D3 Preview: Past Champs Favored Again

February 24, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Only four teams have competed in MHSAA Division 3 team championship matches this decade.

And not surprisingly, those four programs have the top four seeds heading into this weekend's Quarterfinals at Central Michigan University. 

Top-seeded Richmond and second-seeded Dundee both have won three of the last six titles in this division. Third-seeded Remus Chippewa Hills and fourth-seeded Lake Fenton each have advanced to the final round once during that time and are expected to make the push again.

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 3, listed by seed. Quarterfinal matches begin at 4:30 p.m. Friday, with Semifinals at 11:30 a.m. Saturday and the championship match at 6 p.m. All matches this weekend will be streamed live on a subscription basis on MHSAA.tv. For Friday’s schedule and results throughout, check the MHSAA Wrestling page.

The MHSAA Wrestling Finals are presented by the Michigan Army National Guard

NOTE: There are only seven quarterfinalists in Division 3, and Richmond received a bye for Friday after Mount Morris vacated its Regional title because it used a wrestler at a weight for which he was not eligible.

#1 Richmond

Record/rank: 27-2, No. 2
League finish: First in Blue Water Area Conference
Co-coaches: Brandon Day, 13th season (409-87); Preston Treend, first season (27-2) 
Championship history: 
Seven MHSAA championships (most recent 2015), five runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Austin Kilburn (32-6) fr., 112 Roy Costello (36-7) sr., 125 Alec Ziza (19-15) jr., 140 Gary Resk (24-12) sr., 145 Alex Roberts (28-11) jr., 160 David Kaltz (34-13) jr., 189 Colton McKiernan (42-4) jr., 215 Tyler Marino (42-5) jr.
 Richmond returns to the Quarterfinals for the ninth straight season and after getting past league rival and No. 10 Algonac along the way. The Blue Devils were slightly upset a year ago, falling as a four seed to fifth-seeded Whitehall in the weekend’s first match, but they return with a lineup boasting 10 upperclassmen. Costello, Roberts and McKiernan all were individual placers in 2016.

#2 Dundee

Record/rank: 18-4, No. 1
League finish: First in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Coach: Tim Roberts, 18th season (478-65-1)
Championship history: 
Nine MHSAA championships (most recent 2016), six runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Jonathon White (27-15)  soph., 119 Christian Killion (24-9) fr., 119 Daniel Jaworski (28-14) jr., 140 Zachary Bellaire (32-4) jr., 145 Tylor Orrison (35-5) jr., 152 Alex Motylinski (31-4) sr., 160 Sean Sterling (22-0) sr., 171 Kyle Motylinski (32-12) jr., 189 Kyle Reinhart (35-11) jr., 189 Brandon Whitman (38-0) jr.
 Dundee climbed back to the top of Division 3 last winter with its third championship in four years and entered this postseason ranked No. 1. The Vikings shut out two opponents and gave up a combined nine points to the other two on the way back to CMU. Whitman has won two straight MHSAA individual titles, last season at 189, and Sterling is the reigning champion at 152. Orrison and Alex Motylinski also placed last year.

#3 Remus Chippewa Hills

Record/rank: 27-1, No. 3
League finish: First in Central State Activities Association Gold
Coach: Nate Ethridge, 17th season (491-92)
Championship history: Division 3 runner-up 2016.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Bray Haynes (42-9) soph., 119 Kaden Ellis (40-7) sr., 125 Mason Hayes (38-9) soph., 130 Brandon Russell (37-15) jr., 135 Nolan Saxton (52-0) sr., 152 Jaycob Sharp (45-8) jr., 160 David Spedowski (45-4) jr., 171 Robert Granberry (43-10) jr., 189 Luke Henderson (42-7) sr., 215 Billy Koepf (47-2) jr., 285 Andrew Vinton (31-10) jr.
 Chippewa Hills advanced to its first MHSAA Final last season and hardly has slowed this winter, entering the final weekend with only one loss for the second straight season and third time during Ethridge’s successful tenure. Eleven upperclassmen anchor the line-up; Sharp was the individual runner-up at 145 in 2016, while Spedowski, Koepf, Vinton and Hayes also placed.

#4 Lake Fenton

Record/rank: 33-5, No. 5
League finish: First in Genesee Area Conference
Coach: Vance Corcoran, seventh season (221-58)
Championship history: 
Division 3 runner-up 2011.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 AJ Geyer (40-10) sr., 125 Hunter Corcoran (51-2) sr., 130 Jarrett Trombley (51-0) jr., 140 Sean Trombley (48-5) soph., 152 Jackson Nevadomski (52-1) jr., 171 Logan Julian (23-16) jr., 215 Ryan Franks (42-11) sr., 285 Trent Hillger (53-0) sr.
 This is Lake Fenton’s third trip to the Quarterfinals over the past four seasons, and after coming up just four points short of advancing in the Semifinals a year ago. The Blue Devils got past Chesaning by only six points to move on this time, an accomplishment since the team voids at 103 and 119. But Lake Fenton counters with serious star power; Hillger is the reigning champion at 285 and won 215 as a sophomore, while Jarrett Trombley is the reigning champion at 119 and Geyer was runner-up last season at 103. Corcoran, Sean Trombley and Nevadomski also placed individually in 2016.

#5 Whitehall

Record/rank: 20-3, No. 4
League finish: First in West Michigan Conference
Coach: Cliff Sandee, 10th season (231-36)
Championship history: Lower Peninsula
Class C runner-up 1984.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Sam Baustert (28-15) soph., 112 Hunter Bower (24-12) jr., 119 Haddan Young (30-17) jr., 125 Mitchell White (31-13) jr., 130 Trenton Blanchard (38-11) soph., 140 Josh Thommen (35-10) jr. 145 Allen Powers (32-13) soph., 152 Jojo Dowdell (39-9) sr., 160 Kayleb Venema (36-10) fr.
 Whitehall returns as the fifth seed for the second straight season and after making the Semifinals a year ago. Eight wrestlers have won at least 30 matches for a young lineup with only three seniors expected to start – the Vikings graduated two individual champions last spring. Dowdell also placed individually in 2016.

#6 Lake Odessa Lakewood

Record/rank: 29-6, No. 6
League finish: First in Greater Lansing Activities Conference
Coach: Bob Veitch, 38th season (749-178)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Kanon Atwell (33-9) fr., 119 Cole Jackson (37-6) jr., 125 Jon Maag (32-6) jr., 152 Vern Fields (27-14) fr., 160 Jon Clack (37-10) fr., 171 Daniel Thompson (40-1) sr., 215 Jacob Kelley (35-10) sr., 285 Luke Tromp (38-6) sr.  
 Lakewood is back at the Quarterfinals for the seventh time under Veitch but first since 2011. Along the way, the Vikings posted an impressive 52-17 District Final win over No. 9 Delton Kellogg. There are only four seniors on the team, but all four have won at least 35 matches; Thompson is the reigning champion at 171. Jackson also placed last season.

#7 Caro

Record/rank: 28-7, unranked
League finish: Second in Tri-Valley Conference East
Co-coaches: Joe Fulton and William Green, first seasons (28-7) 
Championship history: Division 3 champion 2003, two runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 125 John Botkins (53-6) soph., 125 Blain Wood (51-3) jr., 135 Patrick Ford (35-2) sr., 140 DJ Daniels (53-3) soph.
 Caro is back at the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2012 after surviving a run that included a three-point win over Freeland and a six-pointer over Beaverton. Fulton and Green are former Caro wrestlers who took over the program after previously coaching at lower levels. Wood was individual runner-up at 112 last season. 

PHOTO: Caro, here against Millington, will return to the MHSAA Quarterfinals for the first time since 2012. (Click to see more from Varsity Monthly.)

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.)