D4 Preview: Hopefuls Knocking on Door

February 21, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Hudson and New Lothrop have met for the Division 4 championship the last four seasons, and last year even as the Hornets entered Finals weekend unranked.

But a look at the overall strength of this year’s quarterfinalists signals a new contender could rise.

For example, 66 Individual Finals qualifiers will take the mat for Friday’s Division 4 Quarterfinals, beginning at noon. That’s compared to 55 individual qualifiers a year ago – and three reigning MHSAA champions will be among those to watch as competition gets rolling at Wings Events Center for the first time.

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 4, listed by seed. Quarterfinal matches begin at noon Friday, with Semifinals at 9:30 a.m. 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 Hudson

Record/rank: 17-5, No. 1
League finish: Second in Lenawee Country Athletic Association 
Scott Marry, 30th season (769-180) 
Championship history: Six MHSAA championships (most recent 2017), three runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Dallas Pibbles (25-10) soph., 103 Caden Natale (27-7) fr., 119 CJ Berro (28-16) fr., 125 Scott Torres (43-4) sr., 130 Jordan Hamdan (45-0) jr., 130 Tyler Curtis (20-15) sr., 140 Carson Price (43-3) jr., 145 Jorge Sereno (27-18) jr., 152 John Betz (27-15) jr., 189 Spencer Blanco (27-9) jr., 215 Kyle Moll (15-14) soph.
Outlook: Hudson took home the champion’s trophy again last winter after three straight runner-up finishes, and a team with only two seniors among its expected starters could be gearing up for another multi-year run. Hamdan is a two-time Individual Finals champion, and he and his team have battled another schedule filled with larger schools including league foe and reigning Division 3 runner-up Dundee. The Tigers beat No. 9 Addison in their Regional Final.

#2 Clinton

Record/rank: 32-4, No. 2
League finish: First in Tri-County Conference
Coach: Jeff Rolland, fifth season (133-37)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 AJ Baxter (49-2) fr., 125 Noah Comar (52-2) jr., 125 Spencer Konz (37-10) fr., 130 Anthony Stockdale (30-22) sr., 140 Riley Jeffrey (37-15) jr., 145 Jeffrey Konz (35-13) jr., 160 Brayden Randolph (45-3) fr., 171 Eathan Hicks (40-9) sr., 171 Cecil Rafferty (25-19) jr., 189 Trent Sexton (39-10) sr., 285 Don Stump (45-8) sr.
Outlook: This is Clinton’s third trip to the Quarterfinals in five seasons under Rolland, and the then-seventh seeded Redskins missed upsetting second-seeded Leroy Pine River last year by only two points. Similar to Hudson, only four of Clinton’s expected starters are seniors, but Comar is another veteran leader with an Individual Finals championship from last season and runner-up finish from 2016. Clinton beat No. 4 Manchester in its Regional Final.

#3 Carson City-Crystal

Record/rank: 38-3, No. 5
League finish: First in Central Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Kacy Datema, eighth season (195-66)
Championship history: Division 4 runner-up 2000 and 2001. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Nolan Datema (41-3) jr., 119 Jamison Ward (47-1) soph., 125 Jaron Johnson (32-6) fr., 130 Aiden Adkins (43-6) soph., 135 Daryn Shepler (39-11) jr., 145 Braxton Seida (45-3) jr., 189 Daniel Smith (43-2) jr., 215 Brian Yeakey (40-6) soph.
Outlook: Make it six straight league and District titles and the second straight Regional championship for the Eagles, who downed No. 10 Hesperia to advance and posted a pair of shutouts in their District. Ward and Seida are returning Individual Finals runners-up from last season, and six of eight qualifiers this season also qualified a year ago for a team that still has only three seniors among expected starters.

#4 Mendon

Record/rank: 30-1, No. 3
League finish: First in Southwest 10 Conference
Coach: Caleb Stephenson, second season (46-8)
Championship history: Class D champion 1991, runner-up 1990. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Nik Andaverde (48-3) sr., 130 Kody Drewer (33-9) jr., 135 Skyler Crespo (50-1) soph., 135 Wyatt Diekman (36-13) soph., 140 Eric Vergauwen (11-3) soph., 145 Kaden Frye (26-2) sr., 171 Wyatt Cool (48-2) sr., 215 Emmett Bingaman (43-6) soph.
 Mendon will wrestle in its first Quarterfinal since the 1991 championship season, when Stephenson’s father Art Stephenson was the coach. Crespo earned the program’s first Individual Finals championship last season since 1991 as well. Andaverde, Cool and Bingaman also made the Finals a year ago, giving the Hornets their most qualifiers at the time since, again, 1991.

#5 Leroy Pine River

Record/rank: 29-6, No. 7
League finish: First in Mid-Michigan Wrestling Conference
Coach: Tim Jones, 19th season (531-123)
Championship history: Class C runner-up 1991. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Caleb Nolf (28-19) soph. 119 Dylan Stephens (39-9) sr., 125 Jordan Koetje (24-11) soph., 125 Tyler Signor (29-8) sr., 130 Jac Roberts (39-12) sr., 140 Andy Park (48-1) sr., Brocko Nelson (42-7) soph., 189 TJ Rizor (32-6) soph., 285 Bryan McCurry (37-14) jr.
 Pine River has made the Semifinals two straight seasons and more recently ran its record under Jones to include 18 league and District titles. The Bucks, who also have just three seniors among expected starters, held their District and Regional opponents to an average of 11 points the last two weeks. Seven of this season’s Individual Finals qualifiers also reached the final weekend a year ago, and six were Division 4 placers.

#6 New Lothrop

Record/rank: 23-3, No. 6
League finish: Second in Genesee Area Conference
Coach: Jeff Campbell, 17th season (431-82)
Championship history: 15 MHSAA championships (most recent 2016), five runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Andrew Krupp (27-15) fr., 119 Logan Wolford (31-14) soph., 125 Logan Zell (30-19) jr., 140 Austin Wolford (46-1) jr., 152 Zack Riley (27-11) jr., 171 Justin Carnahan (34-5) soph., 189 Allan Jamick (33-15) jr., 215 Garrett Birchmeier (19-13) jr., 285 Cameron Dusenberry (28-17) sr.
 The rest of Division 4 should be cautious of the Hornets, who rose from the sixth seed and unranked last season to finish runner-up. New Lothrop is only slightly higher-regarded this time as it seeks its fourth team title in five seasons. Austin Wolford and Carnahan were Finals placers last season as was senior Tommy Malloy (119, 33-11), one of only two seniors among expected starters.

#7 Springport

Record/rank: 19-3, No. 8
League finish: First in Big 8 Conference
Coach: Matthew Darling, second season (37-7)
Championship history: Lower Peninsula Class D runner-up 1984. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Robert Paterson (32-14) fr., 112 Trenton Graddy, 23-19, jr. 135 Thomas Potter (36-9) soph., 152 Noah Teague (39-4) sr., 171 Zach Betz (29-13) sr., 215 Aaron Ludwig (31-15) jr., 285 Luke Overweg (41-2) sr.
 Springport has won league, District and Regional championships both seasons under Darling and just missed the Semifinals a year ago, falling five points shy of advancing. Despite graduating three of six Individual Finals qualifiers from last season, the Spartans actually will take seven to Detroit next weekend. Teague and Overweg were placers last season and are two of only three seniors expected to be in the starting lineup.

#8 Onaway

Record/rank: 18-6, unranked
League finish: First in North Star League.
Coach: Mark Grant, 16th season (record N/A)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 130 Teddy Peters (33-9) soph., 135 Matthew Grant (42-3) soph., 152 Coty Ionetz (29-8) jr.  
Outlook: Onaway won its first Regional title to make championship weekend for the first time, edging Ishpeming Westwood by six in last week’s title match to advance. Grant was an Individual Finals placer last season and is among standouts on a roster with only one senior but nine underclassmen helping to fill out the lineup.

PHOTO: Leroy Pine River’s Jac Roberts (top) and Clinton's Riley Jeffrey are among standouts returning this weekend to the Division 4 Quarterfinals. (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.)