By Jeff Chaney
Special for Second Half
KALAMAZOO – When talking about a dynasty, Lowell wrestling coach R.J. Boudro says the cause and effect of his program’s reaches far outside of his wrestling room.
Boudro and Red Arrows added to their dynasty Saturday at the Wings Event Center when they won their seventh straight – and 10th overall – Division 2 team championship with a convincing 53-4 victory over previously-unbeaten Gaylord.
The win extended the team’s MHSAA record for consecutive Team Finals championships, which Lowell took over alone with their sixth in a row in 2019.
"Dynasty is a community; it's all about community," Boudro said. "It's about the kids. You see all of the young kids here today. It's about parents, it's about community, and Lowell is a great community and I am lucky to be involved. We are lucky to be involved.”
It didn't take long for Lowell to muscle control away from the Blue Devils on Saturday.
Starting at the 119-pound weight class, Red Arrows senior Nick Korhorn won by technical fall, 15-0.
From there, Lowell won 13 of 14 matches, and there was never a doubt which team would finish on top
During that stretch, there were some very big individual matchups – like the one at 145 pounds.
There, Lowell three-time Individual Finals champion Austin Boone scored a major decision victory over two-time individual champion and three-time finalist Chayse LaJoie, 11-3.
Boone reiterated his coach's sentiments on what it means to be a Lowell Red Arrow, and that he is a product of great people around him.
"We picked up where our old teammates left off, and we all get to carry on what they started," Boone said. "It is nice to see our seniors finish this off, and now it just moves on to the next guys.
Boone could write his name in the state's wrestling history book again next weekend at Ford Field as he will try to become just the second wrestler in the state to win four individual and four team titles.
If accomplished, he will join former Davison legend Brent Metcalf in earning that achievement.
"Lowell has given me so much." said Boone, who will be wrestling at Penn State University next year. "I have had (practice ) partners for so many years that have made me better than I ever thought I could be. I wouldn't be as good as I am today without them."
Gaylord's lone win came from John Henry Sosa at 130 pounds.
This was the second time in the past three years that the Blue Devils lost to Lowell in the Final.
"They are good, they are a well-coached team," Gaylord coach Jerry LaJoie said. "We had a couple of things that did not go right for us, so we had to adjust our lineup. So that forced our kids to wrestle up a weight or two."
PHOTOS: (Top) Lowell and Gaylord wrestlers work for control at the start of a match during Saturday’s Division 2 Final. (Middle) The Red Arrows celebrate their seventh-straight Division 2 championship. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
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.
“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 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.”
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 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.)