Division 2: Redwings Look to Soar for 4

February 21, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Only three wrestling teams have won at least four straight championships since the first MHSAA Team Finals in 1988. This weekend, St. Johns will seek to become the fourth to pin down that accomplishment. 

But this might be the Redwings toughest road to finishing the season with a win. Six of last season's Quarterfinalists also will be back at Battle Creek's Kellogg Arena. 

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 2, listed by seed. Their Quarterfinal matches begin at 7:45 p.m. Friday, with Semifinals at 11:45 Saturday morning and the championship match at 4 p.m. All matches this weekend will be streamed live on MHSAA.tv. For results throughout, check the MHSAA Wrestling page. Rankings below are from MichiganGrappler.com

#1 ST. JOHNS

Record/rank: 19-4, No. 1
League finish: Tied for first in Capital Area Activities Conference Red
Coach: Derek Phillips, first season (19-4)
Championship history: Three MHSAA championships (most recently 2012)
Individual Finals qualifiers: 285 Ben Proctor (28-9) sr., 103 Ian Parker (43-1) fr., 125 Zac Hall (42-0) jr., 130 Jacob Schmitt (44-0) sr. 135 Logan Massa (35-2) soph., 140 Mark Bozzo (24-11) jr., 145 Ben Whitford (30-0) sr., 152 Josh Pennell (33-0) sr., 171 Angus Arthur (39-3) soph., 189 Payne Hayden (38-1) sr., 215 Blake Cooper (33-12) sr.
Outlook: New coach, new stars at the top, but that’s about all that’s changed as St. Johns goes after its fourth straight MHSAA championship. Phillps took over the program after seven seasons as an assistant, and five wrestlers who made the Individual Finals last season have taken over for graduated stars Taylor Massa and Jordan Wohlfert. Like those two, five seniors have signed to wrestle in the Big Ten next season: reigning MHSAA individual champs Whitford (University of Michigan), Schmitt (Northwestern) and Brant Schafer (Indiana), reigning runner-up Hayden (Michigan) and top contender Pennell (Michigan State). Hall, a junior, is a two-time individual champion.

#2 LOWELL

Record/rank: 17-6, No. 2
League finish: First in O-K White
Coach: Dave Dean, eighth season (211-37)
Championship history: Three MHSAA championships (most recently 2009), five runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Lucas Hall (34-5) fr., 112 Derek Krajewski (37-13) jr., 112 Zeth Dean (34-5) fr., 119 Bailey Jack (34-6) jr., 135 Jordan Hall (36-2) soph., 160 Max Dean (22-4) fr., 171 Kanon Dean (32-8) jr., 189 Garett Stehley (24-0) jr., 215 Taylor Kornoely (30-0) sr.
Outlook: The Red Arrows are in the Quarterfinals for the third straight season and after finishing runner-up in 2012. Lowell graduated some significant contributors off last year’s team, but six wrestlers are ranked among the top five in their respective classes – with Jack and Kornoely both ranked second.

#3 NILES

Record/rank: 33-1, No. 3
League finish: First in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Todd Hesson, sixth season (record N/A)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Brandon Meek (40-15) soph., 119 Nicholas Zimmerman (44-4) sr., 125 Darek Bullock-Mills (30-11) jr., 145 Casey Burandt (26-1) sr., 152 Fritzel Findeisen (45-4) sr., 189 Ryan Casey (49-1) sr.
Outlook: Niles has set a school record for wins and won its first Regional title since 1960 after also winning back-to-back District titles for the first time. The Vikings own victories this season over three other Division 2 Quarterfinalists: Lowell, Allegan and Mason. All four senior individual qualifiers are ranked among the top eight in their respective weight classes.

#4 WARREN LINCOLN

Record/rank: 30-4, No. 10
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference White
Coach: Bill Delia, 14th season (219-142-3)
Championship history: MHSAA champion 1994.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 285 Michael Abouya (28-8) jr., 119 Garret Kaercher (44-11) fr., 125 Riwan Hormiz (44-10) sr., 130 Robert Pope (32-9) soph., 140 Khannor Kaercher (47-4) soph., 152 Ethan Eisenmann (40-11) soph.
Outlook: Lincoln has made an amazing progression to return to Battle Creek after winning just one match in 2007-08 – and then upping its win total every season over the last five. The Abes have won three straight league titles and two straight District championships. Lincoln should continue to surge, as Hormiz is one of only three seniors expected in the lineup this weekend.

#5 ALLEGAN

Record/rank: 30-5, No. 4
League finish: First in the Wolverine Conference
Coach: Murray Rose, 25th season (654-141-2)
Championship history: Two MHSAA championships (most recently 2007), two runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 285 Jon Krcatovich (46-11) sr., 103 Foster Karmon (49-3) fr., 130 Austin Kelley (53-1) sr., 140 Kyle Simaz (56-0) jr., 171 Chance Gorby (43-14) sr.
Outlook: Rose’s incredible coaching career now includes 21 league titles and five straight trips to the Quarterfinals (and nine over the last decade). Among those Allegan beat during this run was No. 8 Hamilton, in the District. Simaz is a two-time individual runner-up and is ranked tops in his weight class for this division, with Kelley second at his weight and Karmon third at his.

#6 TECUMSEH

Record/rank: 30-12, No. 6
League finish: Tied for first in Southeast Conference White
Coach: Tony Greathouse, second season (60-17)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 285 Joe Rebottaro (44-9) sr., 103 Ricky Azelton (36-14) jr., 145 Anthony Lesko (45-7) sr., 160 Cole Amstutz (38-10) sr., 189 Landon Pelham (44-9) fr., 215 Preston Pelham (45-9) jr.
Outlook: Tecumseh is making its second trip to Battle Creek in its second season under Greathouse, and sets up especially tough at the heavier weights with Individual Finals qualifiers slated for 171-285. Six wrestlers are ranked among the top 10 at their respective weights.

#7 GREENVILLE

Record/rank: 28-4, No. 7
League finish: First in O-K Bronze
Coach: Paul Johnson, 24th season (538-114-3)
Championship history: MHSAA champion in 2008, one runner-up finish. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Mike Schmidt (47-3) sr., 130 Alec Ward (46-5) jr., 140 Kyle Reamer (36-11) sr., 189 Dakota Sherrick (43-7) sr.
Outlook: Greenville continues to shine despite graduating one of the best wrestlers in MHSAA history, Jordan Thomas, last spring. The Yellow Jackets are in Battle Creek for the fourth straight season and have won eight straight District championships. Schmidt and Ward are ranked among the top three in their respective weight classes.

#8 MASON

Record/rank: 30-8, unranked
League finish: First in CAAC Gold
Coach: Brian Martel, 10th season (304-64)
Championship history: Three MHSAA championships (most recently 2006), one runner-up finish.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 140 James Starzec (41-12) sr., 152 Sean Houghton (46-7) sr., 160 Rylen Droscha (43-10) jr., 160 Austin Droscha (43-9) sr., 189 Joey Stid (17-3), sr.
Outlook: Mason was ranked earlier this season and reached the Quarterfinals in part by beating No. 5 Fowlerville at the Regional. This will be the Bulldogs’ third trip to Battle Creek in four seasons and sixth under Martel. Mason relies on seven seniors in the starting lineup including three who are ranked among the top 10 at their respective weights.

PHOTO: St. Johns' Zac Hall (left) wrestles Lowell's Bailey Jack at 112 pounds during last season's Division 2 Final. Both will return to Kellogg Arena on Friday. (Click to see more at 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.)