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.
Record/rank: 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.
#2 NEW LOTHROP
Record/rank: 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.
Record/rank: 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.
#4 ST. LOUIS
Record/rank: 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.
Record/rank: 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.
Record/rank: 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.
#7 IRON MOUNTAIN
Record/rank: 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.
#8 LEROY PINE RIVER
Record/rank: 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.)
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.)