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 
Coach: 
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.
Outlook:
 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.
Outlook:
 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.
Outlook:
 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.
Outlook:
 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.)

Hall, Stevens Teaming Up to Continue Dundee Championship Tradition

By Doug Donnelly
Special for MHSAA.com

November 22, 2022

DUNDEE – How do you replace a legendary coach? 

Southeast & BorderFor the Dundee Vikings wrestling program, it takes two. 

Nate Hall and Garrett Stevens opened practice last week as the new co-coaches of the ultra-successful Dundee wrestling program, taking the reins from Tim Roberts, one of the winningest coaches in state wrestling history. 

“From day one, we’ve done a really good job of pushing each other and staying focused,” Stevens said. “The kids have been getting after it. Things are going well.” 

Dundee’s wrestling program is a rich one. Roberts stepped down with a state-record 10 MHSAA Finals titles over his 23 seasons as head coach. In all 23 of those years, Dundee won District championships, and in 22 of those 23 years the Vikings won Regional titles. Roberts not only accumulated 10 Finals championship trophies, but he also won more than 500 dual matches.  

Hall and Stevens have coached together for several years on the Dundee staff. Now they are dividing up duties and looking to start the next era of Vikings wrestling.  

“We know what we are up against,” Hall said. “We have a strong tradition to keep on. We understand two people going at it is probably the better route.” 

The move is not without precedent. In the conference that Dundee competes in – the Lenawee County Athletic Association – Clinton had co-coaches lead the Redwolves to the Division 4 championship two seasons ago. Division 3 powerhouse Richmond has utilized co-coaches in the sport as well. 

“We sort of applied together,” Stevens said. “We thought we could do this.” 

Dundee Athletic Director Ross Crow said he was hesitant at first to consider the co-coach idea, but after meeting with both realized it could work. 

Stevens, top, and Hall stand with their retired coach and mentor at various events. span>“After sitting down with them and having a lengthy discussion, I realized they have an extremely organized and articulated plan as to how they are carrying the torch moving forward,” Crow said. “Whenever I have a question, I either text or e-mail both of them on a group thread. They both chime in and more often than not, the answer is exactly the same for both of them. It's a really good fit, as they are close friends and have no egos.” 

Stevens is a 2007 Dundee graduate. He wrestled for Roberts. His dad was a Dundee wrestler as well, graduating in the 1970s. Stevens brings his connection to the Dundee wrestling community to the table as well as years of coaching experience. 

Hall is from nearby Blissfield, where he was an all-state wrestler. He wrestled for Grand Valley State’s club program and was a coach there as well. He returned to southeast Michigan to coach with his father – Adrian Madison head coach Scott Hall – and joined the Dundee staff when he became a physical education teacher at the middle school about five years ago. 

As co-head coach, Nate Hall handles a lot of the organizational duties, especially anything involving the school district, since he works there. Stevens brings a technical side of the sport with him. 

The duo believe they can make it work because of the chemistry between them. 

“I was always more of a technical wrestler,” Stevens said. “I think Tim (Roberts) felt I could help connect with the kids and teach them how to do a few things differently. 

“After I graduated from high school, I got away from wrestling for a while, but in 2011, Tim reached out to me and asked if I wanted to get back involved and it seemed like a no-brainer. I missed it. I liked being around him and there were some things I could bring to the table. I was chomping at the bit once the opportunity opened for me.” 

Stevens said Roberts was wonderful to learn from because he was such a great person and sought out input from his staff. 

“Tim’s approach to coaching was unique,” Stevens said. “He’s very open-minded and understands there is so much more to learn. You constantly want your kids and program to grow. Every year I coached with him, he changed something every year. He was constantly modifying, tweaking, and seeking out help and advice from others.” 

Hall likes how things have started. 

“It’s going very well so far,” Hall said. “Tim didn’t leave the well dry. He’s got an established program and an established wrestling community that has been supportive of both Garrett and I so far.  

Stevens and son Brady, and Hall and daughter Kimberly, celebrate the 2020 championship.“We’ve got a tremendous senior class – three state champions and another kid that was third in the state last year. Their leadership is really going to be a huge aspect of our success this year.” 

The Vikings also have 14 freshmen.          

“We’ve hit the ground running,” Hall said. “We provide a lot of opportunities in the offseason for kids to get into the wrestling room and stay active. Most of our guys are active throughout. The freshmen are a real promising group that we can keep the ball rolling,” Hall said.  

The veterans in the wrestling room include Kaden Chinavare, a Central Michigan University signee who won an Individual Finals title as a sophomore; Aiden Davis, a two-time Finals champ headed to Bucknell; and Braeden Davis, a Penn State University recruit looking for a fourth consecutive Finals title in 2023.  

“The biggest thing with this group, I would say, is their willingness to push each other in the right manner,” Hall said. “We’ve got a lot of successful individuals, and they are already going out of their way to make sure each person around them is getting the most out of their reps they can get. 

“The team chemistry is already a big part of it.” 

Both coaches admit there is pressure to maintain a program that is not just known at the state level, but nationally.  

“If you’re not feeling that pressure, maybe you’re not taking it as seriously as it needs to be taken,” Hall said. “We are here to help kids accomplish their goals, and pressure is a part of that – especially at the elite level a lot of our wrestlers want to compete at.” 

Despite the turnover in coaching, Dundee’s goals remain high. 

Dundee opens with the Grappler Gold, will go to Davison, then compete at a big invitational in Ohio. They Vikings will compete at Detroit Catholic Central and the Hudson Super 16 in late January. 

“We always want to aim high,” Stevens said.

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Nate Hall, left, and Garrett Stevens walk together during the opening march at an MHSAA Team Finals; retired coach Tim Roberts is behind them, waving. (Middle) Stevens, top, and Hall stand with their retired coach and mentor at various events. (Below) Stevens and son Brady, and Hall and daughter Kimberly, celebrate the 2020 championship. (Top and below photos by Kathy Killion.)