Division 4: Chasing Hudson

February 21, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

With a fifth-straight MHSAA Division 4 championship Saturday, Hudson would join Davison as the only two schools to accomplish that feat since the Team Finals began in 1988. 

But seven other teams at Battle Creek's Kellogg Arena will do their best to make their own history instead this weekend. 

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 4, listed by seed. Their Quarterfinal matches begin at 5:30 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


Record/rank: 27-6, No. 1
League finish: Second in Lenawee County Athletic Association
Coach: Scott Marry, 25th season (654-141)
Championship history: Four MHSAA championships (most recently 2012).
Individual Finals qualifiers: 285 Zach Rieger (48-1) sr., 103 Roddy Hamdan (42-5) soph., 112 Tyler Roberts (36-16) soph., Isaac Dusseau (44-6) jr., 125 Mason Lopinski (33-19) fr., 130 Cole Weaver (46-0) jr., 130 Carlos Randall (26-4) jr., 135 JD Waters (35-5) jr., 135 Wyatt Spangler (27-22) sr., 152 Kyle Johnson (41-15) fr., 215 Jake Morgan (37-12) jr.
Outlook: Only Hudson, Davison and Dundee have won at least four straight Team Finals championships. Last year’s run was led by a pair of seniors who went on to individual championships, but Hudson merely has reloaded led in part by Weaver, who claimed last season’s Division 4 title at 119. And only three of this weekend’s expected starters are seniors.


Record/rank: 33-2, No. 2
League finish: Tied for first in Central State Activities Association
Coach: Doug Baird, 12th season (399-41)
Championship history: MHSAA champion 2008, four runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 285 Wyatt Conkle (39-13) soph., 103 Corey Agens (38-15) jr., 103 Davian Gowens (36-11) fr., 119 Zack Yates (46-1) jr., 130 David Jacobs (49-7) jr., 135 Chase Siersema (52-3) jr., 140 Mark Workman (37-13) fr., 145 Cash Bolles (37-7) sr., 160 Lee Siersema (49-7) sr., 189 Eldon Graham (42-8) jr., 215 Scott Rosencrans (25-13) fr.
Outlook: Last season was the only one over the last nine in which in the Panthers didn't make it to Battle Creek, and they've made the Semifinals six times during that span. Two of Hesperia’s runner-up finishes came against Hudson in 2011 and 2009 by a combined 14 points. Yates was an individual runner-up last season, to Hudson’s Weaver at 119, and Chase Siersema was an individual runner-up in 2011. Like Hudson again, only two of Hesperia’s expected starters this weekend are seniors.


Record/rank: 31-4, No. 3
League finish: First in Genesee Area Conference
Coach: Jeff Campbell, 12th season (307-62)
Championship history: 12 MHSAA championships (most recently 2004), four runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Cole Hersch (43-11) fr., 119 Johnny Robinson (33-14) fr., 125 Gabe Bennett (40-11) soph., 130 Dalton Birchmeier (28-22) soph., 140 Jacob Perrin (55-2) sr., 145 Josh Wendling (41-5) jr., 152 Aaron Bauman (45-6) jr., 160 Taylor Krupp (46-3) jr., 171 Dakota Clark (26-23) jr., 189 Cody Symons (53-2) jr., 215 Owen Wilson (35-10) jr.
Outlook: New Lothrop has reached the Quarterfinals all 12 seasons under Campbell and eclipsed 30 wins two of the last three. His line-up has only one senior, but that senior – Jacob Perrin – is coming off an MHSAA individual championship at 130. Four others are ranked among the top four in their individual weight classes this winter.


Record/rank: 21-0, No. 7
League finish: First in St. Joseph Valley Conference
Coach: Al Sosinski, 30th season (474-234)
Championship history: MHSAA runners-up in 2002 and 2003.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Jake Littlefield (36-10) sr., 125 Hunter Machus (42-5) sr., 130 Kahle Scheenks (33-15) soph., 145 Brandon Losinski (42-9) sr., 160 Dan Erwin (25-7) sr., 171 Leo Mora (33-6) sr., 189 Brett Burtrum (25-7) soph.
Outlook: Bronson has won its District the last 12 seasons and is making its first trip to the Quarterfinals since 2009. The line-up features eight seniors including five who will also compete at the Individual Finals. Machus and Mora are ranked among the top four in their respective weight classes. Sosinski’s record qualifies for listing among the top 20 winningest wrestling coaches in MHSAA history.  


Record/rank: 25-9, unranked
League finish: First in Tri-County Conference
Coach: Marc Spicer, fifth season (106-64)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 285 Gabe Beaubien (40-17) sr., 103 Terry Burns (31-12) fr., 112 Michael Petee (37-19) soph., 145 Roger Fox (35-8) jr., 160 Nick Garza (45-7) sr., 189 Charlie Robertson (38-11) soph., 215 Garrett Miller (51-5) sr.
Outlook: Sand Creek has continued to build under Spicer with three straight District Titles and its first Regional championship under him this season. Garza finished individual Finals runner-up last season at 152 and leads a line-up with eight 30-match winners. All seven wrestlers between 145-285 have won at least 31 matches this season.


Record/rank: 26-6, No. 9
League finish: First in Central Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Kacy Datema, third season (57-28)
Championship history: MHSAA runners-up in 2000 and 2001.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Taylor Barkley (29-15) fr., 112 Kenneth Dittenber (49-4) sr., 119 Dallas O’Green (46-6) fr., 140 Garner Cusack (46-7) jr., 145 Dillan Decker (47-5) soph., 152 Darren Decker (50-2) soph., 160 Lincoln Burnham (14-9) soph.  
Outlook: Datema, a former Carson City-Crystal wrestler himself, has guided the Eagles back to Battle Creek after steady improvement during his first two seasons as coach. They could be back for a few more with nine underclassmen expected to start this weekend. Dittenber is a two-time Individual Finals champion, and Dillan Decker also is considered a top contender next weekend.   


Record/rank: 25-4, unranked
League finish: First in O-K Silver
Coach: Chad Kik, 13th season (255-138)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 285 Tom Devos (35-12) jr., 135 Brendon Rodenburg (44-9) fr., 140 Jayson Ellicott (44-12) jr., 152 KJ Herremans (39-12) jr., 171 Shane Rodenburg (52-2) soph., 215 Konner Wolter (53-1) sr.
Outlook: Kent City has increased its win total four straight seasons, won its District the last three years and will make its first Quarterfinal appearance under Kik – who won an individual championship for Sparta in 1992. Wolter is one of only two seniors, but with Rodenburg is expected to contend for an individual championship next weekend. Kent City beat No. 10 Bangor in a tie-breaker at the Regional.


Record/rank: 21-2, unranked
League finish: First in Mid-Peninsula Athletic Conference
Coach: Nick Burklund, fourth season (43-26)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 125 Cayleb Winkler (29-13) sr., 152 Taylor Bonetti (37-16) soph., 171 Jacob Rehn (30-13) soph.
Outlook: Norway too has increased its win total each of the last four seasons and despite posting sub-.500 marks in Burklund’s first two. The Knights could continue to surge with only two seniors on the roster this winter. Norway won its District matches by a combined score of 129-15, and then got past tough competitors Rogers City and St. Ignace at the Regional. 

PHOTO: Hudson's Cole Weaver (top) battles to an 18-6 major decision in his match at 125 pounds during last seaon's Division 4 Final at Battle Creek's Kellogg Arena. Click to see more at 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.)