BATTLE CREEK – Four years ago, a highly-anticipated group of freshmen joined a St. Johns wrestling program long considered solid – and took the first steps toward making it elite.
Those Redwings left Kellogg Arena on Saturday with their third straight MHSAA Division 2 championship – and a claim on being one of the most dominant teams ever to compete in this state.
St. Johns downed Lowell 41-18 to finish a Finals weekend during which it beat three opponents by a combined 161-35. The Redwings finished 25-1 this season, with that lone loss to Ohio powerhouse Lakewood St. Edward. But St. Johns still hasn’t lost to an in-state opponent since 2010 – and had beaten Lowell by the identical score earlier this winter.
“The first title as a team we won was one of the most exciting moments of my wrestling career. This was a great one too,” said St. Johns senior Taylor Massa, who next weekend will attempt to become the 16th four-time individual champion in MHSAA history.
“We knew we worked hard all our lives, and we knew we deserved this. I think we just proved it.”
St. Johns, which also beat eventual Division 1 champion Detroit Catholic Central during the regular season, led the Red Arrows the entire Division 2 Final and clinched it with two bouts remaining.
Lowell and St. Johns have a combined 25 individual Finals qualifiers, and St. Johns earned only three pins Saturday – by Massa at 171 pounds and juniors Brant Schafer at 130 and Josh Pennell at 145. But the Redwings also pulled off decisions by two and one point, respectively, and gave up just one pin.
Lowell finished 26-2 this season, with both losses to St. Johns.
“They put a lot of pressure on,” Lowell coach Dave Dean said. “They work very hard, but (also have) just talent alone. We kinda had a string theory of if we did this and this, maybe we’d have a chance today.”
All but one of the Redwings' seven seniors will compete at the Individual Finals, with Jordan Wohlfert joining Massa as a reigning champion. Massa has signed to wrestle at the University of Michigan next season, and Wohlfert will do the same at Michigan State.
St. Johns was 59-51 in the four seasons before these seniors entered high school. The Redwings finished 121-7 during their four-year run.
“These guys are awesome. We’re going to miss them,” St. Johns coach Zane Ballard said. “They are just a great group of kids and were real close.
“Our goal could only be one thing, and that’s to be here next year doing the same thing. That is our goal, and I know this group we have, they can come back and do it.”
Click for match-by-match results from the Final, Semifinals and Quarterfinals. See more photos at High School Sports Scene.