Mendon's Crespo Now 2 for 2 in Finals Trips

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

March 3, 2018

DETROIT – Skyler Crespo bounced around Saturday night during his post-match interview.

The Mendon sophomore had just won his second Division 4 wrestling championship in as many tries, but looked like he could get right back on the mat.

“I’m psyched man,” he said. “I could go run a marathon.”

On a night when two four-time MHSAA champions were crowned at Ford Field, Crespo (55-1) remained on track to accomplish the feat himself, winning a 4-2 decision against Onaway sophomore Matthew Grant (45-5) at 135 pounds.

Watching Lake Fenton’s Jarrett Trombley win his fourth title in Division 3 and Hudson junior Jordan Hamdan win his third in Division 4 immediately before he took the mat wasn’t lost on Crespo. But he was more focused on being as dominant as they were in their victories.

“Yeah, that’s a dream of mine since I was 2, but I’ll just settle for two right now and go for three next year,” said Crespo, who is 111-2 in his career. “I’m not really satisfied with that one, I guess. I’m looking to open kids up more. I see these other kids, like Jordan Hamdan – he’s kind of one of my rivals, also one of my friends – he’s winning by 10 and I’m winning by two. It’s just competition. I want to be there, too.”

103

Champion: Ben Modert, Bronson, Soph. (53-3)
Decision, 5-1, over AJ Baxter, Clinton, Fr. (54-3)

Modert had just one word to describe his thoughts as he came off the mat after winning his first Finals championship: Crazy.

“It was amazing, especially at the end,” he said. “Seeing how many people were here, it’s such an amazing experience.”

Modert, who finished fifth at 103 a year ago, led late and was able to get a takedown to seal it.

“My mind was a lot clearer after getting the takedown,” he said. “Just made the match even easier in the end.”

112

Champion: Reese Fry, Manchester, Sr. (56-1)
Fall, 1:30, over Jesse Brumm, Vermontville Maple Valley, Fr. (48-2)

Fry didn’t waste much time claiming his second title. The Manchester senior finished his career with a pin in the first period.

“I just saw an opportunity,” he said. “I had to hammer it and get it done. This shows that my hard work paid off, and I trained really hard. Thank you to my family and friends and teammates that have always supported me to help me get here.”

Fry, who won at 103 in 2017, will wrestle at Brown University next year and bulk up to 125.

“It feels good knowing that I don’t really have to cut weight anymore,” he said. “Now I’ll have to start weight training and bulking up.”

119

Champion: Brenden Spencer, Roscommon, Sr. (39-2)
Decision, 8-6, over Khalil Moten, Flint Beecher, Jr. (40-3)

Spencer trailed throughout his 119-pound championship match but was able to come up big at just the right moment, getting back points on the edge of the mat in the final 10 seconds to secure the victory.

“My leg was just in tight,” he said. “I felt him going over, so I put my Turk in, got the two back points real quick, and I’m a state champion.”

It was an emotional moment for Spencer, who had lost in the semifinals the previous two seasons.

“This year, I just wouldn’t have it,” he said. “I wouldn’t take anything but gold.”

125

Champion: Scott Torres, Hudson, Sr. (49-4)
Decision, 6-4, over Noah Comar, Clinton, Jr. (57-3)

Torres doesn’t like to hold on in a match, but when an MHSAA Finals title is on the line, he’ll do whatever it takes to win.

The Hudson senior held off a late takedown attempt by returning champion Comar to claim his first title.

“He got pretty close,” Torres said. “I just learned that move, as long as you grab their arm and they have your leg, you just hold on at the last second if you have to do it. You don’t usually want to do it, but if you have to do it at the last second for a state title, you have to do it.”

Torres finished fifth in 2017, and while he was a Regional champion two weeks ago, he was seen by most as the underdog heading into Saturday’s match.

“I just felt like no one thought that I could win,” he said. “My coaches and I knew that I had a chance to win, and I just had to go out there and wrestle tough because I wasn’t going to be able to out-technique him. I just had to win every position I could and wrestle tough.”  

130

Champion: Jordan Hamdan, Hudson, Jr. (52-0)
Major decision, 10-0, over Robert Rogers, Burton Bentley, Sr. (40-3)

In a battle of two-time MHSAA champions, Hamdan showed once again that he is on an elite level. The Hudson junior took control early and cruised to a major decision victory to win his third title in as many tries.

“In practice I’m always trying to give my best so I can just keep improving and improving,” Hamdan said. “Then I can be able to dominate more in matches.”

It’s the second straight year Hamdan has defeated a returning champion in a Final. All three of his championships have come with a win against a former or future MHSAA champion.

“I kind of like that pressure,” he said. “It gives me more drive to work harder because I know they’re gunning for me, too.”

140

Champion: Austin Wolford, New Lothrop, Jr. (52-2)
Decision, 5-1, over Andy Park, Leroy Pine River, Sr. (53-2)

Wolford said he was upset after watching his good friend Rogers of Burton Bentley lose his Finals match at 130 pounds, so he did all he could to make sure he didn’t suffer the same fate.

“He’s going to do great at college, and I maybe hope to go to the same college as him, because he’s a great role model for me,” Wolford said. “It made me a little angry, it made me push harder because he’s one of my good friends.”

Wolford led throughout his match, and is now a three-time all-state finisher (fourth in 2017, fifth in 2016).

“The third period, I had to push it; I was dead,” he said. “But I had to push it, because six minutes is all you’ve got and you’re a state champ.”

145

Champion: Jayce Kuehnlein, St. Louis, Sr. (45-3)
Decision, 2-1, over Payton Hunt, Climax-Scotts/Martin, Sr. (53-8)

Kuehnlein went ahead early with a takedown, and while the two points were all he scored, they wound up being enough.

“Coming into the match, I wanted to get that first takedown; that controls the match,” he said. “I did it last night in the semis. My footwork and my top work are probably my best positions, and as soon as I get that Turk leg in, you’re not getting out.”

Hunt tried to go big late and split Kuehnlein, but it wasn’t something the St. Louis senior was about to let happen in his final high school match.

“I like going to those positions, because it’s very hard to get them if the guy knows they’re coming,” Kuehnlein said. “I feel comfortable in those positions.”

152

Champion: Noah Teague, Springport, Sr. (44-4)
Decision, 8-3, over Jake Davis, St. Louis, Sr. (43-4)

Teague didn’t wrestle in the championship match of his Regional tournament, finishing third. But he made up for that when it counted most, knocking off the top two finishers, including St. Louis’ Davis, at the Finals to claim his first title.

“I had to wrestle some great competition this year,” he said. “Gerrit Yates (returning champion from Hesperia, who he defeated in the semifinals) and Jake Davis, top two in the state. I’m sorry to knock them out, but wrestling is a sport where you have to beat the best to be the best.”

Teague took Davis to his back, nearly pinning him early in the match, and continued to attack.

“I just battled through the next two rounds just to get it over with,” he said.

160

Champion: Zach Menck, Lawton, Sr. (55-2)
Decision, 6-5, over Zach Young, Hesperia, Sr. (50-1)

Menck followed in his brother Cole’s footsteps by winning the 160-pound title, almost literally. Not only did Zach Menck defeat a Hesperia opponent in his championship match, like his brother, he did it wearing the same shoes Cole did in 2015.

“It means a lot because the brother and the people I grew up with doing MYWAY meets with, they won (MHSAA titles),” Menck said. “It just means everything to be part of that.”

Menck was a runner-up a year ago, but took control of the match this year.

“I felt very comfortable going into the match, knowing that all I needed to do was continue to push the pace and I would win,” Menck said. “I knew I could go out there and shoot and shoot, and if I persistently shoot, I’m going to take down anybody I go out there against, and that was what I did tonight.”

171

Champion: Wyatt Cool, Mendon, Sr. (53-2)
Decision, 7-5, over Justin Carnahan, New Lothrop, Soph., (40-6)

Cool admitted to being a little winded late in his victory against Carnahan. But he had enough in the tank to pull out the win.

“You lose sight of the stage that you’re on,” Cool said. “Before the match, you’re super stressed out, you’re thinking about everything, but when you get out there it’s just another match. Those nerves make your body weak, so you just have to take a minute to collect yourself.”

Cool held on to a two-point lead for more than a minute in the third period, holding off several takedown attempts from Carnahan.

“I knew I had to keep pushing him; I couldn’t keep backing up,” Cool said. “He wanted to hit that slide-by, and I couldn’t let him get into position to do that.”

189

Champion: Kyle Cassiday, Beaverton, Jr. (56-1)
Decision, 8-1, over TJ Rizor, Leroy Pine River, Soph. (37-7)

215

Champion: Eric Cassiday, Beaverton, Sr. (48-1)
Decision, 4-0, over Chase Gibson, Bronson, Sr. (53-2)

Kyle Cassiday didn’t have a ton of time to celebrate his championship before the nerves came back all over again. Not long after he defeated Rizor at 189 pounds, the Beaverton junior was trying to wrap up interviews and watch his older brother, Eric, wrestle for a title of his own at 215.

“It’s crazy – it’s really hard,” he said. “I’m having trouble focusing right now.”

The Cassidays have two MHSAA championships to celebrate, as Eric also won his match against Bronson’s Gibson. The brothers are the first Finals champions in Beaverton wrestling history.

“My mom’s mind is running a million miles per hour,” Eric Cassiday said when asked how his parents would react. “My dad (Beaverton coach Bryan Cassiday) is happy beyond belief, because he’s coached us since we could walk. He dropped everything he was doing to pick up the youth program, to pick up the high school program, and in my opinion he’s one of the best coaches in the state.”

The brothers also give each other some of the best workout partners in the state, as they’re close in weight. While that can increase the nerves for Kyle in competition, it has been a help for Eric.

“For me, I always come after my brother, because he’s 189 and I’m 215, so to get my mind off the pressure, I get excited for him,” Eric Cassiday said. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here. If it wasn’t for (teammates and fellow Finals qualifiers) Jack (Owens), Seth (Demoines), my buddies out there, I wouldn’t be here.”

285

Champion: Jackson Schenk, Mayville, Sr. (48-2)
Decision, 7-1, over Luke Overweg, Springport, Sr. (44-4)

Before Schenk, no Mayville wrestler had finished better than fourth at the MHSAA tournament. He bested that a year ago when he placed third at 285 pounds, and he re-upped it this year when he claimed the school’s first title.

“Trying to bring respect to us,” he said. “We’re the smallest school in the state with a wrestling program. I’m just trying to prove we’re not to laugh at.”

There was nothing to laugh at Saturday, as Schenk controlled his match against Overweg and closed out an impressive senior campaign.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “Thirteen years of work.”

Click for full results.

PHOTO: Mendon’s Skyler Crespo (left) locks in to Onaway’s Matthew Grant during their championship match at 135 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.)