By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
BATTLE CREEK – Gabe Bennett made himself take a few deep breaths at the end of Saturday morning, then had a long talk with his dad, which helped.
The New Lothrop senior has won a lot during his high school career, and placed at the MHSAA Individual Finals the last two seasons. But Saturday morning, although the Hornets moved on from their Division 4 Semifinal, Bennett lost his match – falling to 0-4 for his career for the final two rounds of team competition.
The afternoon’s championship match against Hudson would provide one last opportunity to help the Hornets with a title on the line.
“If you win all the time, you don’t learn a whole lot. If you lose, that’s where you’re able to go back and learn from what you did and why you lost,” Bennett said. “I’ve taken all those times that I’ve lost, and I’ve learned something new – a new move to counter that, or to make my shots better, or whatever I needed to do to make myself better.
“Coming into this (Final) match, being a senior, this was my last one. (I thought) let’s go out with a bang. I did it.”
Bennett’s one-point decision win at 130 pounds got the Hornets even after an early deficit and contributed to what turned into a 38-24 victory and title repeat for reigning champion New Lothrop (29-1), the top-seeded team in Division 4 entering the weekend.
That favorite status was part of how this weekend’s narrative differed from in 2014, when the Hornets came back over the final three weights to upset the then top-seeded Tigers, who had won a record five straight MHSAA team titles.
Saturday’s win was less dramatic – New Lothrop clinched with two weights to wrestle. But this season as a whole was impressive in other respects – notably in how the Hornets dominated after graduating two individual champions who carried the load a year ago.
Bennett was one of four Hornets who won in Saturday’s championship match after falling in the Final a year ago. Junior Cole Hersch won by pin at 125 pounds to put the Hornets on the scoreboard, and Bennett’s 7-6 decision in the next bout evened the match score at 9-9. Sophomore Erik Birchmeier won by decision at 160 to give the Hornets a nine-point lead with six bouts left, and senior heavyweight David Robertson clinched the championship with a pin.
“Last year it felt like we had to get it. We had that good group of seniors that had a chance the three years before that. … That was like their time,” New Lothrop coach Jeff Campbell said. “Last year felt like more pressure. This year, I don’t want to say I surprised, but I was just really excited and proud of our leadership and the way the guys stepped in and filled in after the amazing leaders we had last year graduated.”
“(Bennett had) lost heart-breakers. … So to have him be the one who really got momentum going for us is pretty special.”
Junior Steven Garza II earned a key major decision at 140 pounds to follow Bennett and give New Lothrop a lead it would’ve give back. Senior Trevor Copes followed Garza with a pin to extend the lead to 19-9 halfway through the match.
Junior Caleb Symons was awarded a void at 215 pounds, and freshman Tommy Malloy followed Robertson’s clincher with a major decision at 103.
Although Hudson (23-6) did fall in the Final for the second straight season, it made its seventh straight championship match despite entering the weekend seeded third. The Tigers edged second-seeded Decatur 39-33 in the morning’s Semifinal and climbed within a point of New Lothrop with four bouts remaining.
Senior Tyler Roberts and junior Kyle Johnson won by pins in the championship match for Hudson. Seniors Roddy Hamdan and Mitch Ely and sophomores Tylor Grames and Zak Lopinski won by decisions.
“We were in a position a couple of spots where maybe we could make a legitimate run at it. But they’re pretty deep up top,” Hudson coach Scott Marry said. “I’m never going to fault my kids for their efforts. They gave everybody on the team, everybody in the community, their coaches, everything they’ve got, and that’s all I can ask.
“They goal is to win it, but sometimes certain things are out of your control. That was a very good team that beat us.”
PHOTO: (Top) New Lothrop’s Cole Hersch (right) works toward a pin in his 130-pound match Saturday afternoon. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
Shayna Hruska ♦ Iron Mountain
Junior ♦ Wrestling
With an 8-2 decision win in the 106-pound final Saturday, Hruska became the first female champion at the annual Upper Peninsula Championships, and she then was selected the event’s “Outstanding Wrestler” for going 3-0 also with pins in her first two matches of the tournament. Those victories improved her record to 18-6 this season.
Hruska began wrestling in third grade and finished fourth at 97 pounds as a freshman at the 2021 Michigan Wrestling Association Girls Championships. She then finished second at her District to reach Regionals competing in the bracket with the boys last season. She entered last week’s U.P. Championships title coming off a runner-up finish at the Escanaba Elks Invitational on Jan. 7 and the championship at 106 at Kingsford’s Ray Mariucci Wrestling Invitational on Jan. 14.
@mhsaasports 🤼♀️POW: Shayna Hruska #performanceoftheweek #wrestling #upchampionship #outstandingwrestler #congrats #meetchamp #uppower #mountaineers #ironmountain #MHSAA #highschoolsports #tiktalk #interview #TikTok #mistudentaid #fyp @shaynahruska ♬ Beat Automotivo Tan Tan Tan Viral - WZ Beat
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Dec. 20: Brenden Paden, Riverview Gabriel Richard hockey - Report
Dec. 16: Tuff Scott, Holton bowling - Report
Dec. 9: Macey Fegan, Standish-Sterling basketball - Report
Dec. 2: Treyton Siegert, Gladwin football - Report
Nov. 24: Lily Witte, Dexter diving - Report
Nov. 17: Navea Gauthier, Shelby volleyball - Report
Nov. 10: Derek Huisman, Holland Christian soccer - Report
Nov. 3: Thomas Westphal, New Baltimore Anchor Bay cross country - Report
Oct. 27: Justin Wickey, Colon football - Report
Oct. 20: Owen DeMuth, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood tennis - Report
Oct. 13: Mia Melendez, Ann Arbor Greenhills golf - Report
Oct. 6: Shawn Foster, Grand Ledge football - Report
Sept. 30: Hannah Smith, Temperance Bedford swimming - Report
Sept. 22: Helen Sachs, Holland West Ottawa cross country - Report
Sept. 15: Nina Horning, Lake Orion volleyball - Report
Sept 8: Arturo Romero, Muskegon Oakridge soccer - Report
Sept. 1: Austin King, Midland Dow tennis - Report
Aug. 25: Olivia Hemmila, Troy Athens golf - Report
(Photos courtesy of the Iron Mountain High School athletic department.)