D4 Preview: Return of Familiar Championship Match Anticipated

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

February 23, 2022

After a few seasons with a new champion changing things up in Division 4, expectations are we'll see the return this weekend of one of our most familiar MHSAA Team Wrestling Finals title-deciding matchups.

With two-time reigning champion Clinton now in Division 3, Hudson and New Lothrop occupy the top two seeds heading into Friday's Quarterfinals at Wings Event Center. They are lined up to see each other in Saturday's finale, just as they did five straight seasons from 2014-18.

Division 4 Quarterfinals – matchups below – begin at noon Friday at Wings’ Arena, with Semifinals at 9:30 Saturday morning and the championship match at 3:45 p.m.

#1 Hudson (19-4) vs. #8 LeRoy Pine River (27-11)
#4 St. Louis (23-3) vs. #5 Decatur (24-6)
#3 Bronson (32-6) vs. #6 Manchester (21-6)
#2 New Lothrop (21-2) vs. #7 Iron Mountain (19-3)

Tickets for Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Finals will be sold by the Wings Event Center box office. All matches for all three rounds also will be viewable on MHSAA.tv with subscription.

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 4, listed by seed.

19-4, No. 1
League finish: Tied for second in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Coach: Scott Marry, 34th season (862-198)
Championship history: Eight MHSAA championships (most recent 2019), four runner-up finishes. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Cole Marry (18-12) soph., 125 Austin Marry (21-11) soph., 130 Jackson Miller (23-10) sr., 130 Kannon Marry (16-7) jr., 135 Payton Rogers (27-6) sr., 140 Bronson Marry (21-2) sr., 145 Aden Barrett (26-12) jr., 152 Calix Campbell (27-11) jr., 171 Logan Ryan (16-21) soph., 189 Cameron Kimble (37-1) sr., 215 Logan Sallows (27-8) jr.  
Outlook: Hudson is back as the top seed with no end to its success in sight as the starting lineup includes only six seniors, while seven of 11 Individual Finals qualifiers have one or more high school seasons remaining. Bronson Marry was the individual runner-up last season at 130 and won 112 as a sophomore, and six other 2021 individual placers also are back – Cole Marry, Rogers, Austin Marry, senior Tristan Bolenbaugh, Miller and Barrett. The Tigers emerged from a league that also includes Clinton and reigning Division 3 champion Dundee.   

21-2, No. 2
League finish: First in Mid-Michigan Activities Conference
Coach: Jeff Campbell, 21st season (525-97)
Championship history: 15 MHSAA championships (most recent 2016), seven runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Blake Wendling (28-14) fr., 112 Daven Lockwood (29-12) jr., 130 Dalton Birchmeier (27-10) fr., 145 Jack Kulhanek (37-13) soph., 189 Cooper Symons (19-4) sr., Grayson Orr (42-4) jr., 285 Isiah Pasik (40-0) sr.
Outlook: New Lothrop returned to its first Final last season since 2018 and finished runner-up, and is expected to reach the championship match again with a much younger lineup featuring only two seniors. Pasik is the returning champion at 285 and hasn’t lost a match since his sophomore season, and junior Brady Gross also is a returning Finals placer.

32-6, No. 5
League finish: Second in Big 8 Conference
Coach: Chad Butters, ninth season (226-60)
Championship history: Division 4 runner-up 2002 and 2003.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Aiden Fill (38-12) soph., 119 Perry Lake (42-11) jr., 145 Devlin Duff (29-19) jr., 152 Carson Norton (29-15) soph., 171 Jacob Britten (41-14) soph., 189 Jacob Dixon (28-15) jr.
Outlook: The Vikings are back at the Finals for the first time since 2017, and with only one senior starter are built to return. They defeated No. 4 Union City and Springport to advance this time and have reached Regionals all nine seasons under Butters. Junior Mathew Blankenship (43-12 at 214) leads the team in wins this winter, and eight regulars have at least 30.

23-3, No. 3
League finish: First in Tri-Valley Conference West
Coach: Kevin Kuhn, 16th season (298-104)
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Colin Kuhn (34-4) fr., 112 Robert Long-Terwilliger (23-13) sr., 130 Dylan Marr (17-9) jr., 135 Nate March (30-10) sr., 145 Martine Wiggins (32-7) fr., 171 Justice Onstott (33-7) jr., 215 Ben Dousuah (19-7) sr., 285 Braden Ball (25-8) sr.
Outlook: The Sharks are coming off their first Regional championship since 1995, and none of four postseason opponents got closer than 34 points of catching them. Onstott is a returning Finals placer after claiming seventh at 189 last season. Three of the team’s top five winners are freshmen; Genaro Soto (28-17 at 125) joins Colin Kuhn and Wiggins in that group.

24-6, No. 10
League finish: First in Southwest 10 Conference
Coach: Mitchell Kennedy, fifth season (65-59)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 130 Dart Avery (33-12) fr., 140 Andrew Confer (41-6) sr., 189 Gavin Boodt (40-4) sr., 285 Tanner Shugars (30-8) soph.
Outlook: Decatur is returning to Finals weekend for the first time since 2016 off a third-straight District title, and the future is bright with 11 freshman and sophomore starters. Confer was seventh at 130 last season, and junior Braydon Ross (15-3 at 285) also is a returning Finals placer. Total, seven Raiders have won at least 30 matches this season, and Brett Clauser – the team’s only other senior – is right there with 28.  

21-6, No. 7
League finish: Tied for first in Cascades Conference
Coach: Steve Vlcek, 32nd season (678-222)
Championship history: Division 4 runner-up 2008.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Onyx Ostrom (21-24) fr., 112 Jacob Bunn (41-2) sr., 119 Jared Bunn (44-4) sr., 135 Mason Schmitt (41-4) jr., 135 Adam Grebe (33-15) fr., 171 Garett Pope (39-5) sr.
Outlook: After missing last season, Manchester is back at the Finals coming off four-point wins over Laingsburg and Lutheran Westland at the Regional. Pope, Jared Bunn and Jacob Bunn all are returning Finals placers and among even starters with at least 30 wins. Those three also are the only seniors as the team starts nine underclassmen.

19-3, No. 9
League finish: First in Mid-Peninsula Conference
Coach: Cory McLaren, fifth season (66-42)
Championship history: Five Upper Peninsula Finals championships, three UP runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Alexander Wilson (31-8) soph., 119 Tyler Winch (28-13) soph., 119 Shawn McGuire (34-2) jr., 125 Daniel Manier (27-11) fr., 140 Isaac Manier (36-6) sr., 145 Evan Haferkorn (35-6) jr., 152 Parker Stroud (36-6) sr., 152 Kivi Mason (21-7) soph., 171 Fulton Stroud (29-5) soph.
Outlook: The Mountaineers are among the most intriguing teams making the trip to Kalamazoo as they return to Finals weekend for the first time since 2011. The team has only two seniors and 15 wrestlers total, but the second-most Individual Finals qualifiers in Division 4. McGuire, Haferkorn and Parker Stroud all were Finals placers last season. Among postseason wins was a 41-39 victory over Bark River-Harris, which also was ranked in Division 4 at times this winter.

27-11, No. 8
League finish: Third in Mid-Michigan Wrestling Conference
Coach: Terry Martin, second season (47-17)
Championship history: Class C runner-up 1991.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Bryant Wing (11-10) fr., 119 Jordan Nelson (37-15) jr., 140 Ryder Holmes (36-8) soph., 145 Wyatt Underhill (36-14) sr., 152 Phil Rigling (44-9) sr., 160 Cayden Mys (41-12) sr., 171 Rogan Nelson (32-13) sr., 215 Andrew Baldwin (21-16) soph.
Outlook: Pine River is another strong lower seed with eight individual qualifiers from a tradition-rich program. Martin, who also serves as Pine River’s football coach, was a wrestling assistant under former coach Tim Jones for nearly the entirety of Jones’ 20 seasons and 654 wins. Martin has led the team to District titles the last two seasons, and seven seniors and two juniors anchor this lineup.

PHOTO St. Louis, here wrestling during the Division 4 Individual District at Carson City-Crystal, is back at Team Finals weekend for the first time since 1995. (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.)