Only two teams have won Division 4 team wrestling championships over the last decade, and before last season only five teams had competed in the deciding match over the previous 10 years.
But Clinton broke into the mix making its first MHSAA Final last winter – and five of eight Division 4 teams competing at this weekend’s Quarterfinals are seeking their first team championships, even as the long-standing powers wait at the gate as favorites again at Wings Event Center.
The Division 4 Quarterfinals will be wrestled at noon Friday. Top seed Hudson will face Onaway, No. 2 New Lothrop will face Lawton, No. 3 Clinton takes on Carson City-Crystal and No. 4 Hart wrestles Manchester.
Semifinals are 9:30 a.m. 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 4, listed by seed.
Record/rank: 26-6, No. 3
League finish: Second in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Coach: Scott Marry, 32nd season (820-191)
Championship history: Eight MHSAA championships (most recent 2019), three runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Kannon Marry (20-4) fr., 103 Dallas Pibbles (29-9) sr., 112 Bronson Marry (32-6) soph., 112 Payton Rogers (23-14) soph., 125 Jackson Miller (23-13) soph., 125 Tyler Bolenbaugh (20-19) jr., 130 Caden Natale (34-4) jr., 135 CJ Berro (25-12) jr., 152 Dylan Smith (31-8) jr., 171 Cameron Underwood (27-14) soph., 189 Kyle Moll (35-7) sr.
Outlook: Hudson has won the last three Division 4 championships and eight of the last 11. The Tigers this time emerged from a Regional where they beat No. 8 Bronson and Addison, and after Addison had defeated No. 9 Union City in the other Regional Semifinal. Although four-time Individual Finals champion Jordan Hamdan graduated, there is still plenty of experience throughout the roster – six of the individual qualifiers mentioned above are repeat qualifiers from last season, when Bronson Marry and Natale finished runners-up at their weights and Moll also was a Finals placer. This is an annual note too, but important to mention – although Hudson did not win its league, the Tigers again finished second to Division 3 top seed Dundee.
#2 New Lothrop
Record/rank: 24-1, No. 2
League finish: First in Mid-Michigan Activities Conference
Coach: Jeff Campbell, 19th season (481-92)
Championship history: 15 MHSAA championships (most recent 2016), six runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Daven Lockwood (28-12) fr., 125 Andrew Krupp (34-10) jr., 130 Alex Wolford (27-8) soph., 135 Logan Wolford (34-6) sr., 145 Harry Helmick (25-16) jr., 152 Bryce Cheney (28-3) jr., 160 Austin Barnette (35-6) sr., 189 Justin Carnahan (42-0) sr., 215 Camden Orr (38-3) jr., 285 Isiah Pasik (37-2) soph.
Outlook: New Lothrop saw its championship match streak end at five last season when it lost to Clinton in a Semifinal. But the Hornets are seeded to return to the final round after giving up only a combined 52 points over four postseason matches during this run. While last year’s team was relatively young with six seniors, this year’s has only three seniors but also six junior starters. Carnahan was an Individual Finals runner-up as a sophomore in 2018, and Krupp, Alex Wolford and Orr all were placers a year ago.
Record/rank: 28-5, No. 1
League finish: First in Tri-County Conference
Co-coaches: Jeff Rolland, seventh season (192-48); Casey Randolph, second season (58-10)
Championship history: Division 4 runner-up 2019.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Connor Busz (39-7) fr., 112 Chase Packard (31-13) soph., 112 Ethan Younts (29-18) fr., 119 Zak Shadley (28-12) fr., 130 Landis Gillman (40-8) jr., 135 George Ames (34-6) soph., 140 AJ Baxter (44-5) jr., 145 Kent McCombs (29-9) soph., 160 Spencer Konz (31-2) jr., 171 Brayden Randolph (46-4) jr., 189 Logan Badge (29-0) soph., 215 Jack Voll (35-9) jr., 285 Will Felts (26-6) jr.
Outlook: Clinton won its fifth Regional title in seven seasons and returns to Wings after reaching the championship match last year for the first time. An impressive lineup has Individual Finals qualifiers at all but two weights – 125 and 152 – and some maneuvering produces an expected starting lineup featuring all 13 qualifiers with the 14th wrestler the lone senior starter Noah Deshano (21-14). Badge is the reigning champion at 215, Brayden Randolph was the runner-up last year at 160, and Baxter, Ames, Konz and McCombs also were Finals placers in 2019. Baxter was a Finals runner-up as a freshman.
Record/rank: 33-3, No. 5
League finish: Second in West Michigan Conference
Coach: Brad Altland, eighth season (221-86)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Trayce Tate (37-7) fr., 112 Trenton Swihart (18-17) fr., 125 Spencer Vanderzwaag (34-6) jr., 130 Chance Alvesteffer (48-3) soph., 135 Mason Cantu (49-2) soph., 145 Jerry Brandel (35-7) sr., 152 Thomas Tanner (35-7) jr., 171 Leo Guadarrama (43-10) soph., 215 Braeden Carskadon (34-16) jr., 285 Tanner Breitwisch (39-5) sr.
Outlook: Hart is making its second appearance at the Quarterfinals, and first since 1990, after defeating No. 7 LeRoy Pine River to open the District and then cruising through three big wins. This run is even more impressive considering the Pirates graduated an individual champion and two more Finals placers last spring. As with Hudson above, it should be noted that while Hart didn’t win its league this winter, it did finish second to Division 2 No. 8 Whitehall in the WMC.
Record/rank: 35-2, No. 4
League finish: First in Cascades Conference
Coach: Steve Vlcek, 30th season (636-215)
Championship history: Division 4 runner-up 2008.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Jacob Bunn (43-5) soph., 112 Jared Bunn (41-8) soph., 125 Drew Gebhardt (47-3) sr., 130 Jacob Shelby (46-1) sr., 140 Adam Pringle (38-10) jr., 145 Jacob Kurgin (39-7) sr., 152 Jacob Snowden (14-7) jr., 152 Garrett Pope (38-12) soph., 160 Nick Phillips (31-8) sr., 171 Derek Guenther (41-7) sr., 189 Collin McCaffrey (41-6) sr., 285 Simon Lato (47-2) sr.
Outlook: Manchester will make the trip the Quarterfinals for the fourth time in five seasons after giving up a combined 32 points over four postseason matches and defeating No. 10 Springport in the Regional Final for the second-straight year. Six returning Finals placers anchor the lineup, with Shelby a runner-up at 130 pounds last season after falling just 2-0 to Carson City-Crystal’s Jamison Ward in their championship match. He’s also one of seven Flying Dutchmen with at least 40 wins this season. Kurgin, Lato, Gebhardt, and Jared and Jacob Bunn also are returning placers.
#6 Carson City-Crystal
Record/rank: 32-4, No. 6
League finish: First in Mid-State Activities Conference
Co-coaches: Kacy Datema, 10th season (267-74); Dallas O’Green, first season (32-4)
Championship history: Division 4 runner-up in 2000 and 2001.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 125 Jaron Johnson (35-0) jr., 135 Jamison Ward (46-0) sr., 140 Cole Stone (42-5) soph., 145 Bryce Stanley (38-10) soph., 160 Blain Mitchell (31-7) jr., 171 Nash Akin (37-9) sr., 215 Ryan Holland (33-12) sr., 285 Brian Yeakey (45-3) sr.
Outlook: The Eagles are making their fourth-straight trip to the Quarterfinals and in sixth in 10 seasons under Datema. Although Carson City-Crystal graduated a good share of star power from last year’s run to the Semifinals, plenty returns to the mat this weekend. Ward is a two-time finalist and won the title at 130 pounds last season, and Johnson and Yeakey also were Finals placers.
Record/rank: 25-10, unranked
League finish: First in Southwestern Athletic Conference
Coach: Troy Johnson, seventh season (175-59)
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 1990), two runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Dustin Mallory (42-13) fr., 140 Landyn VanWyk (47-4) sr., 145 Carter Cosby (36-13) fr.
Outlook: Johnson – an individual champion as a senior in 1987 during Lawton’s string of team titles – has the program back at the Quarterfinals for the first time since his first season coaching in 2014. Eight expected starters are freshmen or sophomores. But Andrew O’Donnell (38-12/160 pounds) and Harrison Maynard (16-5/189) join VanWyk in providing senior anchors, and junior Dominic Pickett (33-18/135) also is among five with at least 30 wins this winter.
Record/rank: 11-14, unranked
League finish: Fifth in North Star League
Coach: Mark Grant, 19th season (156-223)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 135 Teddy Peters (17-3) sr., 140 Matthew Grant (20-1) sr., Brendan Fenstermaker (27-9) jr., Seth Enos (22-15) jr.
Outlook: Onaway has now won three-straight Regional titles and three in program history, and all four individual qualifiers mentioned above also were individual qualifiers in 2019. All 10 weights beginning with 130 and heavier are filled by juniors and seniors. Grant placed sixth at 135 pounds last season after finishing runner-up at that weight in 2018.
DUNDEE – How do you replace a legendary coach?
For 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.
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.
“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.)