The success has become so familiar, and some of the names to match, it’s like Lowell has been sending out the same wrestlers the last eight years.
That’s not true or possible, of course. But more than a handful of current Red Arrows have played major roles in carrying on the program’s seven-year MHSAA Finals record championship streak.
Lowell is the top seed again as it seeks to make that eight in a row Tuesday at Wings Event Center. The Quarterfinal pairings are as follows:
#1 Lowell vs. #8 Charlotte - Mat 2
#4 Monroe Jefferson vs. #5 Fremont - Mat 1
#3 Goodrich vs. #6 Warren Woods Tower- Mat 4
#2 Stevensville Lakeshore vs. #7 Allendale - Mat 3
Spectator limits remain in effect, but all matches will be broadcast live and viewable with subscription on MHSAA.tv. Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 2, listed by seed.
Record/rank: 17-3, No. 1
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference White
Coach: R.J. Boudro, seventh season (134-21)
Championship history: Ten MHSAA championships (most recent 2020), six runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Ramsy Mutschler (21-4) jr., 125 Landon Miller (10-5) soph., 130 James Link (17-6) jr., 135 Zeth Strejc (17-3) sr., 145 Will Link (21-3) sr., 145 Tacho Gonzales (19-6) fr., 160 Doak Dean (21-2) sr., 160 Carson Crace (17-4) soph., 171 Jacob Lee (18-1) sr., 189 Derek Mohr (19-2) sr., 215 Carter Blough (21-2) jr., 285 Keegan Nugent (24-0) sr.
Outlook: Lowell’s Finals-record championship streak is at seven straight titles and counting. Half of last season’s championship match lineup returns for a team that also starts half seniors. The Red Arrows defeated No. 4 Middleville Thornapple Kellogg 50-22 in the Regional Final. Strejc (130) and Nugent (215) were individual runners-up last season, while Will Link (fourth at 140), Dean (fifth at 160) and Lee (third at 171) also placed.
#2 STEVENSVILLE LAKESHORE
Record/rank: 18-0, No. 3
League finish: First in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Bruce Bittenbender, 51st season (958-265-2)
Championship history: Class B runner-up 1994 and 1986.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Taylor Lucas (17-5) jr., 119 Cameron Litaker (19-3) jr., 125 Aaron Lucio (19-0) soph., 125 Kyle Stampfly (16-6) jr., 140 Micah Hanau (21-0) jr.
Outlook: Lakeshore is seeded to contend for its first championship match berth since 1994, which would be another achievement for Bittenbender – the winningest coach in MHSAA wrestling history. The Lancers sandwiched a 28-point District win over St. Joseph with a couple of postseason nail-biters, defeating Paw Paw by one and Edwardsburg by three points. Hanau is the reigning individual champ at 130, while Lucio was third at 119 last season and Litaker was sixth at 112.
Record/rank: 16-0, No. 6
League finish: First in Flint Metro League
Coach: Kenneth Sirignano, 11th season (record N/A)
Championship history: Two MHSAA championships (most recent 2009), three runner-up finishes
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Brody Orcutt (19-2) fr., 119 Heremius Cheff (16-3) soph., 125 Ryan Angelo (15-8) jr., 135 Carson Richards (18-2) jr., 140 Easton Phipps (16-3) fr., 152 Brady Benson (19-4) soph., 189 Cameron Macklem (15-5) jr., 215 Zach Schmitz (10-8) sr.
Outlook: Goodrich was runner-up as recently as 2019, when it fell to Lowell by only six points in the Final. The Martians didn’t make it to Quarterfinals last season but return for the fourth time in six seasons and with a starting lineup featuring 10 underclassmen. Richards finished sixth at 140 at the Individual Finals last season.
#4 MONROE JEFFERSON
Record/rank: 12-2, No. 5
League finish: First in Huron League
Coach: Mike Humphrey, 18th season (349-154)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Cody Richards (16-0) jr., 103 Issac Masserant (13-6) fr., 119 John Allen (14-2) soph., 125 Dylan Garcia (15-3) jr., 130 Hunter Major (16-3) sr., 135 Ethan Brabant (15-5) sr., 145 Seth Minney (14-5) soph., 152 Jac White (15-4) sr., 189 Brendan Bashaw (12-4) sr.
Outlook: Jefferson is making its second trip to the Quarterfinals and first since 1995. The Bears have won District titles three straight seasons, but their league title was the first since 2017. Ten upperclassmen bring experience to the starting lineup, with Richards a returning individual placer having come in sixth at 103 last season.
Record/rank: 26-2, unranked
League finish: Second in Central State Activities Association
Coach: Craig Zeerip, seventh season (155-62)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 RJ Thome (31-0) jr., 112 Tee Ward (29-2) fr., 119 Eli Beasley (29-4) sr., 130 Trey Myers (26-4) fr., 160 Trey Breuker (30-2) sr., 189 Michael Romero (20-10) soph.
Outlook: Fremont reached the Quarterfinals last season for the first time, in Division 3, and repeated that achievement against larger competition this winter. The Packers have won all four of their postseason matches by at least 16 points. Thome was fifth at 103 last season, and Breuker was eighth at 152.
#6 WARREN WOODS TOWER
Record/rank: 13-8, No. 10
League finish: Third in Macomb Area Conference Red
Co-coaches: Greg Mayer, 21st season (402-258), Russell Correll, eighth season (165-62)
Championship history: Division 2 runner-up 2017.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Tyler Daniel (16-7) jr., 125 Joe Haynes (19-1) sr., 130 Dru Wilson (13-5) sr., 135 Gavin Shoobridge (16-2) sr., 140 Mathew Booth (12-8) sr., 140 Josh Howey (21-1) jr., 152 Dominic Johnson (14-9) sr.
Outlook: The Titans have now reached the Quarterfinals six straight seasons, this time rolling through with every postseason win by at least 36 points. They will miss junior two-time individual champ Omari Embree (171, 17-1), who is out for this weekend, but return another champ in Haynes, last season’s 119 title winner. Also placing last season were Daniel (eighth at 103), Howey (eighth at 125), Wilson (fifth at 130) and sophomore Ryan Radvansky (160, 16-4), who was eighth at 160.
Record/rank: 22-7, unranked
League finish: First in O-K Blue
Coach: Duane Watson, 33rd season (682-259)
Championship history: Has never appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Harrison Meekhof (27-6) fr., 112 Jack Guerrero (26-7) fr., 135 Cris Perez (23-5) sr., 152 Jordan Silva (21-13) sr.
Outlook: After two seasons away, Allendale is back at the Quarterfinals for the third time in five years and with a fifth-straight league title and 14th-straight District championship. The team has four Individual Finals qualifiers, but eight wrestlers have won at least 22 matches this abbreviated season. Perez finished eighth at 130 in 2020.
Record/rank: 18-8, unranked
League finish: Second in Capital Area Activities Conference White
Coach: Korey Knapp, fourth season (63-47)
Championship history: Class B champion 1968, runner-up 1965.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Jayden Schwartz (22-4) soph., 140 Logan Haughton (25-3) jr., 152 Bo Brandt (24-8) sr.
Outlook: Charlotte is returning to the Quarterfinals for the first time since 1990, and second time in program history. The Orioles defeated perennial power Eaton Rapids to win their District, then upset another annual force in No. 7 Mason at the Regional. Charlotte has had individual standouts over the years – their lone individual qualifier last season won a championship – but this week will also see the Orioles send triple that number to the Individual Finals.
PHOTO: Will Link, right, works toward a pin during Lowell’s Semifinal win last season at Wings Event Center. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
DUNDEE – How do you replace a legendary coach?
For 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.
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.
“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.)