D2 Preview: Arrows Target Title 4-Peat

February 24, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Over the first 29 years the MHSAA has sponsored Team Wrestling Finals, only four schools have won at least four straight championships. 

This weekend, Lowell can become the fifth. 

The top-seeded Red Arrows, after battling through St. Johns' four straight titles from 2010-13, have won the last three and come to Central Michigan University as the favorite again, albeit ahead of a field that includes two undefeated teams and two more that have lost only once this winter.

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 2, listed by seed. Quarterfinal matches begin at 6:45 p.m. Friday, with Semifinals at 11:30 a.m. Saturday and the championship match at 6 p.m. All matches this weekend will be streamed live on a subscription basis on MHSAA.tv. For Friday’s schedule and results throughout, check the MHSAA Wrestling page.

The MHSAA Wrestling Finals are presented by the Michigan Army National Guard

#1 Lowell

Record/rank: 18-2, No. 1
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference White
Coach: RJ Boudro, third season (69-7) 
Championship history: 
Six MHSAA championships (most recent 2016), six runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Nick Korhorn (33-7) fr., 112 Dawson Jankowski (25-8) fr., 119 Jeff Leach (31-9) soph., 119 James Fotis (25-7) fr., 135 Austin Boone (33-3) fr., 140 Avry Mutschler (34-5) soph., 140 Sam Russell (18-12) sr., 152 Bryce Dempsey (30-5) sr., 160 Keigan Yuhas (23-6) jr., 171 Austin Engle (27-11) jr., 189 Dave Kruse (29-4) jr., 215 Elijah Boulton (34-3) sr., 215 Connor Nugent (31-11) jr.
 Lowell is seeking its fourth straight Division 2 title, and after graduating four Individual Finals placers last spring reloaded with four freshmen who have qualified for next week’s tournament. Six of the seven lightest weights are occupied by underclassmen, while veterans man the upper classes. Boulton is the reigning runner-up at 215 and Kruse, Mutschler and Dempsey also placed last year.

#2 Warren Woods Tower

Record/rank: 26-0, No. 2
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference Red
Coach: Greg Mayer, 17th season (328-232)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 David Stepanian (34-1) soph., 112 Chaise Mayer (45-1) soph., 119 Elijuh Weaver (49-3) sr., 135 Joe Schindler (45-3) sr., 140 Jack Pehote (40-11) jr., 140 Nico Martini (38-11) sr., 145 Keff O’Connell (34-13) soph., 152 Austin Frederick (28-9) jr., 160 Jajuan Lovejoy (41-12) jr., 171 Trey Barbour (38-1) jr., 215 Joel Radvansky (35-2) soph.
 The Titans continued to rise last season, entering as a sixth seed and nearly upsetting third seed Gaylord in the Quarterfinals. For the second straight winter, Woods Tower has won its most matches under Mayer, and it gave up only 39 points over four postseason victories to get back to CMU. Weaver won the individual title at 112 last season and Mayer was runner-up at 103; together they lead a group of 11 Finals qualifiers, nearly double last season’s total.

#3 St. Johns

Record/rank: 25-1, No. 3
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Red
Coach: Derek Phillips, fifth season (112-14)
Championship history: 
Four MHSAA championships (most recent 2013), two runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Brendon Smith (19-10) soph., 112 Brendan Zelenka (27-4) jr., 119 Emilio Sanchez (25-8) sr., 125 Kaleob Whitford (12-3) soph., 135 James Whitaker (32-5) soph., 140 Trent Lashuay (28-6) sr., 145 Cross Gonzalez (28-8) jr., 152 Bret Fedewa (39-0) sr.
 The Redwings emerged as the favorite from among four top-10 teams from the Lansing area including three from their league, plus beat No. 5 Gaylord by two points in the Regional Final. Lashuay was runner-up last season at 135 and Fedewa also was a Finals placer; they are two of six seniors and 10 upperclassmen total expected to start this weekend.

#4 Marysville

Record/rank: 26-0, unranked
League finish: First in Macomb Area Conference White
Coach: Rocky Palazzolo, seventh season (111-46)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 125 Kyle French (44-2) sr., 145 Doug Ferrier (46-4) jr., 160 Tyler Gates (33-18) sr., 171 Nino Bastianelli (47-4) sr.
 Marysville snuck under the state rankings radar, but emerged with a District Final win over No. 9 Goodrich and two 30-plus point wins at the Regional. The Vikings have won five league and four District titles under Palazzolo, but this is their first Quarterfinal trip in program history. French, Ferrier, Bastianelli and senior Austin Keeley (46-5, 215) all were individual placers in 2016.

#5 Allendale

Record/rank: 34-3, No. 6
League finish: First in O-K Blue
Coach: Duane Watson, 29th season (571-227)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Asher Meekhof (40-2) jr., 125 Jared Dankowski (36-8) sr., 130 Angel Perez (38-6) sr., 135 Nathan Wynsma (39-5) soph., 140 Ryan Wynsma (36-11) sr.
 Allendale is headed back to the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2011 after winning all four of its postseason matches by at least 36 points. The Falcons have won 10 straight District titles and 13 league titles over the last 14 seasons, and have advanced to the Semifinals three of their last four trips to championship weekend. Meekoff was an individual placer last season, and he’s one of 10 upperclassmen anchoring the lineup.

#6 Niles

Record/rank: 15-1, No. 4
League finish: First in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West
Coach: Todd Hesson, 10th season (220-78) 
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Ryan Franco (13-7) fr., 119 Austin Franco (17-2) jr., 119 Cade Stephenson (25-10) sr., 125 Andrew Flick (34-2) sr., 145 Mitchell Findeisen (32-2) sr., 160 Davin Simpson (27-11) jr.
 Niles is making its fourth Quarterfinal appearance in five seasons, vanquishing its toughest postseason foe, rival Stevensville Lakeshore, by 10 in the District Final. Flick and Findeisen both were individual placers last season and could be primed to lead the Vikings into upset territory; they’d made the Semifinals all three other times they’ve advanced this far.

#7 DeWitt

Record/rank: 30-4, No. 7
League finish: Second in CAAC Red
Coach: Brian Byars, 17th season (401-187)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Ronald Slater (38-16) soph., 130 Quenten Hall (46-8) soph., 135 Jackson Severns (34-7) jr., 140 Kilian Southworth (43-11) jr., 152 Sam York (50-2) jr., 160 Lucas McFarland (49-2) sr., 171 Gabe Larner (47-1) sr.
 The Panthers are coming off their first Regional title after being ranked as high as No. 2 this season. They beat No. 10 Mason by 31 points in the Regional Final after finishing second to St. Johns in the league all three share. There are only three seniors in the expected starting lineup, but all three have 38 or more wins – and Larner was an individual placer last season. Total, seven starters have won at least 35 matches this winter.

#8 Tecumseh

Record/rank: 24-6, unranked
League finish: First in Southeastern Conference White
Coach: AJ Marry, second season (38-21)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Vincent Perez (45-6) soph., 112 Joshua Hilton (37-13) soph., 119 Kellen Patton (39-12) soph., 130 Drew Marten (50-1) sr., 140 Kyle Yuhas (33-19) fr., 145 Gabe Bechtol (41-10) jr.
 Tecumseh is back for its sixth Quarterfinal berth in seven seasons, and made the Semifinals as recently as 2014. All three of the team’s seniors start, and the roster includes 18 underclassmen – a good sign for the future as well. Marten was last season’s champion at 125, and Patton also placed individually.

PHOTO: A Lowell wrestler takes control during a match at his Division 2 Individual District. (Photo courtesy of the Lowell athletic department.)