Mendon's Crespo Completes 4-Title Drive

March 7, 2020

By Dan Stickradt
Special for Second Half

DETROIT — Skyler Crespo reached Michigan wrestling immortality Saturday night.

The senior from Mendon became just the 28th wrestler in MHSAA history — and second on the day — to earn a fourth Individual Finals title.

Crespo posted an 11-0 major decision victory over Clinton sophomore Kent McCombs in the Division 4 145-pound championship match at Ford Field.

Crespo finished with a 53-1 record as a senior and more than 200 career wins. His only defeat this season came against an out-of-state opponent. 

“This feels better than you can imagine,” smiled Crespo.

“One day in seventh grade my coach texted me and asked me, ‘What are your goals?’ I told him I wanted to go D-I,” added Crespo. “He said ‘that we have to have some other goals, too. He said why not go for it all?’ That’s what I did each year.”

McCombs finished his sophomore campaign with a 37-10 record and was part of Clinton’s team championship run. He also lost in the 2019 quarterfinals to Crespo, and wound up finishing fifth.

“I knew he was good on top, but I knew I could take him. I knew I was better. I don’t want to sound cocky, but I have confidence in myself and my training,” added Crespo. “There was no way I was going to lose today.”


Manus Bennett, Marlette, Fr. (45-2)
Decision, 6-4, over Isaiah Mullins, St. Charles, Soph. (36-5)

The top-seeded Bennett’s Finals debut ended in grand fashion.

“I came in as a freshman and just wanted to do well,” said Bennett. “I never really thought about winning a state title. I just wanted to do as best as I could. Once I got here, I went for it. I thought my opponent was great. It went all the way to the end, and I was able to pull it out.

“Now that I won a state championship as a freshman, I want to come back again next year and go for another (title),” added Bennett. “This is a great feeling. I can’t even explain it.”


Bronson Marry, Hudson, Soph. (38-6)
Fall, 1:46, over Shawn McGuire, Iron Mountain, Fr. (41-2)

After finishing as the runner-up at 103 last season, the top-seeded Marry picked up just one of a few pins in the finals Saturday.

“I came so close last year,” said Marry. “This was the goal since last season. It was disappointing last weekend (to lose in the Team Final to Clinton), so I really wanted to come back and win today.” 


Ben Modert, Bronson, Sr. (54-2)
Decision, 9-4, over Zack Hall, Byron, Soph. (50-5)

Modert capped a fine career with his third Finals title, having previously won at 103 as a sophomore and 112 as a junior.

“It’s just crazy that it’s over,” said Modert . “I was nervous, not because of the kid but because it’s my last match ever. So I got too scared for it, I know I did. But I still went out there and got it done.”


Jaron Johnson, Carson City-Crystal, Jr. (42-0)
Decision, 6-2, over Andrew Krupp, New Lothrop, Jr. (39-10)

Johnson capped an unbeaten season after entering this weekend as the top seed at his weight. He was third at 125 a year ago. 

“I never want to underestimate anyone. That’s when mistakes happen,” said Johnson. “It feels great right now. It’s been unreal the past couple of days, especially being a senior and No. 1 all year. I just wanted to go out there and do my stuff. If I worried about it, that’s when I won’t do my best.” 


Caden Natale, Hudson, Jr. (40-5)
Decision, 2-1, over Jacob Shelby, Manchester, Sr. (51-2)

Natale had to stop three times due to a bloody nose. He eventually came back to the mat to down Shelby by wearing a taped-over mask that had a bit of a horror movie feel.

A year ago, Natale lost in double overtime in the 119-pound final. 

“There was blood the whole time; it was crazy,” said Natale. “I just wanted to go back out there. It was really hard because I couldn’t breathe with that mask on. But I kept battling.”

Natale has had to overcome some adversity — even being sidelined for his entire seventh and eighth grade years from sports due to a serious health condition.

“I had a brain cyst that ruptured (before) my seventh grade year. I had to sit out the entire year, spent six months home in bed, and then my eighth grade year I had to sit out for precaution,” added Natale. “It feels so great to be out here, and that makes winning this so special knowing the adversity that I faced a couple of years ago.”


Jamison Ward, Carson City-Crystal, Sr. (53-0)
Decision, 5-1, over Mason Cantu, Hart, Soph. (53-3)

A perfect season was capped with a perfect feeling for Ward, who finished with a second-straight Finals championship.

“We’ve been talking about it all season that we had two (champions) last year and we could have two this year,” said Ward, who finished a combined 101-1 over the past two years. “We did it. (Teammate) Jaron Johnson is an awesome kid and a great practice partner. He did his part, and I did mine. This is a great feeling and even better having two of us win titles on the same day.”


Landyn VanWyk, Lawton, Sr. (52-4)
Decision, 8-5, over Reyden Rognow, Athens, Sr. (40-6)

VanWyk was not the No. 1 seed. But the Lawton senior still persevered and finished on top.

VanWyk posted an 8-5 decision to win his first title. He lost in the blood round at 135 last year.

“I wanted this more than anything,” smiled VanWyk. “I don’t think it settled in until the ref raised my hand. All of that hard work paid off. I still can’t believe it.”


Thomas Potter, Springport, Sr. (46-1)
Decision, 5-1, over Bryce Cheney, New Lothrop, Jr. (33-4)

Potter was not going down in his final match.

“This is what I was working for,” said Potter. “I wanted this more than you know. I knew that I had a chance this year, and I went out there and won the state championship.”


Trenton Holden, Grass Lake, Jr. (46-1)
Decision, 7-2, over Nick Phillips, Manchester, Sr. (35-10)

After not even qualifying for the Finals in 2019, Holden took a quantum leap toward the podium this year.

“I knew what he was going to do. I had (a feeling I) could get in one of my shots,” said Holden. “I never count anyone out. Don’t think, just go out and wrestle hard.

“This means everything,” continued Holden. “Last year I got knocked out at the Regional qualifiers in the blood rounds. This year I changed my whole mentality. I slimmed down a little bit, got in (better) shape and I was able to win it.”


Brock Nelson, LeRoy Pine River, Sr. (23-0)
Decision, 3-2, over Brayden Randolph, Clinton, Jr. (54-5)

Nelson and his teammates have faced plenty of adversity this school year — especially losing Nelson’s best friend Tim Rizor in a car crash four months ago. But Nelson battled through the devastating loss to post a perfect 23-0 season.

“I have been wrestling since I was a little kid, and since I was little I’ve dreamt of winning a state title,” said Nelson. “This year I’ve had some bad things happen to me in my life. What means the most to me is I won the state title for Tim Rizor. He was my buddy that died in a car accident last November. He took second at state two years in a row, and I know he would have taken it this year if he had the chance. This was for him.”


Logan Badge, Clinton, Soph. (37-0)
Decision, 6-4, over Justin Camahan, New Lothrop, Sr. (46-2)

One week after helping Clinton capture its first team title, Badge was back at it again winning an individual crown.

He won the Division 4 title at 215 last year, but dropped down a weight and still repeated.

“I just felt better about my performance (being down at 189),” said Badge of his weight loss. “I feel better. I am eating cleaner, not eating junk food and stuff like that. I cut everything out.

“This feels just as good as the first time,” continued Badge, who is 72-2 over the past two seasons. “Now I want to go after a couple of more.” 


Camden Orr, New Lothrop, Jr. (44-3)
Fall, 4:40, over Shane Osantowski, Ubly, Sr. (35-7)

Seconds after winning, Orr nearly grabbed a few more takedown points by leaping onto his coaches in celebration and nearly forcing them onto the next mat.

Orr, the top seed, more than earned his celebratory rights.

“I did almost knock Coach over,” smiled Orr. 

“There’s nothing quite like it, to be honest,” continued Orr, who was sixth at 189 last year. “I went for the reversal and I spun him around and got him on his back. I got in front and was able to take him down. It’s exciting. This is what I’ve been working for all year. When you get it — it’s awesome — and you don’t know what to do but celebrate. That’s why I ran over to my coaches.”


Simon Lato, Manchester, Sr. (53-2)
Decision, 5-4 (OT), over Emmett Bingaman, Mendon, Sr. (49-3)

Holding a slim 4-3 lead late in the third period, Lato was penalized for locking his hands.

That didn’t deter the senior and top seed.

Lato came back with an overtime point and captured his first championship.

“(The penalty) doesn’t matter. I got him (in overtime),” noted Lato, who was seventh at 285 last season. “That was my goal, and I was not going to let that bother me and take me away from winning.”

Click for the full bracket.

PHOTO: Mendon’s Skyler Crespo locks up Clinton’s Kent McCombs on the way to winning his fourth Individual Finals title. (Click for more from

Imlay City's D'Ambrosio: Calm, Cool & Contending for School's 1st Mat Championship

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

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.)