By Butch Harmon
Special for Second Half
BATTLE CREEK – The Lowell wrestling team couldn’t have drawn up a better start to its match against Eaton Rapids in the Division 2 Final at Kellogg Arena on Saturday.
Just 14 seconds in, junior Lucas Hall whipped the Lowell fans into a frenzy when he delivered a pin, giving the Red Arrows a lightning-quick 6-0 lead. The fall ignited a 15-0 run by Lowell and paved the way to a 40-16 victory and a second consecutive title.
“I was just thinking I had to go out there and do everything in my power to get six,” Hall said. “I wanted to give us an early lead. I just didn’t think it would happen that fast.”
The quick pin was the perfect way for first-year Lowell coach R.J. Boudro to begin his head coaching experience in the Finals. Boudro formerly served as an assistant to previous coach Dave Dean, who stepped down after last season’s championship win.
“Lucas going out and getting six right off the bat was huge,” Boudro said. “It just so happened that the starting weight (119) was at Lucas’ weight class. That pin just lifted the whole team.”
Hall’s pin was one of two by Lowell in the first three matches of the dual. After a decision by Aaron Ward at 125 pounds, Lowell junior Zeth Dean added another quick pin in 1:39 giving the Red Arrows a 15-0 lead.
Bonus points were crucial for Lowell throughout the dual as the Red Arrows recorded four falls and one major decision in the nine matches they won.
Not only did Lowell pick up extra bonus points, but its wrestlers also kept Eaton Rapids from scoring bonus points of their own. Of the five Eaton Rapids wins, all but one came on a decision, and the fifth was a major decision.
“We were hoping to get more bonus points,” Eaton Rapids coach Joe Ray Barry said. “We just didn’t get them. We didn’t get the bonus points that we were looking for and they got the bonus points where they were looking for them.”
It was the performances of some young, un-sung Red Arrows that prevented Eaton Rapids from piling up those needed bonus points. One of those young grinders for Lowell was freshman Garret Pratt.
Wrestling at 135 pounds against Eaton Rapids senior Jaedin Sklapsky, an expected contender at next weekend’s Individual Finals, Pratt was able to stay off his back and surrender just a four-point major decision.
“Garret was going up against arguably one of the best 135-pounders in the state,” Boudro said. “You heard the cheers from our fans after that match. We have some of the smartest wrestling fans around, and they knew how big that was.”
Lowell upped its lead to 21-4 when Jordan Hall delivered a pin in 2:48.
Eaton Rapids reeled off three straight wins in the next three matches. All three were by decision with Lane McVicker winning at 145, Blaine Milheim at 152 and Caleb Norris at 160 pounds.
Lowell picked up a second win by a freshman at 171. George Gonzales, who came into the match with a sub-.500 record, showed just how deep the Red Arrows are as he won 5-2.
“George has stepped up all year for us,” Boudro said. “He actually weighs 160, but he has wrestled 171 and 189 for us this year. He is another one of those kids who just goes out there and wrestles hard.”
Lowell closed out the dual on a roll as it won the final four matches. Senior Josh Colegrove kept his record perfect for the season as he won by fall at 215 pounds. Senior heavyweight Logan Wilcox won by decision while sophomore Sam Russell won by a major decision at 103 pounds and junior Kyle Washburn closed out the win with a decision at 112.
The MHSAA title was the fifth for Lowell since 2002. The Red Arrows finished the season with a 29-2 record that was forged against some of the best wrestling programs in the Midwest.
“I firmly believe we have one of the hardest schedules in the state,” Boudro said. “One of our losses was to Chicago Oak Forest, who is one of the best teams in Illinois. Our other loss was to Hartland and they are in the Division 1 state finals. We also wrestled Brighton and Richmond and Hudson. We wrestled five of the eight teams in the state finals this year, and that’s the same for many of those schools also.”
The bad news for the rest of the Division 2 is that the Red Arrows may be even better next year.
“Next year we will have one of our better teams returning,” Boudro said. “We only lose four seniors out of our starting lineup and we had a lot of freshmen step up for us this year.”
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PHOTO: Lowell and Eaton Rapids competitors wrestle for the Division 2 championship Saturday at Kellogg Arena. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)