Hudson's Hamdan Wins Clash of Champs

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

March 4, 2017

AUBURN HILLS – Hudson sophomore Jordan Hamdan didn’t just want to win a Division 4 title Saturday at The Palace of Auburn Hills – he also wanted to impress his older brother, Roddy.

Hamdan accomplished both, defeating Jackson Lumen Christi’s Spencer Good 3-2 in a matchup of returning MHSAA champions in the 119-pound Final.

“It means more, because he kind of helped me get this good,” said Hamdan, who had his brother – a Division 4 champion in 2013 – in his corner as an assistant coach during the match. “We’ve been always wrestling with each other since we were really young, and I’ve been looking up to him. So it was kind of a big deal to me – I wanted to impress him.”

Hamdan scored an early takedown in the match, then was forced to switch up his strategy as Good clamped down defensively on his feet.

“I knew I was ahead, and I knew he couldn’t hold me down,” Hamdan said. “So I had to keep it even and keep it close since I couldn’t score on my feet, and then I knew he wouldn’t be able to score if I was still being offensive in the third period.”

Hamdan and Good, a senior, were each looking for their second title, as they both won at 112 a year ago – Hamdan in Division 4 and Good in Division 3. With two titles in two years as a high schooler, Hamdan is now thinking big.

“It was kind of like a dream more than a goal,” Hamdan said. “And I guess my dream is becoming a reality, slowly. It’s a process. I’ve been working out all summer, in the season and offseason for this, and getting prepared as much as I possibly can for this tournament.”

103

Champion: Reese Fry, Manchester, Jr. (51-1)
Major decision, 10-0, over Jamison Ward, Carson City-Crystal, Fr. (52-3)

Fry learned some lessons in his first two trips to the Palace.

“(I learned) how to push myself,” Fry said. “How to develop and just grow as a wrestler – fundamentally and mentally.”

Fry turned those lessons into a Finals title, as he defeated Carson City-Crystal’s freshman sensation Jamison Ward.

The Manchester junior controlled the match throughout, scoring a takedown in each period, and taking Ward to his back in the second.

“I kept in control,” Fry said. “I just wrestled the match I wanted to wrestle.”

112

Champion: Noah Comar, Clinton, Soph. (51-0)
Decision, 3-1 (OT), over Tucker Sholl, Hudson, Soph. (33-3)

It was a Hudson wrestler that stopped Comar’s title bid a year ago. He wasn’t going to let a Tiger get in his way again.

Comar scored a takedown in overtime to defeat returning champion Tucker Sholl and finish off a perfect sophomore season. Comar lost in the 2016 112-pound Final against Sholl’s teammate, Jordan Hamdan.

“My strategy was just to push the pace and catch him off guard,” Comar said. “I guess it worked, because I got the ankle and got a takedown. I had to push the pace. My greatest defense was my offense. … It was sweet revenge.”

125

Champion: Skyler Crespo, Mendon, Fr. (52-1)
Decision, 3-1, over Robert LeFevre, Erie Mason, Sr. (48-5)

Crespo couldn’t stop moving after winning the 125-pound title. Despite just finishing a hard-fought match against returning champion Robert LeFevre, Crespo still found the energy to jog in place.

“I’m so excited,” he said. “There’s been a lot of time and work put into this.”

The Mendon freshman capped off a remarkable first high school season by taking LeFevre down in the first period, and holding him off the rest of the way. Now, the inevitable four-time champion discussions will begin, and Crespo is ready for them.

“Get back to work as soon as I can,” Crespo said. “Monday morning, I’ll be doing something. Running or whatever it is.”

130

Champion: Robert Rogers, Burton Bentley, Jr. (43-1)
Decision, 9-4, over Nick Felt, Shelby, Soph. (49-2)

Rogers claimed his second straight title, jumping out to a 7-2 lead before holding off big-move attempts from Shelby’s Felt.

“In those situations, most people are going to throw,” Rogers said. “I’ve been in those situations before, and I’ve been on the big stage, so I know what it takes to win. With 20 seconds left, I’m not going to let you do your moves; I’m going to do mine.”

While Rogers called upon his big-match experience in the waning moments, he didn’t let his status as a returning champion allow him to get overconfident.

“You have to come in here thinking that you could win or lose,” he said. “You can’t just come in here thinking, ‘Oh, I’m a returning state champion and I’m going to win.’ I came in thinking, ‘You know what, I’m just another guy on the chart, and anyone can beat me.’ So I had to go out there and show everyone that I can beat them.”

135

Champion: Ethan Woods, Manchester, Sr. (49-2)
Decision, 5-0, over Jayce Kuehnlein, St. Louis, Jr. (45-6)

After falling one win short of a title in each of the last two years, Ethan Woods climbed to the top of the podium as a senior.

“It feels great,” an emotional Woods said. “Everything that I’ve worked for my whole life finally paid off. I put so much time in training for this my whole life. I could have wrestled better and I should have, but I did what I needed to win, and I finally accomplished what I set out to do, and it feels great.”

Woods got an early takedown, and controlled the match throughout, even if the scoring may not have been there.

“Each year, my confidence and composure has built and developed, and I’m able to handle all the pressure and the nerves,” Woods said. “Obviously I still put a lot of pressure on myself, because I just won but I don’t feel like I wrestled as good as I could have. But I think (three previous trips to the MHSAA Finals) helped me prepare mentally.”

140

Champion: Sean O’Hearon, Springport, Sr. (42-0)
Technical fall, 26-11 (4:46), over Braxton Seida, Carson City-Crystal, Soph. (49-5)

O’Hearon put on a takedown clinic on his way to a dominant victory.

The Springport senior took Carson City-Crystal’s Seida down 12 times – and added a reversal – on his way to his second straight title.

“I came into the state meet basically making it my goal to tech every single person here,” O’Hearon said. “I guess I was able to do that, so that’s a win.”

Making the title more special was the fact O’Hearon was able to share it with his cousin, Austin, who won the 145-pound title in Division 2 for Eaton Rapids.

“It’s even more awesome because my cousin won, too,” Sean O’Hearon said. “In my senior year, we both win, that’s something not many people can have.”

145

Champion: Konnor Holton, St. Louis, Sr. (46-3)
Decision, 6-4 (OT), over Noah Niemen, Blissfield, Sr. (29-3)

For the first time since 1967, St. Louis has a Finals champion. Konnor Holton got a takedown in overtime to knock off Noah Niemen and become the Sharks’ second MHSAA title winner.

“I knew he was going to get deep, and I knew that if I got into a scramble position, it was my match,” Holton said. “I knew as soon as I got him uncomfortable, it was my match.”

Holton held a 4-3 lead late in the match, but was hit for fleeing the mat to tie things up and send it to overtime. He bounced back in the extra period, however, capitalizing on his second trip to the Finals after falling a win short a year ago.

“I can’t even describe it right now,” Holton said. “My heart is all over the place.”

152

Champion: Gerrit Yates, Hesperia, Jr. (37-1)
Pin, 2:22, over Zack Menck, Lawton, Jr. (54-4)

Yates decided to add basketball to his winter athletics load this year. While he thinks it may be hurting him a bit on the mat, you’d be hard-pressed to tell.

Yates came through in his third straight Finals appearance, winning by second-period pin.

“It’s great to win it, but I didn’t wrestle near my ability,” Yates said. “Probably right after this, I’m going to go work in the wrestling room some more, get in the weight room.”

Menck held a 6-5 lead in the match after one period, but Yates took him straight to his back from their feet early in the second to earn the pin.

“The whole match, he was wrestling kind of defensive, staying back and then jumping at me,” Yates said. “I kind of timed it, as soon as I saw him faking, I sat back and tossed him because I saw it coming. I knew I had to go for something big.”

160

Champion: Tanner Gonzales, Manistique, Sr. (46-0)
Decision, 5-4 (2 OT), over Johnathon Stid, Dansville, Sr. (38-7)

As Gonzales recognized the fans who had made the long trip to the Palace from the Upper Peninsula, one of them shouted to him, “Manistique in the house!”

“I’m the third U.P. champ, and they haven’t had one in a while,” Gonzales said. “So it’s exciting for the whole U.P. and Manistique. It’s a small town, and they’ve never had a state champ in anything.”

Now they do, as Gonzales scored a reversal late in the second period of the second overtime and held on for the win.

“Just hang on,” Gonzales said of his strategy for the final seven seconds. “I hadn’t had a stall call yet, so if I took a stall call, I wasn’t too worried about it.”

171

Champion: Dylan Smith, Bad Axe, Sr. (47-4)
Decision, 3-2, over David Erwin, Bronson, Sr. (53-3)

A third-period takedown lifted Smith to Bad Axe’s first championship since 1991.

“It’s amazing,” Smith said. “I came in and got sixth last year. This is a lot better feeling.”

Smith and Bronson’s Erwin were tied at 1 in the third period before Smith’s takedown gave him a 3-1 lead. Erwin was able to get away and pull within one, but Smith fought him off.

“I was ready for the shot,” Smith said. “Coach was expecting it. I was ready to sprawl off his quick shot.”

189

Champion: Tylor Grames, Hudson, Sr. (41-12)
Decision, 5-3 (OT), over Erik Birchmeier, New Lothrop, Sr. (31-3)

A week ago Grames knocked off Birchmeier to kick off Hudson’s march to a team title.

On Saturday, he needed extra time, but again came out on top against the returning champion from New Lothrop.

“I changed it up from wanting the team to do good, to inspiring everyone that was up there watching to want to do good,” Grames said. “Last week when we wrestled he would post a lot, and I capitalized by making my shots. This week, he barely posted, which made it five times harder.”

Grames had to fight off a near takedown from Birchmeier late in regulation to force overtime.

“Fear,” Grames said. “Fear. I really wanted to make my hometown proud, and I was scared that I wouldn’t, so that’s what drove me on.”

215

Champion: Devon Kozel, Bangor, Sr. (48-1)
Decision, 9-3, over Nick Cooper, Springport, Sr. (40-4)

Kozel was a runner-up a year ago, but he left little doubt Saturday night against returning champion Cooper of Springport.

“I had to redeem myself,” Kozel said.

Kozel had three takedowns and a reversal to control the match and earn a third straight win against Cooper.

“Just have to stay tough on our feet,” Kozel said. “I know where you have to win the match at.”

285

Champion: Logan Kennedy, Decatur, Sr. (58-2)
Decision, 6-4, over Zach Bailey, Hudson, Sr. (41-10)

Losing wasn’t an option for Kennedy.

After finishing as a runner-up a year ago, and falling behind late in his title match Saturday against Hudson’s Bailey, Kennedy turned up the pace to force overtime and eventually win his first MHSAA championship.

“I just knew I had to something,” Kennedy said. “He’d already been hit with a warning for stalling, so I thought if I went at him, I could get another stalling call and send it to overtime. I love wrestling in the third period because I feel so much better than the other wrestlers.”

He continued that aggression into overtime, where he finished off a dream season.

“It’s been my dream my whole entire life,” he said. “Ever since I started wrestling, I knew I wanted to be a state champion.”

Click for full brackets.

PHOTO: Hudson’s Jordan Hamdan (left) and Jackson Lumen Christi’s Spencer Good face off in the Division 4 Final at 119 pounds Saturday. (Click for more from 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.)