By Paul Costanzo
Special for the Second Half
DETROIT – Brent Metcalf. Austin Boone.
That’s it. That’s the list.
Boone, a senior at Lowell, became the second wrestler in MHSAA history Saturday to win four individual titles while being part of four team titles, as he defeated Gaylord’s Chase LaJoie 4-3 at 145 pounds during the Division 2 Individual Finals at Ford Field.
Metcalf, who eventually became an NCAA champion and competed on the international stage, was the first to accomplish the feat, achieving his at Davison from 2002-05.
“It’s cool,” Boone said. “Like I’ve been telling everybody else, I’m not really thinking about it too much. It’s kind of cool, but I don’t pay attention to stuff like that.”
He and Mendon’s Skyler Crespo became the 27th and 28th four-time individual champions in MHSAA history, nearly simultaneously.
Boone (41-0), who had defeated LaJoie by major decision a week earlier in the Team Finals, had to stave off a late reversal attempt Saturday.
It was a matchup of multiple-time champions, as LaJoie (38-2) had won as a freshman and sophomore. It was also a matchup of Division I talents, as Boone has signed with Penn State, and LaJoie will continue his career at Cornell.
“It’s a great match; it’s my closest finals match I’ve had,” Boone said. “He’s a great wrestler. He’s going to do great things in college. Today I got him.”
Champion: Nolan Wertanen, St. Joseph, Soph. (46-2)
Decision, 4-3, over Grant Stahl, Mount Pleasant, Fr. (39-3)
Wertanen couldn’t compete a year ago in the Finals, as he fractured his wrist shortly before the postseason started. He made up for lost time Saturday.
“I’ve been waiting my entire life to do something like this, ever since I started wrestling when I was 4,” Wertanen said. “To go out there and do something my dad could never do – I've just always wanted to win a state championship, and last year it sucked because I couldn’t, because I was hurt. Coming out here and winning it like this, especially after having a few losses that I shouldn’t have earlier in the year, it just feels great.”
Champion: Jacob Brya, St. Johns, Soph. (41-0)
Major decision, 19-7, over Jack Parker, Spring Lake, Jr. (44-3)
For the second straight year, Brya put on a dominant display at the Individual Finals. After winning the title at 103 a year ago, Brya had a pair of first-period falls and a technical fall on his way to Saturday’s final, which he dominated from the beginning.
“I wasn’t as nervous this year,” Brya said. “It wasn’t that much different, but I still wasn’t as nervous this year.”
Brya is already thinking of the possibility of joining the growing list of four-time champs.
“I want to be a four-timer,” he said. “That’s why I train two-a-days four days a week.”
Champion: Joe Haynes, Warren Woods Tower, Jr. (49-3)
Major decision, 11-2, over Trevor Marsman, Cedar Springs, Jr. (52-2)
Haynes came up one match short of a Finals title a year ago, but he wasn’t about to be denied again.
He wasn’t scored on in his first three matches of the tournament, and dominated the final, allowing only two escapes.
“I just needed to stay in good position and score when the opportunities came,” Haynes said. “I felt like I didn’t want to repeat last year, that was more of the pressure. I didn’t feel like I was the No. 1 kid – rankings don’t matter. I just go in every match thinking everyone’s the same.”
Champion: Andrew Hughes, Charlotte, Sr. (50-1)
Decision, 9-5, over John Henry Sosa, Gaylord, Sr. (41-3)
Hughes became Charlotte’s first Finals champion since 1997, knocking off the weight’s top-ranked wrestler.
He was dominant on his feet, setting the tone with a first-period takedown, and adding three more throughout the match.
“I’ve worked my whole season, my whole life for this,” Hughes said. “It just feels huge. I tried to get as early of a lead as I could and keep building on it, really break him. … I feel like I did it for my city, so this is big.”
Champion: Micah Hanau, Stevensville Lakeshore, Soph. (41-4)
Decision, 4-1 (OT), over Zeth Strejc, Lowell, Jr. (27-14)
Hanau was very nearly rolled early in overtime, but he was able to not only counter the move and stay alive but fight for the winning takedown.
“I just couldn’t control his hand-fighting – it was hard to keep him off my legs,” Hanau said. “I was able to keep him down and score. It’s fun. There's a lot of pressure, but it’s great to win.”
Champion: Shane Williams, Stevensville Lakeshore, Sr. (44-2)
Decision, 6-3, over Nick Matusko, Chelsea, Sr. (48-1)
Two weeks ago, Matusko knocked off Williams in the Regional final.
This time, the Lakeshore senior had a plan to turn things around.
“I think I needed to escape on bottom, because he rode me out for two periods,” said Williams, who picked up his 150th career win. “He would just stop my leg when I stood up, so I worked on that the past two weeks. It helped me out a bit that I got out right away.”
Champion: Nate Young, Holly, Sr. (49-1)
Decision, 4-2, over Chris Haynes, Eaton Rapids, Sr. (45-2)
After coming up one match shy of winning a Finals title a year ago, Young was thrilled to get to the top of the podium this year.
Even if the match didn’t feature the amount of points he is accustomed to racking up.
“Last year I came up a little bit short, and it always hurt knowing I was right there but didn’t quite get it done,” Young said. “So, it feels great to come back and finish what I started. I come into every match thinking that I just want to have fun and score points. Obviously, I didn’t score many points, but I still had fun.”
Champion: Jacob Gonzales, Holly, Soph. (55-0)
Fall, 5:52, over James Fotis, Lowell, Sr. (29-6)
Gonzales’ unbeaten season and Finals championship dreams were on the ropes in the third period, but the Holly senior came up big when it counted most.
Trailing 6-2 late in the match, Gonzales took Fotis to his back and was able to get the pin to claim his title.
“It was pretty amazing,” Gonzales said. “Throughout the whole match, I was thinking about how I was going to score points. I knew I needed a big move, so I went for it. I saw his legs were too close together and he wasn’t moving as he should have, and I capitalized.”
Champion: Caleb Fish, Eaton Rapids, Sr. (46-0)
Decision, 2-1 (UTB), over Colton Blaha, Owosso, Sr. (54-2)
After cruising through his first three matches with pins, Fish found himself in a battle against Blaha.
Fish exploded for an escape from the bottom position in the first period of ultimate tie-breaker, and held on in the second to claim his second straight title.
“In my head I was thinking, ‘I ain’t letting him up,’” Fish said. “Holding him down was my train of thought. I knew he wasn’t going to be ready for me to blow off the bottom as fast as I did. It just comes from the heart. Eaton Rapids has only had a few two-timers, so that was my dream.”
Champion: Omari Embree, Warren Woods-Tower, Soph. (29-2)
Decision, 3-2, over Cody Brenner, New Boston Huron, Jr. (48-3)
Embree didn’t think he wrestled his best in the Regional final when he lost to Brenner.
He made sure that wouldn’t be the case Saturday as he claimed his second Finals title in as many tries.
“I knew he wasn’t a better athlete than me – a better wrestler than me,” Embree said. “I didn’t wrestle my match when I wrestled him in Regionals. I wrestled my match, now I’m the champ when it mattered. I wanted to just stay low and focus on me.”
Champion: Tristan Vance, Clio, Sr. (19-3)
Decision, 8-6, over John Shelton, East Grand Rapids, Sr. (50-1)
Vance held off a late headlock attempt from Shelton, but it was close.
The Clio senior, who missed most of the season with a back injury, was able to stay off his back and not give up a takedown as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
“I gotta get my hips down; I gotta stay flat,” Vance said of what was going through his head. “I wasn’t giving up any back points, no way. I knew I had to get to my offense and not play his game. Do what I do best, and that’s how it goes.”
Champion: Hunter McCall, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer, Sr. (47-1)
Major decision, 9-1, over Keegan Nugent, Lowell, Jr. (35-8)
McCall put an exclamation point on a year-long quest to getting to the top of the podium with a dominant Finals performance.
He was third a year ago, which motivated him to take the next step this season.
“This is something I’ve been working for ever since I started,” McCall said. “I always wanted to be the best, always wanted to be on top. I fell short – I fell real short the last few years. I had five coaches telling me, ‘Hunter, you can be the best. You can go out there and win it.’ I just bought into what they said day in and day out. I haven’t stopped wrestling. I’ve been wrestling for 365 days straight since I lost last year.”
Champion: Jack Gilchrist, Mason, Sr. (45-2)
Decision, 8-2, over Joe Harper, Imlay City, Sr. (46-2)
Gilchrist said the beatings he took early in his career in the Mason wrestling room paved the way for Saturday’s triumph.
He spent time in practices with 2018 Finals champion Riley Smith, who helped shape his career.
“It’s amazing to follow my best friend Riley who was a state champ two years ago,” Gilchrist said. “He worked with me every day. He was way better than me, he would pin me in 30 seconds, but he would work with me every day. I get to work with all these guys, I’m just fortunate. (Harper) is a Greco guy, so he was trying to throw me or toss me, but it did not work.”
Click for the full bracket.
PHOTO: Austin Boone’s arm is raised Saturday after he became the second wrestler in MHSAA history to win four individual and four team Finals championships. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)