By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
This weekend’s Division 1 Individual Finals field is arguably the deepest in championship experience in a number of years.
A total of 12 reigning title winners will be back on the mat starting Thursday at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Five more 2016 runners-up also return, including one who won it all in 2015. Walled Lake Central senior Ben Freeman is seeking to become the 22nd in MHSAA history to win Finals titles all four years of high school.
Below is a brief look at all of those returning champions, plus a number of others to watch over the three-day event. Follow all the matches beginning with Thursday's first round on a subscription basis live on MHSAA.tv, and click here for results at MHSAA.com. And come back to Second Half this weekend as we’ll interview all 14 title winners.
112: Benyamin Kamali, Detroit Catholic Central junior (37-3) – Last season’s champion at 103 needed overtime to claim his first title, but he enters this time coming off his team’s championship last weekend and as the top seed with the fewest losses in Division 1 at this weight.
119: Mikey Mars, Westland John Glenn junior (53-3) – Mars is the second seed at this weight coming off championships at 103 as a freshman and 112 last winter; he’s 156-7 during his high school career but coming off a sudden-victory loss at the Team Quarterfinals.
130: Kevon Davenport, Detroit Catholic Central sophomore (33-3) – One of the most highly-regarded freshman last season is now a top sophomore, looking to add a second title after winning last season at 119.
135: Noah Schoenherr, Bay City Western senior (45-3) – He’s made two straight championship matches, winning at 130 pounds last season, and enters as the top seed at a weight he’ll share with his sophomore brother Victor.
140: Ben Freeman, Walled Lake Central senior (30-0) – As noted above, Freeman is seeking his fourth straight championship with previous wins at 103, 125 and 130, and to finish a third straight perfect season after suffering his only loss as a freshman. He’s signed with Michigan.
145: Cameron Amine, Detroit Catholic Central sophomore (41-3) – Last season’s champion at 125 joins Davenport as another strong sophomore, and enters as the second seed at this weight.
145: Reese Hughes, Hartland senior (37-2) – The reigning champion at 140 is seeded fourth at this weight after leaving his Regional Final against this weekend’s top seed Danny Pfeffer with an injury; Hughes didn’t wrestle in last weekend’s Team Quarterfinal and Semifinal. He will continue next season at Michigan.
152: Nathan Atienza, Livonia Franklin senior (54-1) – The champion at 145 in 2016 is seeking to reach his third straight Final and has lost only one match over the last two seasons; he’s seeded second to Grandville’s Kameron Bush (below) and has signed with Michigan State.
152: Kameron Bush, Grandville senior (36-1) – After claiming last season’s title at 152 with a 7-6 decision, Bush enters as the top seed at this weight and with an 80-3 record over the last two seasons.
171: Tyler Morland, Detroit Catholic Central senior (33-0) – Morland has only one loss over the last two seasons and avenged it in last season’s Final at this weight; he can cap his career with a second straight individual title to go with last weekend’s team win on the way to continuing at Northwestern.
189: Brendan McRill, Davison senior (37-2) – Last season’s champion at this weight enters as only the second seed this time, but seeking a second title and fourth top-five finish before heading to West Virginia.
285: Nicholas Jenkins, Detroit Catholic Central senior (42-1) – If Jenkins was a bit of a surprise last season, he hasn’t been able to hide this winter coming off the 2016 title at this weight and heading to Central Michigan to continue his career.
2016 runners-up: Ann Arbor Pioneer senior Rayvon Foley (119, 50-3, 103 in 2016), Davison junior A.J. Facundo (125, 32-5, 119 in 2016, 112 champ in 2015), Southgate Anderson senior Donte Rivera-Garcia (125, 46-1), Macomb Dakota junior Tyler Sanders (130, 38-3), Westland John Glenn senior John Siemasz (145, 48-6, 135 in 2016).
Also undefeated: Fraser senior Danny Pfeffer (145, 54-0), Portage Northern senior Matthew Heaps (171, 47-0), Flushing junior Ben Cushman (215, 52-0).
No. 1 seeds: Detroit Catholic Central freshman Devon Johnsen (103, 32-10), DCC’s Kamali (112), New Baltimore Anchor Bay’s Jack Medley (119, 51-2), Southgate Anderson’s Rivera-Garcia (125), Brownstown Woodhaven senior Xavier Graham (130, 52-1), Bay City Western’s Noah Schoenherr (135), Walled Lake Central’s Freeman (140), Fraser’s Pfeffer (145), Grandville’s Bush (152), Holt senior Kolin Leyrer (160, 37-2), DCC’s Morland (171), Grandville senior Ryan Vasbinder (189, 18-2), Flushing’s Cushman (215), DCC’s Jenkins (285).
PHOTO: Detroit Catholic Central's Benyamin Kamali (right) prepares to face Hartland's Corey Cavanaugh during a Team Semifinal on Saturday. (Click for more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)