EGR 2-Sport Star Chasing Final HS Goal

January 23, 2020

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

EAST GRAND RAPIDS – Over the past three weeks, John Shelton IV has established a new school record for wrestling wins while also reaching a rare milestone with his 150th career victory.

While most would be elated and content, the East Grand Rapids senior wants more and has his sights set on an even bigger goal.  

“To be honest, it was a stepping stone for me, and it wasn’t that big of a deal because I’m trying to win a state title,” Shelton IV said. “It’s a cool accomplishment in the sport, but I would rather have a state championship. That’s what I really want, and it is the biggest milestone I can get right now.”

Shelton IV, who wrestles at 189 and 215 pounds, is a three-time MHSAA Finals qualifier. However, an individual championship at that highest level has eluded him.

He came close last season, reaching the Division 2 championship match at 189 pounds before losing a tightly-contested bout against Cedar Springs’ Sage Serbenta.

“Last year I was pretty confident that no one could beat me, but there is always someone out there that can give you a good battle and he gave me a good battle,” Shelton IV said. “I guess I wasn’t really battle-tested and I wasn’t ready for the match. You can’t get complacent and I got complacent, I feel like, toward the end of the year.”

Shelton IV notched his 100th win early in his junior season and surpassed the previous school record of 147 wins, set by Doug Dozeman. 

“Obviously for a kid to hit 150 wins is unbelievable, and I grew up in Illinois where 150 wins is unheard of,” East Grand Rapids wrestling coach Eric Dietz said. “And just to do it at the weights he has done it at. Most kids get a lot of wins wrestling at the lighter weights as freshmen and sophomores, but he came in right away wrestling 18-year-olds as a 14-year-old.”  

The loss in last year’s Final didn’t sit well with Shelton IV, but it has fueled his motivation both physically and mentally.

“He took it hard, as it would anybody whose goal it is to win a state title,” Dietz said. “Getting there and losing by a takedown ate at him over the offseason more and more, and in the weight room he seemed more focused to go out and secure that goal. The 150 wins was just something on his way to achieving his goal.”

Shelton IV won tournaments at the state and national level while in middle school, but said the ultimate cap to his high school career would be an MHSAA Finals crown.

“It’s the most motivation I’ve had. And if I don’t win it, it wouldn’t necessarily be a failure, but I’ve dreamed about it since I started wrestling in high school and I really want to accomplish it,” he said. “My life has revolved around sports, and I think a state championship is the best thing you can do in high school – so that’s what I want to do.”

Shelton IV is 25-0 this season, with the first rounds of the MHSAA Tournament looming next month.

“I wish I would’ve wrestled more ranked guys and had more competition to get ready for the postseason, but I think I’ve wrestled pretty well,” Shelton IV said. “There’s always room for improvement, though.”

Shelton IV will take his talents to Central Michigan University, where he will wrestle and also play football.

He led the Pioneers to the Regional Finals in football and rushed for 1,661 yards while scoring a team-high 25 touchdowns.

Shelton IV wanted the opportunity to play two sports in college.

“I thought I was skilled enough to play both in college, but I didn’t know how I would balance it,” he said. “I know it’s going to be tough, and I thought it would be in football and baseball. I didn’t think it would be football and wrestling.”

Shelton IV suffered a knee injury during baseball season and didn’t continue. He’s looking forward to wrestling under the same coach as his dad did in high school.

John Shelton III wrestled for the Chippewas and longtime coach Tom Borrelli. Shelton III won a Mid-American Conference championship in 1995.

“I like the school a lot and my dad told me great things about Coach,” Shelton IV said. “I think he can really help me get to my full potential, and I have a lot of buddies there.

“I think I’ll be able to get comfortable there really quickly, and I’m really excited to compete against guys around the country and not just my state.”

Shelton committed for football during the early signing period, although he’d had his doubts after the Chippewas went 1-11 two years ago.

Central Michigan experienced a turnaround, however, this past fall under first-year coach Jim McElwain and finished 8-6 en route to a spot in the MAC championship game and a bowl berth.

“I’m really excited to go there now and play for McElwain,” Shelton IV said. “They had a good season, and who doesn’t like being around a winning team?”

Dean Holzwarth covered primarily high school sports for the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years and more recently served as sports editor of the Ionia Sentinel and as a sports photojournalist for WZZM. Contact him at[email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) East Grand Rapids’ John Shelton IV shows his excitement after a semifinal win during last season’s MHSAA Individual Finals at Ford Field. (Middle) Shelton breaks away from the Forest Hills Northern defense during his junior season. (Top photo by; middle courtesy of the East Grand Rapids athletic department.)

Mendon 8-Player Championship Game Run Paced by Record-Setting Rushing

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

May 26, 2023

Mendon’s run to the Division 2 Final last fall included some of the strongest rushing performances over the history of 8-player football.

The Hornets ran for 4,317 yards, second-most all-time, on the second-most attempts (520) and with a record-setting 682 yards Oct. 14 against Marcellus. Mendon also set the record for total offense with 692 total in that game, and made the single-season touchdowns list with 76 including 66 rushing (also second on that list).

Junior Jack McCaw made the single-season scoring list with 212 points, most coming on 29 touchdowns, and Evan Lukeman made the single-game rushing list with 401 yards against Marcellus. Mendon’s defense also earned praise, twice making the fewest-first-downs-allowed list with a low of three.

See below for more recent additions to the 8-player portion of the football record book:

8-Player Football

Athens’ Landon Bennett earned a pair of record book entries after reaching the end zone seven times during his team’s 72-0 win over Burr Oak on Sept. 8. His seven scores are tied for third-most in 8-player history and included three rushing, three on punt returns and one on an interception return. The three punt return touchdowns are a record. Bennett is a junior.

On the night Powers North Central broke its 8-player record for consecutive wins, claiming its 28th straight, senior Luke Gorzinski tied Jets great Jason Whitens for the record for interception touchdowns in a game with two, scoring on returns during the second and fourth quarters. Gorzinski has signed with Michigan Tech, and North Central’s winning streak is 37 games and counting.

A pair of Atlanta offensive playmakers and a top defensive lineman earned a total of seven entries in the record book for achievements last fall. Senior quarterback Tyler Currie threw for 30 touchdowns over eight games, and also made the records for six touchdowns and 419 passing yards against Whittemore-Prescott on Sept. 23; the passing yards are second-most for one 8-player game. Sophomore Landon Galea was added for 263 yards and five of those touchdowns against the Cardinals, and also for 1,418 yards receiving and 23 touchdowns over nine games. Junior teammate Tucker Kendrick made the tackles for loss list with five against Hillman on Oct. 6.

Adrian Lenawee Christian senior Brady McKelvey became the first to make the career extra points list in 8-player football this past fall. He bettered his previous single-season record making 64 of 66 extra-point attempts over 11 games and finishing his two-year varsity career with 123 extra points in 127 tries.

Sam McKissack reached the record book showcasing multiple skills for Crystal Falls Forest Park during the 2021 season – twice for rushing attempts in a game including with a record 59 against Ontonagon that Sept. 10, and then with a record 70-yard punt Oct. 30, 2021, against Lake Linden-Hubbell. Teammate Devon Basirico also made the record book with six fumble recoveries over 11 games that season. As a team, Forest Park was added twice for single-game rushing attempts – including 73 total in that Ontonagon game – and for 424 rushes over 11 games for the season. McKissack and Basirico are seniors this spring.

Nikolaus Lewis tied for eighth-most rushing touchdowns in an 8-player game when he reached the end zone six times for Carsonville-Port Sanilac in its win over Caseville on Oct. 7. He’s a senior this spring.

Bridgman has won 24 straight games over the last three seasons, and an exceptional offense – and exceptional offensive star – have played major roles. The Bees were added for 658 total yards in a win over Lawrence last season, that total ranking third all-time, and also 613 yards in a win over Eau Claire. Those included totals of 575 and 547 rushing yards, respectively, and Bridgman was added for 3,598 rushing yards (sixth on the list), 59 rushing touchdowns (fourth) and 76 total touchdowns (seventh). Senior Reid Haskins capped his four-year, 32-game varsity career with 13 record book entries, including for 254 points last season over nine games (tied for fifth all-time) and a record 620 career points, 41 touchdowns last season (fifth) and a record 95 for his career, 2,344 rushing yards last season (third) and a record 5,206 for his career, and 41 rushing touchdowns last season (third) and a record 94 for his career. Senior teammate Tanner Peters made the records three times including for 50 extra points last season (fourth) and 99 over 26 games and three seasons (second on the career list).

Mio's Austin Fox rewrote the 8-player passing record book this past fall, with his 621 yards in a game against Whittemore-Prescott setting a single-game record as he totaled four of the five-highest passing yardage totals. He also set a record with 3,516 over nine games for the season, another record with 289 passing attempts over those nine games and a third record for nine touchdown passes in that game against the Cardinals. His 41 touchdown passes total rank fourth. Teammates Gage Long and Nathan Hurst also earned several record book entries on the receiving end of those passes. Long’s 297 receiving yards against Whittemore-Prescott were tied for third most, and Hurst’s 266 against Alcona rank eighth. Long set a single-season record with 1,739 receiving yards, with Hurst sixth all-time at 1,321, and Long’s 14 receptions against the Cardinals and 70 for the season also rank second on those respective lists. Hurst set a record for longest 8-player kickoff return with a 99-yarder against St. Helen Charlton Heston. All three are seniors.

Peck was one of the first MHSAA 8-player champions, claiming the title in 2013, and Cody Abrego one of the state’s first 8-player stars. The Pirates were added to the MHSAA record book 52 times, and Abrego 14 times individually. Among the most notable entries for the 2015 graduate were for 462 points scored over his two-season career (ranking sixth all-time), 74 career touchdowns (sixth), 2,202 rushing yards in 2013 (fifth) and 35 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (sixth). Current senior Caleb Lentner was one of the stars statewide this past season, and he was added eight times including for 50 points scored in a game (ranking second), 272 points for a season last fall (fifth), eight touchdowns in a game (tied for second), 42 touchdowns in a season (fifth), an 8-player record of 2,694 rushing yards from last season, and 38 rushing touchdowns also last fall (fourth). Others to make the individual lists were Nathan Robar, Caleb Dudley, Steven VanConant, Kyle Abrego and Nathan Neihaus, Dudley for a record 20 career interceptions over two seasons and VanConant for a record 12 tackles for loss in a 2022 game and 36 tackles for loss for the season last fall. The Pirates also are all over the 8-player team record book, including for a record 97 touchdowns in 2013, a record 5,895 yards of total offense that season, 528 carries, 4,346 rushing yards and 73 rushing touchdowns in 2013 (all ranking second); and 24 interceptions in 2014, which ranks second on that list.

Senior quarterback JR Hildebrand was one of the most dynamic players in 8-player football in the fall in leading Martin to the Division 1 title. He had one of his most exciting nights in a playoff opener against Tekonsha, making the single-game touchdown pass list with six in a 68-6 victory.

PHOTO Mendon’s Jack McCaw (21) eludes a tackle during the 8-Player Division 2 Final in November at Northern Michigan University. (Photo by Cara Kamps.)