MHSAA Historian Picks 10 to Remember

August 9, 2016

By Rob Kaminski
MHSAA benchmarks editor

It sounded simple and fun, the theme for the MHSAA's spring issue of benchmarks: a history of MHSAA tournaments.

It certainly was the latter, but simple? Not so much.

There’s no way to do justice to nearly a century’s worth of history in some sports. Complicating matters was the abundance of information and photographs for some, and the scant amount of detailed data and images for others.

MHSAA historian Ron Pesch was given an equally challenging task: recount a “Top 10” list from his days covering various MHSAA Finals. He shares them here and, he adds, they are in no order of favorites.

The Shot: 1986 Class B Boys Basketball Final at Crisler Arena – Saginaw Buena Vista’s Chris Coles’ desperation shot, launched at the buzzer from well beyond half court, dropped through the hoop to give the Knights a 33-32 win over defending champion Flint Beecher in a rematch of the 1985 Class B title game. The shot was Coles’ first of the second half and his only points in the contest.

The Smurfs: 1986 Class A Football Final at the Pontiac Silverdome – The "Smurfs" – Muskegon Coach Dave Taylor's nickname for his small, quick swarming defensive linemen – limited heavily favored Sterling Heights Stevenson to four yards rushing and 73 yards of total offense in a 10-0 win. As a 1979 graduate of Muskegon High School, I was elated.

The Drive: 1989 Class B Football Final at the Pontiac Silverdome – I slid down from the press box into the stands at the Silverdome for the end of this one. With 2:20 remaining, the atmosphere was simply electric, as Farmington Hills Harrison’s lauded quarterback Mill Coleman took the reins with his team down 27-21 to DeWitt. The senior executed a flawless two-minute drill, guiding his team to the DeWitt 9 before scampering into the end zone for the tying points. Steve Hill added his fourth PAT for the lead, then secured the victory with an interception on the next series.

King Kool: 2005 Class B Boys Basketball Final, Breslin Center, East Lansing – David Kool was a flawless 20 for 20 from the free-throw line and scored 43 points as Grand Rapids South Christian downed Muskegon Heights 67-60. 

The Parade: 2004 Individual Wrestling Finals, The Palace of Auburn Hills – In 2004, I traveled to Auburn Hills to watch the MHSAA Individual Wrestling Finals for the first time. The pageantry of the Grand March, the skills on display, the roar of the massive crowd, and the ensuing beauty and chaos of a wrestling extravaganza of this scale is truly a sight to see.

A Marathon: 2007 Division 3 Football Final, Ford Field, Detroit – East Grand Rapids and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s ended regulation tied 14-14, and this would turn into a five overtime battle that required an extra hour of play. No previous football playoff game, from Districts up, had ever gone beyond four overtimes. After exchanging field goals, touchdowns, extra points and two-point conversions, East Grand Rapids emerged with a 46-39 victory.

Tawana Towers: 1994 Class A Girls Basketball Final at Kellogg Arena, Battle Creek – Flint Northern, coached by Leteia Hughley and led by 6-4 freshman Tawana McDonald, defeated 1993 runner-up Detroit Martin Luther King, 46-32, for the Class A championship. McDonald batted down an MHSAA-record 10 shots, pulled down 13 rebounds and added five points and seven assists in a stellar performance.

Never Quit: 2008 Division 2 Football Semifinal, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing – Unbeaten, No. 1-ranked and heavily favored Muskegon trailed Davison by 22 late in the third quarter and 16 with less than five minutes to play. In perhaps the greatest comeback in playoff history, Muskegon recovered two onside kicks and scored 19 points in the final 4:31 to escape with a 38-35 victory and its third trip in five years to an MHSAA Final.

MHSAA Legends: 1998-2008 – For 10 years, the MHSAA showcased great teams from the past with their Legends of the Game series. From a historian’s perspective it was a chance to meet and learn more about folks I had often known only from the pages of microfilm. It was quite the treat to see years fall away as coaches, team managers and players reunited, in many cases for the first time after decades apart.

The MHSAA Record Books: Online, 1994 – One of my first efforts as state historian was to expand the record books beyond their primary focus on football, basketball, track & field and swimming & diving.  With the arrival of the internet, an enhanced version of the record books was brought online. Coaches and fans were quick to respond with letters and e-mails, happily listing entries that had been “missed.” Soon, five category headings in a sport grew to 20, then to 50 and beyond.

Kids: 2004 Football Finals, Pontiac Silverdome – (OK, this is No. 11 ... consider it an extra point). For the first time, my sons joined me for my annual excursion to Metro Detroit for a Thanksgiving Day football weekend. They got to see the Silverdome before the move of the MHSAA Football Finals to beautiful Ford Field. Future Big Reds, they also got to see their future alma mater win another title.

PHOTOS: (Top) An MHSAA boys basketball tournament game is played at Olympia Stadium in Detroit. (Middle) Flint Northern's Tawana McDonald blocks a shot during the 1994 Class A Final. 

Lowell Enters Another Elite Group of Champs with 11th-Straight Finals Win

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

February 24, 2024

KALAMAZOO – There’s nothing quite like the roar of a crowd after your team has clinched an MHSAA Team Wrestling Finals title.

That’s true whether it’s for title No. 1, or, in the case of Casey Engle and his Lowell teammates Saturday, for their program’s 11th-straight Division 2 championship.

“It’s unreal,” Engle said. “It’s something I look forward to every year.”

Lowell extended its record run of wrestling team titles by defeating Freeland 49-21 in the Division 2 Final at Wings Events Center.

The Red Arrows joined the Grosse Pointe South (1976-86) and Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett (1980-90) girls tennis programs in winning 11 straight Finals titles. Only East Grand Rapids boys swimming & diving, winning 15 straight from 1948-62, and Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice boys lacrosse – with 13 straight from 2005-17 – have longer Finals championship streaks in Lower Peninsula or statewide competition.

“I mean, it’s possible (to reach 15),” said sophomore Jarrett Smith, whose pin at 106 pounds clinched the title. “It’s hard to predict that far, four years into the future. We’re losing some key guys, but we graduated 14 last year, five this year, so we’re returning some firepower.”

Lowell is always returning firepower, and it’s consistently adding it, too, giving new waves of Red Arrows the chance to raise a wooden mitten. 

That’s why for coach RJ Boudro, each title remains just as sweet as the last.

“Why would it get old?” said Boudro, who has been in charge for 10 of those titles. “Look at the crowd. When I first walked in here, I looked up, and you see that we have more fans here than anybody else, and that’s what it’s about. Next year will be fun, too. When you can still bring crowds in and you can do it 11 years in a row, there’s more to that than just winning. If it was just about winning, why else would they come? They would probably think it was a foregone conclusion. They love the kids; they love the community.”

One could forgive an outsider for believing it’s a foregone conclusion when Lowell takes the mat for the Division 2 postseason, as it’s won the Final by more than 20 points in each of the past five seasons and in seven of its 11 straight championship victories.

The Falcons’ Elijah Murphy, left, locks up Lowell’s Ari McFarland at 215. So to avoid that feeling creeping into his wrestling room, Boudro makes it clear the Red Arrows’ responsibility isn’t just to win on the mat, but to strive for something bigger.

“We’re not doing it to just win state championships,” Boudro said. “We’re trying to find out who we are, we’re trying to be better men, better women, better coaches. So, it’s not just about winning, it’s about being a better person. Whether I’m a coach or a kid, just trying to find a way to be better. When you’re doing that all the time, you get better, but you feel like you have a purpose. Every single guy on the team feels like they have a purpose, and that’s really important.”

Just 14 wrestlers can step onto the mat in a single dual, and the same number is the max a team can enter into the individual postseason, so accomplishing that can sometimes be as tough as anything else for Lowell wrestlers, and certainly helps motivate them throughout the season – foregone conclusions or not.

“One of our signs up there I saw, it says, ‘Tradition never graduates,’ and it’s true,” Smith said. “We just keep the kids coming. Even our B Team, C Team are competing at the highest level. At the beginning of Districts, we had 17 ranked guys, and you can only send 14. So we have just great partners all around.”

Freeland, meanwhile, was making its first appearance in a Final, after getting to the Quarterfinals for the third time in program history. 

“Outstanding. Outstanding. They’ve been giving their all every match,” Freeland coach Scott VanLuven said. “They’ve been doing it all year. We beat Brighton, we weren’t supposed to. We beat (Bay City) John Glenn in our conference, then we had to beat them again in our District Final when we weren’t supposed to. No one gave us really a chance down here, I think. But they believed, and they did well.”

The Falcons (25-3) still had a shot with three matches to go, trailing 31-21. But Smith put a quick end to that with his pin at 106, and that was followed by a pair of pins from Cole and Carter Cichocki at 113 and 120, respectively.

Of the Arrows’ nine wins in the dual, eight came by either pin or technical fall, as Jackson Blum (138), Jared Boone (165) and Engle (190) also won by pinfall. Logan Dawson (132) and Owen Segorski (144) each won by tech. Cody Foss (126) opened the dual with a win by decision for Lowell (22-3).

Fabian Facundo (150) and Bringham Smith (285) each won by pin for Freeland, while Noah Graham (157), Gibson Shepard (175) and Elijah Murphy (215) all won by decision.

Click for full results.

PHOTOS (Top) Lowell’s Cole Cichocki, left, lines up against Freeland’s Michael Wilson at 113 pounds Saturday. (Middle) The Falcons’ Elijah Murphy, left, locks up Lowell’s Ari McFarland at 215. (Click for more from High School Sports Scene.)