By Paul Costanzo
Special for Second Half
AUBURN HILLS – Hudson sophomore Jordan Hamdan didn’t just want to win a Division 4 title Saturday at The Palace of Auburn Hills – he also wanted to impress his older brother, Roddy.
Hamdan accomplished both, defeating Jackson Lumen Christi’s Spencer Good 3-2 in a matchup of returning MHSAA champions in the 119-pound Final.
“It means more, because he kind of helped me get this good,” said Hamdan, who had his brother – a Division 4 champion in 2013 – in his corner as an assistant coach during the match. “We’ve been always wrestling with each other since we were really young, and I’ve been looking up to him. So it was kind of a big deal to me – I wanted to impress him.”
Hamdan scored an early takedown in the match, then was forced to switch up his strategy as Good clamped down defensively on his feet.
“I knew I was ahead, and I knew he couldn’t hold me down,” Hamdan said. “So I had to keep it even and keep it close since I couldn’t score on my feet, and then I knew he wouldn’t be able to score if I was still being offensive in the third period.”
Hamdan and Good, a senior, were each looking for their second title, as they both won at 112 a year ago – Hamdan in Division 4 and Good in Division 3. With two titles in two years as a high schooler, Hamdan is now thinking big.
“It was kind of like a dream more than a goal,” Hamdan said. “And I guess my dream is becoming a reality, slowly. It’s a process. I’ve been working out all summer, in the season and offseason for this, and getting prepared as much as I possibly can for this tournament.”
Champion: Reese Fry, Manchester, Jr. (51-1)
Major decision, 10-0, over Jamison Ward, Carson City-Crystal, Fr. (52-3)
Fry learned some lessons in his first two trips to the Palace.
“(I learned) how to push myself,” Fry said. “How to develop and just grow as a wrestler – fundamentally and mentally.”
Fry turned those lessons into a Finals title, as he defeated Carson City-Crystal’s freshman sensation Jamison Ward.
The Manchester junior controlled the match throughout, scoring a takedown in each period, and taking Ward to his back in the second.
“I kept in control,” Fry said. “I just wrestled the match I wanted to wrestle.”
Champion: Noah Comar, Clinton, Soph. (51-0)
Decision, 3-1 (OT), over Tucker Sholl, Hudson, Soph. (33-3)
It was a Hudson wrestler that stopped Comar’s title bid a year ago. He wasn’t going to let a Tiger get in his way again.
Comar scored a takedown in overtime to defeat returning champion Tucker Sholl and finish off a perfect sophomore season. Comar lost in the 2016 112-pound Final against Sholl’s teammate, Jordan Hamdan.
“My strategy was just to push the pace and catch him off guard,” Comar said. “I guess it worked, because I got the ankle and got a takedown. I had to push the pace. My greatest defense was my offense. … It was sweet revenge.”
Champion: Skyler Crespo, Mendon, Fr. (52-1)
Decision, 3-1, over Robert LeFevre, Erie Mason, Sr. (48-5)
Crespo couldn’t stop moving after winning the 125-pound title. Despite just finishing a hard-fought match against returning champion Robert LeFevre, Crespo still found the energy to jog in place.
“I’m so excited,” he said. “There’s been a lot of time and work put into this.”
The Mendon freshman capped off a remarkable first high school season by taking LeFevre down in the first period, and holding him off the rest of the way. Now, the inevitable four-time champion discussions will begin, and Crespo is ready for them.
“Get back to work as soon as I can,” Crespo said. “Monday morning, I’ll be doing something. Running or whatever it is.”
Champion: Robert Rogers, Burton Bentley, Jr. (43-1)
Decision, 9-4, over Nick Felt, Shelby, Soph. (49-2)
Rogers claimed his second straight title, jumping out to a 7-2 lead before holding off big-move attempts from Shelby’s Felt.
“In those situations, most people are going to throw,” Rogers said. “I’ve been in those situations before, and I’ve been on the big stage, so I know what it takes to win. With 20 seconds left, I’m not going to let you do your moves; I’m going to do mine.”
While Rogers called upon his big-match experience in the waning moments, he didn’t let his status as a returning champion allow him to get overconfident.
“You have to come in here thinking that you could win or lose,” he said. “You can’t just come in here thinking, ‘Oh, I’m a returning state champion and I’m going to win.’ I came in thinking, ‘You know what, I’m just another guy on the chart, and anyone can beat me.’ So I had to go out there and show everyone that I can beat them.”
Champion: Ethan Woods, Manchester, Sr. (49-2)
Decision, 5-0, over Jayce Kuehnlein, St. Louis, Jr. (45-6)
After falling one win short of a title in each of the last two years, Ethan Woods climbed to the top of the podium as a senior.
“It feels great,” an emotional Woods said. “Everything that I’ve worked for my whole life finally paid off. I put so much time in training for this my whole life. I could have wrestled better and I should have, but I did what I needed to win, and I finally accomplished what I set out to do, and it feels great.”
Woods got an early takedown, and controlled the match throughout, even if the scoring may not have been there.
“Each year, my confidence and composure has built and developed, and I’m able to handle all the pressure and the nerves,” Woods said. “Obviously I still put a lot of pressure on myself, because I just won but I don’t feel like I wrestled as good as I could have. But I think (three previous trips to the MHSAA Finals) helped me prepare mentally.”
Champion: Sean O’Hearon, Springport, Sr. (42-0)
Technical fall, 26-11 (4:46), over Braxton Seida, Carson City-Crystal, Soph. (49-5)
O’Hearon put on a takedown clinic on his way to a dominant victory.
The Springport senior took Carson City-Crystal’s Seida down 12 times – and added a reversal – on his way to his second straight title.
“I came into the state meet basically making it my goal to tech every single person here,” O’Hearon said. “I guess I was able to do that, so that’s a win.”
Making the title more special was the fact O’Hearon was able to share it with his cousin, Austin, who won the 145-pound title in Division 2 for Eaton Rapids.
“It’s even more awesome because my cousin won, too,” Sean O’Hearon said. “In my senior year, we both win, that’s something not many people can have.”
Champion: Konnor Holton, St. Louis, Sr. (46-3)
Decision, 6-4 (OT), over Noah Niemen, Blissfield, Sr. (29-3)
For the first time since 1967, St. Louis has a Finals champion. Konnor Holton got a takedown in overtime to knock off Noah Niemen and become the Sharks’ second MHSAA title winner.
“I knew he was going to get deep, and I knew that if I got into a scramble position, it was my match,” Holton said. “I knew as soon as I got him uncomfortable, it was my match.”
Holton held a 4-3 lead late in the match, but was hit for fleeing the mat to tie things up and send it to overtime. He bounced back in the extra period, however, capitalizing on his second trip to the Finals after falling a win short a year ago.
“I can’t even describe it right now,” Holton said. “My heart is all over the place.”
Champion: Gerrit Yates, Hesperia, Jr. (37-1)
Pin, 2:22, over Zack Menck, Lawton, Jr. (54-4)
Yates decided to add basketball to his winter athletics load this year. While he thinks it may be hurting him a bit on the mat, you’d be hard-pressed to tell.
Yates came through in his third straight Finals appearance, winning by second-period pin.
“It’s great to win it, but I didn’t wrestle near my ability,” Yates said. “Probably right after this, I’m going to go work in the wrestling room some more, get in the weight room.”
Menck held a 6-5 lead in the match after one period, but Yates took him straight to his back from their feet early in the second to earn the pin.
“The whole match, he was wrestling kind of defensive, staying back and then jumping at me,” Yates said. “I kind of timed it, as soon as I saw him faking, I sat back and tossed him because I saw it coming. I knew I had to go for something big.”
Champion: Tanner Gonzales, Manistique, Sr. (46-0)
Decision, 5-4 (2 OT), over Johnathon Stid, Dansville, Sr. (38-7)
As Gonzales recognized the fans who had made the long trip to the Palace from the Upper Peninsula, one of them shouted to him, “Manistique in the house!”
“I’m the third U.P. champ, and they haven’t had one in a while,” Gonzales said. “So it’s exciting for the whole U.P. and Manistique. It’s a small town, and they’ve never had a state champ in anything.”
Now they do, as Gonzales scored a reversal late in the second period of the second overtime and held on for the win.
“Just hang on,” Gonzales said of his strategy for the final seven seconds. “I hadn’t had a stall call yet, so if I took a stall call, I wasn’t too worried about it.”
Champion: Dylan Smith, Bad Axe, Sr. (47-4)
Decision, 3-2, over David Erwin, Bronson, Sr. (53-3)
A third-period takedown lifted Smith to Bad Axe’s first championship since 1991.
“It’s amazing,” Smith said. “I came in and got sixth last year. This is a lot better feeling.”
Smith and Bronson’s Erwin were tied at 1 in the third period before Smith’s takedown gave him a 3-1 lead. Erwin was able to get away and pull within one, but Smith fought him off.
“I was ready for the shot,” Smith said. “Coach was expecting it. I was ready to sprawl off his quick shot.”
Champion: Tylor Grames, Hudson, Sr. (41-12)
Decision, 5-3 (OT), over Erik Birchmeier, New Lothrop, Sr. (31-3)
A week ago Grames knocked off Birchmeier to kick off Hudson’s march to a team title.
On Saturday, he needed extra time, but again came out on top against the returning champion from New Lothrop.
“I changed it up from wanting the team to do good, to inspiring everyone that was up there watching to want to do good,” Grames said. “Last week when we wrestled he would post a lot, and I capitalized by making my shots. This week, he barely posted, which made it five times harder.”
Grames had to fight off a near takedown from Birchmeier late in regulation to force overtime.
“Fear,” Grames said. “Fear. I really wanted to make my hometown proud, and I was scared that I wouldn’t, so that’s what drove me on.”
Champion: Devon Kozel, Bangor, Sr. (48-1)
Decision, 9-3, over Nick Cooper, Springport, Sr. (40-4)
Kozel was a runner-up a year ago, but he left little doubt Saturday night against returning champion Cooper of Springport.
“I had to redeem myself,” Kozel said.
Kozel had three takedowns and a reversal to control the match and earn a third straight win against Cooper.
“Just have to stay tough on our feet,” Kozel said. “I know where you have to win the match at.”
Champion: Logan Kennedy, Decatur, Sr. (58-2)
Decision, 6-4, over Zach Bailey, Hudson, Sr. (41-10)
Losing wasn’t an option for Kennedy.
After finishing as a runner-up a year ago, and falling behind late in his title match Saturday against Hudson’s Bailey, Kennedy turned up the pace to force overtime and eventually win his first MHSAA championship.
“I just knew I had to something,” Kennedy said. “He’d already been hit with a warning for stalling, so I thought if I went at him, I could get another stalling call and send it to overtime. I love wrestling in the third period because I feel so much better than the other wrestlers.”
He continued that aggression into overtime, where he finished off a dream season.
“It’s been my dream my whole entire life,” he said. “Ever since I started wrestling, I knew I wanted to be a state champion.”
Click for full brackets.
PHOTO: Hudson’s Jordan Hamdan (left) and Jackson Lumen Christi’s Spencer Good face off in the Division 4 Final at 119 pounds Saturday. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)