Repeat Reaffirms Clinton's Spot Among Annual Contenders

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

March 30, 2021

KALAMAZOO – The Clinton wrestling program took its place at the top of Division 4 a year ago, claiming the first Finals title in school history. 

On Tuesday, it emphatically announced that it’s here to stay.  

Clinton rolled through its competition throughout the day, topped off with a 55-9 win against New Lothrop at Wings Event Center, to claim its second-straight Division 4 title. 

“I think now people know that we’re the real deal,” Clinton co-coach Jeff Rolland said. “We solidified what we did last year. We’ve got a lot of young kids – there's only four guys in our lineup every day that aren’t going to be here next year. We did this without three all-staters in our lineup from last year. We have a lot of depth. We have more coming. I think people know that we’re for real now. It’s not a one-year deal or whatever.” 

Clinton was dominant throughout the postseason, and closed it out the same way, winning 76-6 in the Quarterfinal against Ravenna and 59-9 in the Semifinal against Leslie. That’s despite what Rolland said was a performance in the Semifinal that was less than the team’s best. But Clinton has reached the point where it can win even when it’s not at the top of its game. 

“Since my freshman year we were chasing it and we fell short, then we fell short again my sophomore year,” senior Landis Gillman said. “My junior year we really picked it up, and we got into the mindset that we wanted it. We became a family. We’ve just been striving and pushing ourselves to the limits to reach this point.” 

And in case there was any doubt remaining about the program’s status, Clinton has won its titles against the two programs that had dominated the division for more than a decade prior – Hudson (2020) and New Lothrop.  

“Last year was big because we had to go through both,” Rolland said. “New Lothrop, if they’re not the most storied program in the state, I don’t know who is. We’ve got nothing but respect for that team, those guys. It makes it special when you beat a team like that, for sure.” 

It was Gillman who started Clinton off with a bang in the Finals, as he bumped up to 140 pounds and won by major decision against New Lothrop’s Andrew Krupp in a matchup of wrestlers ranked in the top three.  

Clinton won the first six matches of the dual, five by major decision – by Gillman, Kent McCombs (145), AJ Baxter (152), Spencer Konz (160) and Logan Badge (189) – and one with a first-period pin from Brayden Randolph (171).  

“Landis had a day today,” Rolland said. “He went through some kids today. That was big. He’s up a weight class. He’s very, very good as you saw. But a major starting out, I think our kids fed off that. I’m so proud of that kid. He’s a senior, he spent two years on the bench, waited his turn, and now he’s got his shot.” 

Clinton wrestlingNew Lothrop picked up its two wins in the dual at 215 and 285, as Grayson Orr won a 4-3 decision, followed by a second-period fall from Isiah Pasik.  

Clinton closed the dual out with six straight wins, however, as Connor Younts (103) and Ethan Younts (135) each won by pin, Nik Shadley (125) won by technical fall, and Coy Perry (112) and Zak Shadley (130) won by decision. Connor Busz (119) won by forfeit.  

“We did what we needed to do; we wrestled those kids hard,” New Lothrop coach Jeff Campbell said. “They sent a kid out at every weight that was a very talented wrestler, a very experienced wrestler who was well-coached, and we had to compete hard against them, and every single kid did. We just didn’t have as much ammunition as they did today. But I was really, really proud of our effort. We made plenty of mistakes, but we definitely made every point get earned, and that’s all we can try to do.” 

The championship match appearance was the first since 2018 for the Hornets, who had made five straight starting in 2014 and have won 15 team titles. 

“It’s an expectation – from the youth level up, we try to put ourselves in a position to do well,” Campbell said. “I think it’s great for our younger guys, and those younger guys that got to step onto the mat. It’s another one of those years when we lose a good crop of seniors. I told them out here, ‘You seniors, your legacy isn’t whether or not you win or lose this last match or you win or lose a state title yourself. It’s what did you teach the kids along the way? Even when you didn’t know they were watching, what were you doing? How hard were you working? Were you cutting weight the right way? Did you compete in these matches when you were the underdog fearless and wrestle hard?’ They showed that today.” 

New Lothrop defeated Bark River-Harris 54-20 in the Quarterfinal, and received a bye in the Semifinal, as both Hudson and Schoolcraft were disqualified for putting in a wrestler at an ineligible weight in their Quarterfinal. 

Gillman, McCombs, Baxter, Randolph, Badge, Connor Younts, Perry, Busz and Zak Shadley each picked up three wins on the day for Clinton. 

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Clinton’s Landis Gillman wrestles New Lothrop’s Andrew Krupp during Tuesday’s Division 4 Final. (Middle) Clinton celebrates its repeat championship. (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.)