Hamdan Brings More History to Hudson

March 2, 2019

By Jeff Chaney
Special for Second Half

DETROIT – A humble Jordan Hamdan pinned his place in wrestling history Saturday evening at Ford Field. 

The Hudson senior became the 25th four-time MHSAA Finals champion when he pinned New Lothrop's Logan Zell in 54 seconds in their Division 4 135-pound title match.

He also became his storied program's first four-timer.

"This is pretty cool; it's a big honor," Hamdan said. "To see all these greats do this before me, I have looked up to them since I was really, really small."

Hamdan, who will wrestle at Michigan State next season, made easy work of the competition this weekend, pinning two of his opponents and beating the other two by technical fall.

"This is a bit overwhelming, a lot to take in," said Hamdan, who also has three team Finals titles on his impressive resume. "I did feel a little bit of pressure, but I would treat this just like I would in the practice room."


Champion: Brayton Mears, Union City, Fr. (36-4)
Decision, 4-2 (OT), over Bronson Marry, Hudson, Fr. (33-9)

Mears had come close to winning state titles in his youth wrestling days, but was never able to get to the top of the podium. 

It took a trip to the high school sport's biggest stage to finally break through. 

"I've taken second, third, fourth and fifth, and now I finally got to win one," Mears said. "I came out here to wrestle my best match, and I think I did and I got the win."


Champion: Ben Modert, Bronson, Jr. (52-2)
Decision, 7-0, over Nolan Datema, Carson City Crystal, Sr. (45-2)

It is hard to lose when you don't give up a point.

That is what Modert accomplished this weekend on his way to winning his second straight title. 

He did not surrender a point to his four opponents, capping it off by beating Datema in the final, 7-0.

"I made sure I stayed in control and wrestled as smart as I could," Modert said. "My goal this whole weekend was to not give up any points, and I accomplished that. I just tried to dominate as much as I could."


Champion: Robbie Altland, Hart, Sr. (49-1)
Decision, 4-2 (2OT), over Caden Natale, Hudson, Soph. (26-5)

It is never one person who is responsible for molding a state champion. 

It is a process, and Altland made sure he thanked all who helped him win Saturday.

"Hard work, dedication, my teammates and my coaches got me here," Altland said. "And I have great supporters who all helped me get here. It has been a long run, but worth it."


Champion: Noah Comar, Clinton, Sr. (51-1)
Decision, 8-2, over Noah Cantu, Hart, Sr. (48-2)

Comar has a hard time looking back, but reflection helped get him back on top of the podium.

Two years ago the Clinton senior won a title, but he fell in a final last year. 

"I think (last year's loss) pretty much drove me," Comar said. "I came here this year to have fun and score points. I had a good tournament this year."

Comar finished his weekend with two pins, a technical fall and Saturday's decision.


Champion: Jamison Ward, Carson City Crystal, Jr. (48-1)
Decision, 2-0, over Jacob Shelby, Manchester, Jr. (47-6)

A couple of heart-breaking trips to the Finals helped pave the way for Ward to win his first title. 

Two years ago he was a finalist, but was handily beaten 10-0. Last year he fell in the semifinals, so this year he was not going to take anything for granted. 

"I have been dreaming of this since I was a little kid," Ward said. "Losing two years ago in the finals 10-0, it never gets out of your head. Just being there and being so close. And then last year I thought I would make my way back to the finals again, and I got upset in the semis, so this year I would not let that happen."


Champion: Skyler Crespo, Mendon, Jr. (50-1)
Major Decision, 13-0, over Ryan Wehner, Bad Axe, Sr. (40-6)

Crespo looks very comfortable wrestling on his sport's biggest stage in the state.

The Mendon junior cruised to his third straight Finals championship. And now Crespo is on the brink of history, as he will try to become a four-time champion next year.

"I felt great this weekend," Crespo said. "I felt like no one could even touch me. I only gave up two points all weekend off of cuts – no one even came close to me."

And it is that confidence that has Crespo thinking about history next year. 

"I'm looking forward to getting back and getting better," Crespo said. "I want to get better now, because that four is so close and I have been waiting for that so long."


Champion: Austin Wolford, New Lothrop, Sr. (36-3)
Injury default over Kyle Black, White Pigeon, Sr. (45-3)

This is not how Wolford wanted to end his high school wrestling career, even though it meant winning his second straight championship.

Wolford was visibly shaken as his opponent, White Pigeon's Black, had to be taken off the mat on a stretcher after suffering what appeared to be a knee injury.

"I have no words. I just feel bad for what happened," Wolford said. "That is not the outcome that I wanted. I won, but that is not what I wanted. That was not a state championship match."


Champion: Andy Simaz, Traverse City St. Francis, Jr. (42-2)
Decision, 6-4 (OT), over Jorge Sereno, Hudson, Sr. (35-12)

A spent Simaz laid sprawled on the turf at Ford Field after what he had just accomplished. 

The Traverse City St. Francis junior had battled his way to an overtime win over Sereno, and he had a hard time finding the words to describe his thrill.

But he knew in his head the thrill was coming. 

"I feel really good," Simaz said. "In overtime I tried that high crotch (takedown) and got sprawled out and I reached for a double leg and I told myself there that I was going to be a state champ. In my head I told myself that I would be a state champion there."


Champion: Braxton Seida, Carson City-Crystal, Sr. (43-2)
Decision, 4-2, over Brayden Randolph, Clinton, Soph. (43-2)

Seida knew he had two very excited fans when he walked off the mat with a title in hand. 

He could almost hear the cheers from the Ford Field stands. 

"I have been working for this my whole life, and this is the best thing that has ever happened to me," Seida said. "My dad (Phil Seida) was going crazy up there, and he is definitely appreciative. And my grandpa (Eric Seida), he kept telling me that this was the best part of his life. I did this for him because he wanted me to for the last four years."


Champion: Carson Scroggie, Sand Creek, Sr. (41-2)
Decision, 4-3, over Brock Nelson, Leroy Pine River, Jr. (47-3)

Scroggie did what he does best, and that is wrestle on his feet. It was a takedown that was the difference in his one-point win over Nelson.

Scroggie became Sand Creek's second Finals champion.

"This feels amazing," Scroggie said. "My coaches kept me in the neutral position because they know I am good on my feet. So I did what I do best and got the takedown, and I knew there was short time after that so all I had to do was just lay on him."


Champion: Ethan Weatherspoon, Napoleon, Sr. (53-0)
Decision, 3-2, over Kyle Cassiday, Beaverton, Sr. (51-2)

In one of the most anticipated matches of the Division 4 Finals, a pair of returning champions took to the mat at 189 pounds

Reigning D4 189-pound champion Cassiday was taking on last year's Division 3 champion in the weight class, Weatherspoon. Napoleon moved into Division 4 this year, setting up this epic battle. 

And just like when these two met earlier in the year, a 1-0 win by Weatherspoon, it came down to one point.

"That was good, it was tough, but I got the W," Weatherspoon said. "My grind, my work ethic, being aggressive in the match, that helped me win today."


Champion: Logan Badge, Clinton, Fr. (35-2)
Decision, 6-3, over Tim Rizor, Leroy Pine River, Jr. (45-3)

Not often do you see a freshman excel at a heavier weight class. Size, strength and experience, those usually come out on top when the larger wrestlers hit the mat. 

That makes what Badge has done all year, and again Saturday, so special. 

"I feel good," Badge said. "I got a good warmup with my warmup partner, and I wrestled well."

And what is nice for Badge, he gets to celebrate this week after his team fell short to Hudson in the Team Final a week ago.

"I thought we could have performed better a team states," Badge said. "But a lot of us redeemed ourselves here with 11 placing."


Champion: River Fox, Schoolcraft, Sr. (53-2)
Decision, 7-1, over Jake Renfer, Manton, Sr. (49-4)

Fox made Schoolcraft history Saturday night.

He became the school's first Finals champion. 

"I feel pretty good about this," Fox said. "I just felt comfortable with my moves. I just kept trying to score points and move the match."

Click for full results.

PHOTO: Hudson’s Jordan Hamdan was selected as one of the flag-bearers for the Finals’ opening march Saturday at Ford Field, before going on to win his fourth MHSAA individual title. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

Manuel Sisters Bring Pair of Titles Back to Romeo, Just Getting Started

By Scott DeCamp
Special for MHSAA.com

March 2, 2024

DETROIT – Romeo wrestling coach Justin Gides was a busy man Saturday afternoon at Ford Field.

He guided sisters Belicia and Kaili Manuel to back-to-back MHSAA Individual Wrestling Finals championships on the same mat in the 140- and 145-pound weight classes, respectively.

Sounds like the Manuel pipeline may be far from drying up, too, as Gides noted there are seven Manuel sisters in total.

“I think they’ve got me busy for the next 15 years,” he said with a hearty laugh.

Belicia Manuel, a sophomore, started it off with a tight 8-7 decision over Waterford Kettering senior Emily Medford. It was Belicia Manuel’s first Finals title and made her 23-0 on the season.

Kaili Manuel, a freshman, followed with a 14-4 major decision over Riverview Gabriel Richard junior Rihanna Venegas. That made Kaili’s season record 26-1.

Between the Manuels: Two championships and a combined 49-1 record.

“I was just thinking about my family coming and watching me, and I just really didn’t want to lose in front of them,” smiling Belicia Manuel said.

“Definitely a new experience,” she added. “Having this big crowd watching me is kind of scary, but we pulled through.”

When asked who holds the upper hand in family room tussles, Belicia took the more diplomatic approach and declared a tie.

Kaili has been wrestling since she was in kindergarten, while Belicia picked up the sport in third grade.

“They’re training partners, they work together all the time, every day. They’re always at each other’s mat, they notice the small things,” Gides said. “Honestly, I could probably make them the coach some days – they know so much. They’re so detail-oriented. There will be times I’ll go to yell something and they’re already yelling at their sisters, ‘You’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do this.’ They’re big students of the game.

“I mean, it’s crazy, man. They’re good kids, they train every day. They’re two of seven of them. There’s seven daughters, they all wrestle. They train year-round – they love it.”

Champion: Madison Nieuwenhuis, Plainwell, Soph. (18-0)
Medical forfeit over Olesya Mullins, St. Louis, Soph. (19-1)

Saturday’s Finals match was easier than last year’s for Nieuwenhuis, now a back-to-back champion, not that she wanted it to happen this way.

“I’m glad that I made it (to the championship bout), but a little sad that I didn’t get to wrestle,” said Nieuwenhuis, who like last year dealt with an injury on the way to winning a title.

In 2023, she had a foot injury. This season, it was a fractured bone in her wrist.

Nieuwenhuis hopes to be fully recovered in time for the World Team Trials.

“I guess just making it to the Finals (is the highlight this season),” she said.

Champion: Natalie Gibson, Remus Chippewa Hills, Jr. (18-2)
Fall, 0:54, over Tricia Pyrzewski, Gladwin, Sr. (42-5)

Pyrzewski had success against Gibson this season, but this time Gibson didn’t even give Pyrzewski time to think.

The bout was over in a hurry. Gibson captured her first championship after finishing runner-up at 105 pounds last season. This was her third Finals trip.

“Honestly, I think I just caught her and we’re super competitive with each other. She’s beat me twice already this year,” Gibson said. “I caught her in a perfect moment and I stuck her – it was super quick.

“We had a game plan and it kind of went with our game plan, but it just turned out a lot more perfect than we planned.”

Gibson has been wrestling for 11 years, picking it up from her older brother’s influence.

She hopes to be right back in the same spot next season.

“Honestly, I’m stunned -- a little bit in disbelief,” Gibson said. “Super proud of all the work and everything that my coaches and I have put in and that they continued to do with the support.

Champion: Nakayla Dawson, Westland John Glenn, Soph. (9-0)
Fall, 2:25, Cheyenne Frank, Oxford, Soph. (15-1)

Some believed that the Finals match at 110 pounds was going to be Dawson vs. Sky Langewicz of Algonac, with Langewicz having won Finals titles the last two years. But Frank earned an 8-4 decision over Langewicz in the Quarterfinals.

Dawson captured the 105-pound championship last season, so bumping up a weight class pushed her a bit.

“I mean, I feel like this year was a little bit more challenging because I bumped up a weight class, but it’s kind of the same,” Dawson said. “Girls, they’re just really flexible and they’re hard to get into turns and pins. But, yeah, it’s pretty much the same.”

Dawson did match up with Langewicz, but it was in the Feb. 18 Regional Final at Birmingham Groves, where Dawson earned an 8-5 decision.

Dawson made sure to keep the right mindset and stay focused in the Final. Her career goals are clear.

“Trying to go all four (years of winning championships),” she said.

Champion: Sunni LaFond, Gaylord, Jr. (30-6)
Decision, 13-9, over Gracey Barry, Grand Haven, Jr. (34-2)

LaFond broke through after runner-up finishes as a freshman and sophomore, but it was far from easy. She seemed to be in control of her Finals match Saturday, but Barry battled to the very end and made it very interesting.

“It was really intense. I did not think that it was going to be that tough to win it, but it was worth it in the end,” said LaFond, who absorbed two bloody noses in the bout.

After the match was over, LaFond ran up the stairs of the press risers and gave her mom a hug in the front row of stands. Moments later, she was greeted by well-wishers and wrestlers with whom she’s familiar.

“I didn’t feel nervous before, I just felt like it’s just another tournament, it’s not anything special,” she said. “I mean, yeah, it’s states, but it definitely feels really good.” 

Kaili Manuel, right, works to gain control during her 145-pound championship match against Riverview Gabriel Richard’s Rihanna Venegas.

Champion: Lola Barkby, Sturgis, Jr. (17-3)
Decision, 4-2, over Faith Burgess, Grand Blanc, Jr. (25-1)

Barkby finished runner-up as a freshman and took fourth as a sophomore, but she said that different training and changing up her style yielded the results she was seeking.

You might say she kept her nose to the grindstone, so to speak. She had marks on her face to prove it.

“I’m not too happy about the mat burn on my face, but it’s a part of it,” Barkby said with a smile.

When Barkby placed second in 2022, she lost to eventual four-time state champion Angelina Pena in the 120-pound weight class.

This time, it was Barkby’s turn to leave the mat a champ.

“I mean, this is the best season that I’ve had and my team, we competed really well as a team this year,” Barkby said.

Champion: Tyler Swanigan, South Lyon East, Sr. (12-1)
Fall, 3:45, over Jamie Cook, DeWitt, Jr. (30-3)

Swanigan collected her second championship in three years. Previous experience seemed to pay off.

“My sophomore year was my first year competing at high school sports, so nerves were a lot higher coming into today being in the Finals three years in a row,” Swanigan said.

For the Finals match, Swanigan said that getting a lot of sleep, eating healthy, and drinking a lot of water helped.

She’s certainly poured enough time into it.

“I’m very happy this is the way I ended my high school career,” Swanigan said. 

Champion: Angelina Pena, Milan, Sr. (16-2)
Fall, 3:25, Isabella Cepak, South Lyon East, Jr. (10-2)

Pena won a fourth-straight championship, including the third in a row since the MHSAA added a girls division for postseason competition. She captured the 120-pound title as a sophomore and 130-pound championship as a junior.

“I mean, it’s similar (to the other three) in the fact that I won and I held the same amount of respect for all of my opponents regardless of how they lose,” Pena said. “I think it’s different (in how) it gets harder every year, you know. All the girls are getting better, they’re training all year, and you’ve just got to keep training and keep putting in more work than they are.”

Pena is proud of the growth of girls wrestling at the high school and lower levels.

She said that her Milan coach, Adam Cabarello, launched a youth program at the school and he’s invited her to come to his practices.

“The more I come in, the more girls I see. We’ve got, like, seven or eight girls in there right now. It’s really nice to be able to mentor,” Pena said. “I think it’s just going up from here. Exponentially, we’ve already seen a giant increase in the amount of girls that are joining wrestling or making it to Ford Field. I think it’s great.”

Champion: Margaret Buurma, Fowlerville, Jr. (24-1)
Major Decision, 11-2, over Paisley Denault, Clarkston, Soph. (28-2)

Buurma is a three-time champion, also achieving the feat at 125 pounds last season and 115 as a freshman.

Former Fowlerville and University of Michigan standout Adam Coon has influenced her career.

“Quite a few times over the summer when we’re training freestyle stuff, he comes in, he works with us, he tells about his journeys through high school and college and then through all the Olympic stuff and World teams,” Buurma said. “He’s somebody who I strive to be like with his success in wrestling, but also his success in the academic field and his success as an overall person.”

Buurma said she felt a little more stress and anxiety coming into the tournament.

“In the end, it’s a wrestling tournament, and we’re here because we like wrestling,” she said. “Winning’s just always a bonus.” 

Champion: Maddie Hayden, Caledonia, Soph. (11-0)
Fall, 0:49, Brynn Campbell, Holt, Sr. (30-7)

Hayden defended her title at 155 pounds, but she also overcame obstacles in the form of injuries.

“I think it’s definitely trusting my training. I had a couple of injuries, too, so I was out for a while. That was a big obstacle to overcome, too. I mean, I wanted to repeat, but my goal was also to overcome those obstacles as well,” Hayden said. “So just trusting in my training, trusting in my faith that I was going to be all right and that I could do it again because I did it last year.”

In late December or early January, she broke her fingers. Hayden was back on the mat for a week before she hyperextended her elbow.

The injuries may have seemed like a curse to some, but Hayden took them on as a challenge. They certainly didn’t seem to hinder her performance Saturday.

“Like, going into Regionals and state, I had only been wrestling a week in the past two months,” she said. “It was definitely scary coming in here with not a lot of wrestling, but that was also a fun thing. ‘Let’s see how good I could do off of not a lot of practice.’”

Champion: Maddison Ward, Niles Brandywine, Jr. (37-1)
Fall, 5:48, Heaven Cole, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix, Jr. (17-2)

The bear hug with her coach said it all immediately following Ward’s pinfall.

She summarized it with one word: “Amazing.”

“Like, I’ve been waiting for it for the longest time,” she said.

In her first Finals appearance, Ward pinned her way through the bracket.

“This year made it special because I knew I would be able to make it into the Finals this year, and it’s just exciting to be able to wrestle in the Finals – I’d never done it before,” she said.

Champion: Sabrina Nauss, Brighton, Sr. (9-0)
Fall, 1:35, Gabriella Allen, Marcellus, Sr. (25-3)

Nauss became just the third four-time state champ in Michigan high school girls wrestling history.

In another historical note, two years ago she was the first female to win an Individual Finals match at Ford Field.

“Just a lot of emotions right now. Excited. I’m excited about what’s to come next, but I’m also sad for what I’m leaving behind,” she said. “I’m leaving one of my coaches, who has coached me from the start until the very end. … I’m excited. I’m excited for the future. I’m excited for college, and there’s just so much going on right now.”

Nauss collected the 170-pound title in 2022 and 190-pound crown in 2023 at MHSAA Finals. Her freshman year, she won a championship at the Michigan Wrestling Association state tournament.

She was all business in Saturday’s Final, taking charge and trying to put it away early.

“I mean, I just wanted to come in and get the job done,” she said. “Like I’ve said before, this is a business trip for me. This is my job, so when I come in, I want to come in hard. I want to get the first takedown and I’m trying to score the most points, so coming in with a pin was my ideal for finishing the job.”

Champion: Madasyn Frisbie, Belding, Jr. (6-1)
Sudden Victory, 4-2, over Braelyn Flemming, Spring Lake, Jr. (18-4)

The now two-time champion Frisbie has been through her share of pain on the wrestling mat.

“I’ve had a really tough season because I missed the majority of my season because I dislocated my (right) shoulder,” Frisbie said. “When I got to come back, it was probably the best day of my life.

“And then I went to Regionals and lost in the Regional Finals, and I never want to have that feeling of losing again. I mean, that’s just what drove me. I decided I wasn’t going to lose, so I didn’t.”

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Romeo’s Belicia Manuel, right, takes on Waterford Kettering’s Emily Medford in Saturday’s championship match at 140 pounds. (Middle) Kaili Manuel, right, works to gain control during her 145-pound championship match against Riverview Gabriel Richard’s Rihanna Venegas. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)