Teammates, Gracious Opponents As Well

March 2, 2013

By Bill Khan
Special to Second Half

AUBURN HILLS — It was a surreal scene at the edge of the mat when Austin Eicher and Jacob Gorial met for the 130-pound title in the MHSAA Division 1 wrestling tournament Saturday at The Palace.

Coaches can often get quite animated when their wrestlers are going for a championship. But the coaches in Eicher's and Gorial's corners sat quietly in their chairs, occasionally smiling as they took in the action as passive observers. One coach even got up to grab a cup of water while the match was in progress.

None of the four coaches watching matside was taking sides, not when both competing wrestlers wore the blue and gold of Hartland High School.

"We're both teammates," Gorial said. "It would've been unfair."

In only the sixth MHSAA championship match involving teammates, Eicher won a 5-0 decision over Gorial.

Eicher, a junior who finished 52-1, was the 119-pound runner-up last season. The teammates never met this season, with Eicher winning the District and Regional finals over Gorial by injury default.

"It was definitely different," Eicher said. "He's one of my best friends. We both wanted it. We've been working hard this whole year. It was both of our goals to win the state championship. I took something away from him, but I wasn't going to let him take it away from me.

"Once we're out there, we're just wrestling. We know we're friends before the match when we're warming up, but once we're wrestling, it's go time."

Gorial, a sophomore who finished 56-5, credited Eicher for making him a better wrestler in practice.

"I'm glad Austin won," Gorial said. "He worked hard. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be here right now."

Click for full results, and read below for recaps of each championship match and comments from all the winners.


Champion: Robert Coe, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (45-4)
Decision, 3-0, over Parker Tillman, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, Jr. (41-4)

Coe had a tougher battle this year against Tillman, but still prevailed to win the championship. Coe pinned Tillman at the 2:16 mark in a first-round match in last year's MHSAA Final.

Coe used an escape to break a 0-0 stalemate with less than 30 seconds remaining in the match.

"I was a little nervous at the beginning of the match," Coe said. "He came out really strong. He's bigger than I remember. I pinned him last year here. He got better this year."


Champion: Benny Gomez, Holt, Soph. (47-0)
Fall, 1:25, over Michael Volyanyuk, Farmington Hills Harrison, Soph. (45-8)

Gomez got his only pin in four matches at The Palace in the championship, but he was nonetheless dominant with two majority decisions and a 9-3 victory before the final.

He finished fourth at 103 pounds last year.

"It's still kind of hard to believe," Gomez said. "I had a lot of close matches this year, in and out of state. I grew and basically just competed all summer, no breaks, and pushed myself to get to this level."


Champion: Lincoln Olson, Davison, Soph. (46-2)
Decision, 10-4, over Kyle Gillies, Westland John Glenn, Sr. (55-1)

Olson held up two fingers toward the Davison cheering section after adding this year's 112 title to the 103-pound crown he won as a freshman.

He did so by handing Gillies his only loss in 56 matches this season. Olson also beat Gillies in the quarterfinals last year.

"Last season, I kind of shocked the world," Olson said. "No one knew me. Not much was expected of me. This year, they knew who I am. A lot of kids were content just getting beat by a few points."


Champion: Shayne Wireman, Holt, Sr. (46-0)
Decision, 6-3, over Mitch Rogaliner, Temperance Bedford, Sr. (48-3)

Wireman's victory gave him a 2-2 career record against Rogaliner in a rivalry that always seems to take place on a big stage.

Wireman beat Rogaliner 2-1 in the 103-pound final in 2011 before Rogaliner got revenge with a third-period pin in the 112-pound semifinals last year.

"It's always a fun match against him," Wireman said. "We're 2-2 against each other. We've dominated this weight class. We know each other very well."

Wireman will wrestle at Eastern Michigan, while Rogaliner is heading to Michigan State. "So we'll probably meet each other again," Wireman said.


Champion: Zach Henderson, Hudsonville, Sr. (40-7)
Decision, 6-4, over Martin Rodriquez, Holt, Jr. (17-1)

Henderson won three of his four matches at The Palace by two points or fewer to pull the upset.

Rodriquez beat Henderson by seven points in the Regional final to take an unbeaten record to The Palace.

"My brother looked on (Michigan) Grappler and said I wasn't favored to win at all," Henderson said. "I didn't think anything of it. He told me midway through. I'd already won twice. People were just speaking
wisdom and God's word to me. That gave me confidence."


Champion: Ken Bade, Detroit Catholic Central, Sr. (40-7)
Decision, 4-3 OT, over Matt Miller, Davison, Jr. (29-7)

A point awarded for stalling sent this match to overtime, and another awarded for grabbing head gear decided the title winner.

It was a strange ending for Bade's third MHSAA championship. He won at 125 in 2011 and 130 in 2012.

"There's no way you can prepare for that, except coach telling us throughout the year that you have to stay composed, you have to keep your cool," Bade said. "I stayed composed and was ready to go and went back on the line."


Champion: Malik Amine, Detroit Catholic Central, Jr. (40-6)
Decision, 11-6, over Eric Rybarz, New Baltimore Anchor Bay, Sr. (54-3)

Amine lost 9-6 to Alex Pantaleo of Canton in last year's 135-pound final, a loss that fueled the Catholic Central junior for the past 12 months.

"I used it as a driving force to have it affect my head in practice when I didn't want to do any more sprints or didn't want to do more shots," Amine said. "I had to push myself to be better."

Amine was fifth at 112 pounds in 2011.


Champion: Travis Mann, Westland John Glenn, Sr. (32-3)
Decision, 10-4, over Andrew Napieraj, Birmingham Brother Rice, Sr. (50-3)

Most high school wrestlers don't drop a weight class the following season, but Mann did so successfully.

Mann was fourth at 152 pounds last year before winning the 145 title on Saturday. Two of Mann's three losses were to Livonia Franklin's Jordan Atienza, the 152-pound runner-up.

"It's the greatest feeling ever," Mann said. "I've been training for this since I was 4 years old. I finally got it my senior year."


Champion: Nick Vandermeer, Clarkston, Sr. (44-5)
Fall, 4:17, over Jordan Atienza, Livonia Franklin, Jr. (58-1)

Vandermeer averted disaster and turned it into a championship, rolling out of a near-pin to record a pin of his own against the previously-unbeaten Atienza.

"I almost felt myself getting pinned," Vandermeer said. "I was warned he throws with his upper body. I didn't expect to be rolling. I had to get out, but I was able to re-roll him and catch him pretty much."

Vandermeer joined his brother, Matt, as MHSAA champions. Matt was the 171-pound champion in 2011.


Champion: Jordan Cooks, Davison, Jr. (43-1)
Decision, 8-5, over Logan Marcicki, Detroit Catholic Central, Jr. (35-6)

Cooks beat Marcicki for the second straight week to repeat as 160-pound champion.

Cooks scored a 5-3 decision over Marcicki in the team championship match, one that Catholic Central ultimately won.

"It feels amazing," Cooks said. "It feels a lot better than the first one. It means a lot, being my second one."


Champion: Drew Garcia, Detroit Catholic Central, Jr. (52-0)
Decision, 8-2, over Mitchel Thomas, Hartland, Sr. (59-2)

Garcia won Catholic Central's fourth and final individual championship of the day, repeating as the 171-pound winner.

Garcia brought big-time experience to The Palace, having also finished as the 152-pound runner-up in 2011. Thomas gave Garcia one of his tougher matches in a perfect junior campaign.

"He was good," Garcia said. "I wrestled him early in the year. He was one of the only kids who didn't gas in the third period, so I knew I'd have to wrestle a full six minutes. He's a tough kid."


Champion: Shwan Shadaia, Rochester, Jr. (54-1)
Decision,  4-3, over Chris Calvano, Clarkston, Sr. (40-5)

Shadaia became only the second Rochester wrestler to win an MHSAA title when he broke a 3-3 tie with an escape in the final seconds. Calvano had tied the match moments earlier.

"We drill these kinds of situations in practice all the time – 20 seconds, 15 seconds to win the state championship," Shadaia said. "That's what I took it as - another practice."

Rochester's only other champion was Shane Camera, a Class A winner in 1987 and 1989.


Champion: Brandon Sunday, Temperance Bedford, Sr. (51-1)
Decision, 5-4 OT, over Jordon Brandon, Westland John Glenn, Jr. (55-5)

Sunday stayed alive when Brandon was penalized for stalling with 10 seconds left in the third period, tying the match at 3-3. Sunday won by getting an escape with 20 seconds left in the final overtime

"It was crazy," Sunday said. "I just wrestled that kid in the team Regionals and individual Regionals. It was close every single time, two or less points. Definitely, he's my toughest opponent this year.
He's only a junior. He wrestles like he's in college."

Sunday was the 189-pound runner-up last year.

PHOTO: Hartland's Austin Eicher (right) works to take down teammate, and for this match opponent, Jacob Gorial during Saturday's Division 1 Individual Finals. (Click to see more at

Imlay City's D'Ambrosio: Calm, Cool & Contending for School's 1st Mat Championship

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

February 7, 2024

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.

Bay & Thumb“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, right, takes to the mat during his early years in the sport. 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.”

D’Ambrosio, right, works to pin an opponent. 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 CostanzoPaul 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.)