D3 Preview: Rivals Seeded to Meet Again

February 22, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Dundee and Richmond have met in six of the last eight Division 3 Team Finals, but none carried as much anticipation as this weekend’s possible rematch is building.

Richmond claimed last season’s MHSAA title on a tie-breaker after the teams tied 28-28. They're expected to see each other again Saturday at Wings Events Center – although undefeated Remus Chippewa Hills is among six other quarterfinalists that will try to break through instead.

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 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 Dundee

Record/rank: 14-3, No. 1
League finish: First in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Coach: Tim Roberts, 19th season (494-69-1)
Championship history: Nine MHSAA championships (most recent 2016), seven runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Austin Fietz (30-12) fr., 112 Tyler Swiderski (27-10) fr., 119 Jonathon White (29-10) jr., 125 Daniel Jaworski (22-11) sr., 130 Christian Killion (28-8) soph., 135 Stoney Buell (36-4) fr., 140 Grant Ott (27-8) jr., 145 McCallister McAvoy (30-10) jr., 152 Zachary Bellaire (36-7) sr., 160 Tylor Orrison (38-3) sr., 171 Jaxon Guinn (29-8) soph., 189 Kyle Reinhart (33-13) sr., 189 Kyle Motylinski (33-8) sr., 215 Brandon Whitman (40-0) sr.
 As noted above, Dundee led by six senior starters should be as motivated as ever. The team qualified all 14 wrestlers for the Individual Finals – headlined by three-time champ Whitman. Bellaire and Orrison also won MHSAA individual titles last season, and White and Killion placed. The Vikings gave up 11 points to No. 9 Ida in the District Final but shut out their other three postseason opponents.

#2 Richmond

Record/rank: 19-5, No. 2
League finish: First in Blue Water Area Conference
Co-coaches: Brandon Day, 14th season (428-93); Preston Treend, second season (46-7) 
Championship history: Eight MHSAA championships (most recent 2017), five runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 JD Gross (22-8) soph., 112 Daniel McNichol (31-9) jr., 119 Josh Barton (24-13) soph., 135 Alec Ziza (24-9) sr., 140 Hayden Bastian (26-8) jr., 145 Ethan Wyatt (21-14) jr., 145 Alex Roberts (30-5) sr., 152 Eric Barr (16-4) jr., 160 David Kaltz (22-7) sr., 189 Luke Davis (35-8) soph., 215 Colton McKiernan (37-1) sr., 285 Tyler Marino (25-4) sr.
Outlook: This will make a decade of consecutive Quarterfinals appearances for the Blue Devils, who eliminated No. 6 Algonac in the District along the way. McKiernan and Marino were Individual Finals runners-up last season, and Roberts also placed. Those three are among five senior starters and nine upperclassmen total expected to take the mat.

#3 Remus Chippewa Hills

Record/rank: 23-0, No. 3
League finish: First in Central State Activities Association Gold
Coach: Nate Ethridge, 18th season (515-93)
Championship history: Division 3 runner-up 2016.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Carson Hayes (40-7) fr., 125 Bray Haynes (36-7) jr., 145 Austin Young (43-5) sr., 152 Jaycob Sharp (9-2) sr., 171 Robert Granberry (40-5) sr., 189 Chayton Wiggins (37-7) soph. 215 Jared Bean (33-8) sr., 215 Billy Koepf (37-3) sr., 285 Andrew Vinton (35-7) sr., 285 Colby Roosa (37-5) fr.
Outlook: After breaking through to the championship match for the first time in 2016, Chippewa Hills fell to Dundee by just six points in last year’s Semifinal. The Warriors haven’t lost again. Sharp was an Individual Finals runner-up as a sophomore and a placer last winter, along with Granberry. The tough part is two of this year’s 10 qualifiers likely won’t compete in a given match – Chippewa Hills has multiple at both 215 and 285. But nine expected starters have at least 30 wins, as do four subs.

#4 Whitehall

Record/rank: 30-3, No. 4
League finish: First in West Michigan Conference
Coach: Cliff Sandee, 11th season (261-39)
Championship history: Lower Peninsula Class C runner-up 1984.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 135 Tom Balakovitz (40-8) sr., 145 Trenton Blanchard (40-9) jr., 160 Derek McCollom (36-8) sr., 171 Kayleb Venema (46-4) soph., 189 Allen Powers (45-4) jr.
Outlook: Whitehall nearly broke into the Semifinals for the second season in a row last year, and a team with six senior starters is forecast to advance this time after coming in seeded fifth the last two Quarterfinals. Powers and junior Sam Baustert (112, 37-9) were individual placers a year ago, and senior past qualifier Josh Thommen (145, 15-6) also reportedly will return to the lineup this weekend after missing earlier rounds with an injury.

#5 Birch Run

Record/rank: 32-2, No. 5
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference East
Coach: Mike Miller, third season (88-11)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Christian Miller (40-14) soph., 119 Mac Breece (53-3) soph., 130 Kyle Parlberg (34-18) jr., 140 Mason Breece (52-3) sr., 152 Trenton Naragon (46-6) jr., 189 Brockton Cook (52-4) jr.
 This will be Birch Run’s fifth trip to the Semifinals over the last seven seasons after the Panthers missed a year ago. They gave up an average of just 16 points over their four District and Regional matches. Mason Breece, Mac Breece and Miller all placed at the Individual Finals last season and bolster an expected lineup with just three seniors but five 40-match winners.

#6 Dowagiac

Record/rank: 25-9, unranked
League finish: Second in Wolverine Conference
Coach: Colin Burandt, third season (52-25)
Championship history: Two MHSAA runner-up finishes (most recent 1998).  
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Kody Walker (45-6) sr., 189 Justin Lyle (41-11) sr.
 Dowagiac will return to the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2004 after upsetting No. 7 Lake Odessa Lakewood in the Regional Final. The Chieftains have more than doubled their number of wins from last season under Burandt, previously a Finals individual placer and later assistant coach at Niles. Walker is one of four seniors in the expected lineup and was a Finals placer in 2017.

#7 Alma

Record/rank: 32-9, No. 8
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference Central
Co-coaches: Randy Miniard, seventh season (153-85) 
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Nolan Rodriguez (39-9) fr., 119 Dametrius Castillo (33-6) fr., 130 Jarrett Ferman (41-11) soph., 152 Justin VanBlaricum (40-15) soph., 285 Greg Simmons (35-6) sr.
 A year after leading Alma to its first league title since 1992, Miniard has the Panthers at the MHSAA Quarterfinals for the first time in program history. Five seniors are joined by nine underclassmen, including five freshmen, in the expected starting lineup. Alejandro Rosas (140, 32-5) didn’t make the Individual Finals this season but was a placer in 2017.

#8 Comstock Park

Record/rank: 22-10, unranked
League finish: Third in Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue
Coach: Jim Olson, 30th season (457-225) 
Championship history: Class C champion 1974, runner-up 1980.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Bailey Borgeld (41-7) jr., 130 Zion Taylor (42-8) jr., 135 Austin Sanders (32-13) jr., 140 Christian Maldonado (39-11) jr., 160 Nick Brill (27-14) sr., 215 Joe Nagle (48-0) sr. 
Outlook: Comstock Park last made the Quarterfinals in 2015, in Division 2, and also has won three District titles over the last four seasons. Nagle and Borgeld also were Individual Finals qualifiers last year and help pace a lineup with seven 30-win wrestlers.

PHOTO: Dundee’s Christian Killion (left) and Richmond’s Alec Ziza locked up for a 1-0 decision win for Killion at 125 pounds during last season’s Division 3 Final. (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.)