St. Johns' Hall Joins Champion Elite
By Jeff Chaney
Special to Second Half
AUBURN HILLS, MI – It's a moment Zac Hall said he will never forget.
Hall joined elite company by winning his fourth MHSAA individual wrestling championship, when he beat Greenville's Alec Ward 12-2 in the 140-pound title match in Division 2 at the Finals on Saturday at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
The St. Johns senior became just the 18th Michigan wrestler to win four MHSAA Finals titles, and when the referee raised his hand after his victory, the large crowd at The Palace rose to their feet and applauded loudly in appreciation.
“That is the most amazing feeling in the world. I'll remember that moment for the rest of my life,” Hall said. “I don't know how many people are here, thousands, and they were all clapping for me. That is the most awesome feeling.”
This marks the third straight year a wrestler has won his fourth title. Last year Fowlerville heavyweight Adam Coon accomplished it, and two years ago it was Hall's former St. Johns teammate Taylor Massa.
“All that hard work and time you put in in the (practice room), it pays off,” Hall said. “When your buddies want you to hang out, and instead you are in the room grinding, that all just paid off here.”
Champion: Dominic LaJoie, Gaylord, Fr. (50-1)
Decision, 11-7 over Dalton Roberts, Fowlerville, Sr. (46-6)
LaJoie is well on his way to becoming a four-time champion, as he built a large early lead over Roberts and held on for a 11-7 win.
LaJoie scored the match's first seven points, and then fought off a furious Roberts rally in the third period.
“I just came out and went as hard as I could,” LaJoie said. “This feels really awesome. I owe a lot to my dad (Jerry LaJoie), my coaches and my partners in the room. This is a great feeling.”
Champion: Lucas Hall, Lowell, Soph. (37-0)
Fall, 2:19 over Bryan LaVearn, Ortonville Brandon, Soph. (50-2)
Hall didn't listen to all the nay-sayers. He knew he had what it takes to win an MHSAA title and went out and proved that by pinning LaVearn in their 112-pound title match.
Hall used one of his signature moves, “the high flyer,” to pin LaVearn for the win.
“People have been trying to get into my head, posting stuff on Twitter and Facebook, but you can't let that get to you,” Hall said. “You just need to keep your head and keep looking forward. I know I had a bull’s eye on my back because I came in undefeated and ranked number one. You can't let all that get in your head; you just have to keep after it.”
Champion: Mason Smith, Clio, Jr. (55-0)
Decision, 3-1 over Jacob Chapman, Flint Kearsley, Jr. (35-6)
Returning champion Smith overcame a bit of familiarity to win his second straight title, as he beat Chapman for the title with a work-man-like 3-1 win.
“The hardest thing is we've wrestled six times, and we both know what both of us are going to do,” Smith said. “So you have to do what you can do.
“I started with a gameplan, and was not that comfortable with it, so I changed it. I said I would do whatever felt right – score more points.”
Champion: Nick Pipes, Warren Woods-Tower, Sr. (48-5)
Decision, 6-1 over Patrick Blommel, Stevensville Lakeshore, Sr. (38-6)
Pipes finally got his medal, and it was a big one.
The four-time Finals qualifier failed to place in the top eight in his first three trips to The Palace, but won a championship on his fourth try.
“I'll take not placing in my first three years to win it now,” Pipes said. “I knew coming in that I qualified three times before this and was always the underdog. But this year being ranked first, and everyone thought I was going to win it, that helped my confidence.”
Champion: Austin Thompson, Marysville, Jr. (52-1)
Decision, 8-7 UTB over Jaedin Sklapsky, Eaton Rapids, Jr. (49-2)
Thompson chose down in the ultimate tiebreaker and escaped Sklapsky for an 8-7 win.
“A year ago I wouldn't have chosen down,” said Thompson, who is in his first year at Marysville. “I wasn't very good on the mat, but I've made a lot of improvements on the mat since I've moved to Marysville.”
Champion: Austin Melton, DeWitt, Soph. (48-3)
Major Decision, 13-4 over Collin Lieber, Croswell-Lexington, Fr. (50-2)
The gameplan was simple Melton.
Score, and score early, and that is exactly what he did in winning the 135-pound championship.
A takedown and a near-fall in the first period turned a five-point early lead into a 13-3 win and a title.
“My coaches just told me to do what I've been doing every match, which is to take it to him,” Melton said. “To score as much points as possible, so that I can get up as much as you can.”
Champion: Steve Bleise, Chelsea, Sr. (49-0)
Decision, 12-5 over Mark Bozzo St. Johns, Sr. (38-8)
Last year Bleise was beaten in the Finals by a St. Johns wrestler, Logan Massa. But not this year.
Bleise had a phrase running through his head as he ran to the mat for the 145-pound title match against Bozzo.
“I told myself going out to the mat, I wasn't going to take second again,” Bleise said. “That really got my mindset going. I couldn't imagine coming off that mat not winning again.”
Champion: Logan Massa, St. Johns, Jr. (51-0)
Fall, 1:56 over Dillon Ellsworth, Lapeer East, Jr. (58-3)
Massa said it helps his psyche to have his brother on the side of the mat for his big matches.
And why not when your brother is a four-time undefeated champion, Taylor Massa.
It's helped two years in a row now, as Logan Massa won his second straight MHSAA championship with his brother in his corner.
“It's awesome to have him in my corner,” Logan Massa said. “It is really cool that (St. Johns coach Derek Phillips) lets me do it. It makes you feel more comfortable having him in my corner.”
Champion: Logan Ritchie, New Boston Huron, Jr. (57-2)
Decision, 2-1 over Tobias Barnes, Romulus Summit Academy, Sr. (56-2)
Ritchie kept the pressure on Barnes, and it paid off with a title.
Ritchie was awarded a penalty point late in the third period that allowed him to beat Barnes 2-1.
“I knew he liked to back up in space, and I just kept keeping the pressure on,” Ritchie said. “I know this time of the year they will call stalling. Maybe not in Districts, but they will down here.”
Champion: Max Dean, Lowell, Soph. (34-2)
Decision, 14-8 over Devon Pingel, North Branch, Soph. (55-2)
It was a battle of two super sophomores in the 171-pound title match, as Dean got the best of Pingel 14-8.
It was Dean's first MHSAA championship, while Pingel now has a runner-up finish to go with his title from 2013.
“I have a lot of respect for Devon Pingel,” Dean said. “He is always on the attack, and he is always coming. I got a little broken down last (period), but that is a credit to him. Fortunately, I built a little bit of a lead and was able to counter.”
Dean built a 8-2 lead and held on for the win.
Champion: Angus Arthur, St. Johns, Jr. (47-0)
Decision, 5-2 over Garett Stehley, Lowell, Sr. (31-2)
Two years ago, Arthur and Stehley were teammates on the Lowell wrestling team. Saturday they were opponents trying to win the 189-pound title.
And in a match that came down to the wire, Arthur hung on for a 3-2 win to win his second straight title.
Stehley was runner-up for the second straight year.
“It's the best feeling in the world,” Arthur said. “I know Garett is a hard wrestler, and this is his second year (he has taken second), so I knew he would come out strong. … I just kept on my attacks.”
Champion: Josh Colegrove, Lowell, Jr. (35-1)
Fall, 1:50 over Jacob Alarie, Bay City Western, Sr. (45-7)
Last year, Colegrove missed the Finals, recovering from surgery on an injured knee he suffered in football.
So when he won the title at 215 pounds with a pin over Alarie, he let out a huge yell and jumped into his coaches’ arms.
“This feels awesome; all my hard work to get back is paying off,” Colegrove said.
Colegrove also pointed to the sky in his celebration.
“My grandpa (Bill Colegrove) passed away a couple of years ago, after my freshman year,” Colegrove said. “I won this for him, because he was a big part of my life. He was always there for me.”
Champion: Chris Hendricks, Fruitport, Sr. (45-1)
Decision, 6-3 over Preston Pelham, Tecumseh, Sr. (55-2)
Fruitport has another heavyweight champion.
Hendricks accomplished that by beating Pelham 6-3 in a hard-fought battle of athletic 285-pounders.
From 1994-97, Matt Brink won three MHSAA titles for the school in the heavyweight division.
“All the work I put in, it's paying off now,” Hendricks said. “All the people that have come up to work with me, former champions, my coaches, my workout partners, I wouldn't have done this without all of them. I owe this all to them.”
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PHOTO: (Top) St. Johns' Zac Hall was among flag bearers during the grand march before Saturday's MHSAA Individual Finals. (Middle) Hall's hand is raised as he finishes his fourth title. (Click to see more from High School Sports Scene.)