When her brother started wrestling in grade school, MaryAlice Lynch figured she would pick up the sport as well.
“I originally started wrestling with the Belleville wrestling club when I was in second or third grade,” Lynch said. “I wanted to do it because my brother was doing it, and I wanted to do everything my brother was doing. I really looked up to him. We did everything together.”
It did not take long, and Lynch – and her family – were hooked on the sport.
“I think it started off as just being something my brother (Michael) and I had in common, then it kind of grew into a whole family,” she said. “I still talk to a lot of people I met when I first started wrestling. It is like a family now. I still love it.”
She has stuck with wrestling over the years and today, Lynch is reaching milestones as a senior wrestler at Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central.
Last weekend she took part in a girls tournament Friday, then wrestled as part of an SMCC team tournament Saturday. Along the way, Lynch won her 100th career match, putting her in select company as one of the few female wrestlers in the state to reach the milestone. She is the first female wrestler in Monroe County Region history to reach 100 wins.
“It shows her dedication to the sport,” SMCC coach Nick Eby said.
Lynch went 11-9 as a freshman, 31-13 as a sophomore, 42-13 as a junior and is 17-5 this season, putting her at 101 wins going into this week.
“It’s cool to see all of the work I put in since my freshman year and how it all added up,” she said.
Lynch isn’t sure how many of those wins were against boys or came against girls.
“I don’t mind competing against the boys because that’s what I started with,” she said. “When I started, there were maybe one or two girls on my team, but there weren’t hardly any on the other teams.”
“At the end of the day, it’s still wrestling,” Lynch added. “I don’t really notice anything substantially different. I wrestle when I’m supposed to.”
Getting to 100 wins was no easy task. As a freshman, Lynch and SMCC had to navigate through COVID-19.
“We missed out on a whole bunch of meets,” she said. “I didn’t get many matches that year.”
She’s also experienced massive changes in Michigan high school wrestling. During her sophomore year, the MHSAA began sponsoring a postseason individual wrestling tournament for girls, something she was eager to take part in. For the few seasons prior, there was a girls state tournament hosted by the state coaches association.
“It was a big improvement,” she said. “The year prior we were wrestling in an old supermarket. I was really happy to be included with the guys and be at Ford Field.”
Lynch placed fourth at 105 pounds at last year’s Individual Finals. She is part of a wrestling rebirth of sorts at SMCC.
During the 1980s, the school – Monroe Catholic Central then – was a wrestling powerhouse, winning Class B titles in 1982 and 1983 and finishing runner-up in 1985.
There also was a season about six years ago, about the time current head coach Eby was graduating, when the team had just three wrestlers total.
“We didn’t have a youth program and there wasn’t much interest in the sport, honestly,” Eby said.
SMCC went 0-7 in duals in 2018-19, and Eby was hired the next year. His first season, the team consisted mainly of freshmen.
With his help – and athletes like Lynch dedicating themselves to the sport – SMCC wrestling is taking off again. Last season, SMCC won 17 matches. This year, Eby’s sixth as head coach, the Falcons have 24 wrestlers on the squad, and they are filling up every weight class and competing at a much higher level.
“I feel like last year really kicked it off,” Lynch said. “Last year, we got a lot of new people and they worked hard, and that brought in a lot of new people this year.
“I think as a team this year, things are going better than I anticipated. We lost a couple of good wrestlers, including my brother, but the newer guys have definitely stepped up. We are just making our way through the season.
Eby said Lynch has played a big part in the program’s rise.
“She’s definitely the most technical on the team and one of, if not the hardest workers, on the team,” he said. “She always has a good mindset going into her matches. For a couple of years, we didn’t have very many wrestlers, but we could always count on her to go out and fight.”
Lynch wrestles at 113 for the most part this season. Her sister, Brianna, occupies the 106-pound class.
“It’s an adjustment for her knowing she is carrying that weight class on her own, but she is doing well with it,” she said.
MaryAlice is the daughter of Collin and Christina Lynch. Her mom attended SMCC, and her dad went to Woodhaven. “My mom didn’t wrestle, but she did Tae Kwan Do in high school,” Lynch said. “My dad wrestled at Woodhaven.”
Lynch, 17, is a lifeguard during the summer at a park near her Belleville home. She is considering wrestling in college but also might have an opportunity to run track.
“It would be really weird if I wasn’t wrestling at this point,” she 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 [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Monroe St. Mary’s MaryAlice Lynch, in green, works to gain control during a match. (Middle) Lynch’s teammates and spectators celebrate her 100th career win. (Photos by Tom Hawley/Monroe News.)
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.)