D2 Preview: Ready for Storied Finish

February 26, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Coaches R.J. Boudro and Joe Ray Barry will lead celebrated wrestling programs into Friday’s MHSAA Quarterfinals at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena.

But while Lowell and Eaton Rapids, respectively, have combined for 12 MHSAA titles and are the top seeds in Division 2 this weekend, both coaches are guiding their teams into these final rounds for the first time.

And that’s just another wrinkle of intrigue in a division featuring four teams that have never made an MHSAA championship match and two more that haven’t won a title in more than two decades.

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 2, listed by seed. Their Quarterfinal matches begin at 7:45 p.m. Friday, with Semifinals at 11:45 Saturday morning and the championship match at 4 p.m. All matches this weekend will be streamed live on a subscription basis on MHSAA.TV. For results throughout, check the MHSAA Wrestling page. (Records below are based on those submitted for the Individual Finals.)

#1 Lowell

Record/rank: 26-2, No. 2
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference White.
Coach: R.J. Boudro, first season (26-2)
Championship history: Four MHSAA championships (most recent 2014), six runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Sam Russell (24-10) soph., 119 Lucas Hall (32-1) jr., 125 Aaron Ward (25-9) sr., 130 Zeth Dean (31-3) jr., 135 Jordan Hall (32-4) sr., 145 David Kruse 25-10) fr., 152 Dan Kruse (26-11) jr., 189 Logan Blough (22-15) jr., 215 Josh Colegrove (33-0) sr., 285 Logan Wilcox (28-7) sr.
Outlook: Boudro was an assistant under previous Lowell coach Dave Dean and also an MHSAA individual finalist at Armada before competing at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. He inherited a loaded and veteran lineup, even with only four seniors starting. Lucas Hall, Colegrove and junior Max Dean won individual championships last season, and Zeth Dean and Jordan Hall were placers.

#2 Eaton Rapids

Record/rank: 39-2, No. 4
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference White.
Coach: Joe Ray Barry, third season (91-21)
Championship history: Eight MHSAA championships (most recent 1999), six runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Austin O’Hearon (38-4) fr., 125 Austin Eldred (46-8) sr., 135 Jaedin Sklapsky (49-2) sr., 145 Lane McVicker (46-1) jr., 152 Blaine Milheim (45-5) sr., 160 Caleb Norris (42-6) sr., Clayton Higelmire (40-5) jr.
Outlook: Eaton Rapids has a long history of wrestling success, but got its signature win so far under Barry – a former three-time individual champ for Mason – by beating No. 1-ranked St. Johns in the Regional Final. The Greyhounds also eliminated No. 5 DeWitt and No. 9 Mason during their tournament run. Sklapsky was an Individual Finals runner-up at 135 last season, and McVicker was a placer.

#3 Niles

Record/rank: 23-3, No. 3
League finish: First in Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference.
Coach: Todd Hesson, eighth season (186-72)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Andrew Flick (24-3) soph., 119 Josh Dayhuff (38-5) sr., 125 Brendan Hall (34-8) soph., 130 Mitchell Findeisen (32-9) soph., 130 Warren Smith (38-8) sr., 135 Noah Hall (37-4) sr.
Outlook: Niles has firmly established itself among Division 2 powers with three straight Regional titles and two consecutive Semifinal appearances, and looks like a possibility to take the next step into a championship bout this weekend. Flick, Dayhuff and Smith are returning Individual Finals placers and lead a line-up anchored by seven seniors.  

#4 Gaylord

Record/rank: 39-1, No. 6
League finish: First in Big North Conference.
Coach: Jerry La Joie, 21st season (558-126-2)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Trevor Giallombardo (23-2) jr., 103 Derek Giallombardo (28-6) fr., 112 Dominic La Joie (31-2) soph., 125 Jon Martin (45-3) jr., 145 Jeff Heinz (50-4) sr., 189 Tristan Gregory (33-3) sr., 215 Shane Foster (49-1) jr., 285 Tim Roney (27-8) jr.
Outlook: Gaylord is back in the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2006 and has made four trips under Jerry La Joie, and also won eight straight league and seven straight District titles. The Blue Devils advanced by surviving a strong Regional with a four-point win over Clio and seven-point victory over No. 8 Bay City Western. Dominic La Joie was the champion at 103 pounds last winter to cap his first season, and Martin, Gregory and Foster all placed at their weights.

#5 Flint Kearsley

Record/rank: 35-5, No. 7
League finish: Third in Flint Metro League
Coach: Luther Brown, fourth season (113-45)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Andy Ruhstorfer (48-5) fr., 119 Jakob Chapman (43-3) sr., 135 Travis Wildfong (46-3) jr., 152 Dylan Tarrence (43-6) soph., 171 James Davis (47-3) sr., 189 Reese Harburn (39-14) soph.
Outlook: Kearsley will compete in its second Quarterfinal, having made the trip previously in 2004. But Brown supplies championship experience – he wrestled on the 1995 Class A championship team at Flint Northern – and has led the Hornets to two District titles over his four seasons. Chapman was the Division 2 runner-up at 119 pounds last season, and Davis also was an Individual Finals placer. They are the only two seniors on the roster.

#6 Tecumseh

Record/rank: 32-4, No. 10
League finish: First in Southeastern Conference White.
Coach: George Lesko, first season (32-4)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Andrew Marten (51-2) soph., 125 Wyatt Cadmus (45-9) sr., 135 Gabe Bechtol (39-9) fr., 152 Kyle Humphries (36-8) jr., 189 Kody McCrate (45-8) sr., 215 Landon Pelham (31-2) jr., 285 Nathan Brady (47-10) sr.
Outlook: Lesko has Tecumseh in the Quarterfinals for the fifth straight season and seeking its fourth Semifinal berth in that time. A former assistant with more than 30 years in coaching, he took over a squad that’s starting only three seniors but does have a 2014 Individual Finals placer in Pelham. Five others have at least 40 wins this season, with Marten among expected contenders next weekend.

#7 Warren Lincoln

Record/rank: 21-9, unranked
League finish: Fourth in Macomb Area Conference White
Coach: Vito Delia, 16th season (260-160-3)
Championship history: Class A champion 1994. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Demarco Dixon (40-13) jr., 130 Garret Kaercher (38-5) jr., 135 Shawn Lindsey (33-11) jr., 152 Khannor Kaercher (48-1) sr., 160 Deirrien Perkins (40-5) jr., 171 Jelani Embree (40-0) soph.  
Outlook: Lincoln is back at the Quarterfinals for the third straight season and moved up a seed from 2014. Both Kaerchers and Perkins were Individual Finals placers last winter, and Embree is an emerging standout after missing his freshman season with an injury.

#8 Comstock Park

Record/rank: 19-9, unranked
League finish: Third in O-K Blue.
Coach: Jim Olson, 27th season (403-188)
Championship history: Class C champion 1974, runner-up 1980.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 135 Tyler Brewer (48-4) jr., 189 Aaron Martin (41-5) sr.
Outlook: Comstock Park is making its first appearance in a Quarterfinal, although it did finish Class C runner-up in the first season of Olson’s first tenure as coach, in 1980, when team scoring was based on individual placers. The Panthers did win seven District titles in eight seasons at one point, from 2005-12, but broke through this winter after bouncing back from two straight sub-.500 seasons. 

PHOTO: Lowell's Lucas Hall and Niles' Andrew Flick wrestled during last season's Division 2 Semifinals; both return this weekend. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)