinals trip. Eleven of 13 starters (while giving up 152) have winning records, and eight have at least 30 wins – and the team is nearly all underclassmen, with one senior and one junior on the roster. Sophomore Kaden Patterson (160/40-12), while falling shy of making the Individual Finals, also has topped 40 wins.

#8 Dowagiac

Record/rank: 23-9, unranked
League finish: Second in Wolverine Conference 
Colin Burandt, fifth season (99-45)
Championship history: Two runner-up finishes (most recent 1998).
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Jordan Simpson (41-7) soph., 160 Lamberto Parades (35-12) sr., 215 Chris Schultz (19-12) sr., 285 Wyatt Bailey (40-8) jr.
Outlook: Dowagiac will bring double the number of Individual Finals qualifiers to Kalamazoo this weekend as it did a year ago as the program continues to build under former Niles standout Burandt. This team has six senior starters, as opposed to just two a year ago, and Bailey was an Individual Finals placer coming in eighth at 285 in 2019.

PHOTO: Alma, here against Lakewood in the Regional Final, will attempt to reach its first MHSAA team championship match this weekend. (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.)