D2 Preview: Red Arrows on Target Again

February 26, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Arguably, no team has been a bigger title favorite from start to finish in MHSAA wrestling this season than two-time Division 2 reigning champion Lowell.

The Red Arrows need only three more wins to make good again on those high expectations. 

But that's easier said than done, especially with rival St. Johns back in the mix after a year away from Finals competition. 

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 2, listed by seed. Quarterfinal matches begin at 6 p.m. Friday, with Semifinals at noon Saturday and the championship match at 3:30 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.

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

#1 Lowell

Record/rank: 20-3, No. 1
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference White.
Coach: R.J. Boudro, second season (49-5)
Championship history: Five MHSAA championships (most recent 2015), six runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Jeff Leach (28-8) fr.; 125 Lucas Hall (25-0) sr.; 125 Sam Russell (24-11) jr.; 130 Avry Mutschler (33-6) fr.; 140 Zeth Dean (27-4) sr.; 145 Bryce Dempsey (28-11) jr.; 160 David Kruse (19-1) soph.; 160 Keigan Yuhas (35-7) soph.; 171 Danny Kruse (30-2) sr.; 189 Max Dean (30-0) sr.; 215 Eli Boulton (25-13) jr.
Outlook: Lowell has wrestled in four straight championship matches and won two straight titles, and has been the unquestioned favorite all season. Hall and Zeth Dean are reigning MHSAA individual champions – Hall has won two titles in a row – and Danny Kruse and Russell also placed last season. A total of 16 wrestlers have at least 20 wins, including four reserves.

#2 St. Johns

Record/rank: 26-4, No. 3
League finish: Tied for first in Capital Area Activities Conference Red. 
Coach: Derek Phillips, fourth season (87-13)
Championship history: Four MHSAA championships (most recent 2013), one runner-up finish.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Brendan Zelenka (32-4) soph.; 112 Emilio Sanchez (37-10) jr.; 125 James Whitaker (15-6) fr.; 135 Trent Lashuay (39-9) jr.; 140 Ian Parker (42-2) sr.; 152 Brett Fedewa (45-4) jr.;160 Lucas McFarland (34-5) jr.; 285 Jake Gnegy (42-2) sr.
Outlook: St. Johns is back after missing the Quarterfinals last season despite entering the postseason ranked No. 1, and the Redwings will be plenty motivated to make a sixth championship match in seven seasons. St. Johns defeated No. 7 Eaton Rapids and No. 2 DeWitt on the way to CMU. Parker is the reigning champion at 125 and was runner-up at 103 as a freshman, and Lashuay, Gnegy and senior Derek Droste also placed in 2015.

#3 Gaylord

Record/rank: 41-1, No. 4
League finish: First in Big North Conference.
Coach: Jerry La Joie, 22
nd season (600-128-2)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Derek Giallombardo (52-3) soph.; 112 Trevor Giallombardo (51-5) sr.; 119 Dominic La Joie (56-0) jr.; 130 Jon Martin (53-3) sr.; 140 Brady Schulz (27-13) soph.; 171 Nate Nutter (44-13) sr.
Outlook: Gaylord made its second Quarterfinal in a row by beating No. 9 Flint Kearsley among others after locking up a ninth-straight league title. Dominic La Joie is a two-time individual champion, winning 103 as a freshman and 112 last winter, and Trevor Giallombardo was the runner-up at 103 and Martin a placer at 125 in 2015. Gaylord as a team has more than 40 wins for the second time on Jerry La Joie and first time since 2003-04 after suffering its only loss last season in the Semifinal to eventual champion Lowell.  

#4 Goodrich

Record/rank: 33-4, No. 5
League finish: First in Genesee Area Conference Red.
Coach: Ken Sirignano, sixth season (record N/A)
Championship history: Division 3 champions 2008 and 2009, runners-up 1997 and 1999.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Caleb Teague (41-9) fr.; 119 Dominic Edwards (33-19) fr.; 135 Nathan Ellis (46-3) sr.; 135 Cody Orcutt (36-16) jr.; 152 Honour Kline 39-12) fr.; 160 Nick Foglio (33-17) sr.; 171 John Penfold (44-6) sr., 285 Blake Coffell (26-24) fr.
 Goodrich is making its first trip to Finals weekend since its last championship season of 2009, and also its first trip in Division 2. Ellis and Penfold were individual placers last season and are among four seniors in a lineup that could be scary the next three seasons; eight freshmen start, including four Individual Finals qualifiers.

#5 Allegan

Record/rank: 30-5, unranked
League finish: First in Wolverine Conference. 
Coach: Murray Rose, 29
th season (748-157-2)
Championship history: Two MHSAA championships (most recent 2007 in Division 2), two runner-up finishes. 
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Davynn Schneider (45-8) jr.; 112 Jake Orr (31-13) soph.; 130 Ricky Jefferson (34-17) jr.; 135 Joey Orr (44-5) sr.; 160 Trey Boerman (45-8) sr.; 171 Levi Sabin (39-8) sr.; 189 Austin Farrell (46-10) sr.
Outlook: Allegan is back in Division 2 after a time in Division 3 and making its eighth straight trip to the Quarterfinals. A group of six seniors fill every weight but one from 140-215, and Sabin, Farrell and junior Chase Beard were individual placers last season in Division 3 – with Schneider, Jefferson and Orr also among returning qualifiers for next weekend.

#6 Warren Woods Tower

Record/rank: 26-6, No. 6
League finish: Third in Macomb Area Conference Red. 
Co-coaches: Greg Mayer, 16th season (301-232)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 David Stepanian (39-7) fr.; 103 Chaise Mayer (47-5) fr.; 112 Elijuh Weaver (53-1) jr.; 135 Joe Schindler (40-10) jr.; 140 Nico Martini (32-13) jr.; 152 Jajuan Lovejoy (40-18) soph.
Outlook: Warren Woods Tower is back at Finals weekend for the second time in three seasons and with its most wins under Mayer. Eight underclassmen and only one senior starter make for some exciting possibilities in the future as well. Part of having that much youth is having no returning individual placers from a year ago, but the Titans have gained valuable experience wrestling in a strong league and with assistant Russell Correll serving as a co-coach with Mayer.

#7 Dearborn Heights Annapolis

Record/rank: 38-3, unranked
League finish: Second in Western Wayne Athletic Conference Red.
Coach: Vic McGuire, 24th season (548-183)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 125 Justin Manuel (51-6) sr.; 130 David Knapp (49-9) sr.; 145 Dustin Gross (51-3) soph.; 189 Jon Cox (54-1) sr.; 215 Gregory Johnson (48-8) sr.
 Annapolis is returning to the Quarterfinals for the first time since back-to-back trips in 2009 and 2010 after keeping two District and one Regional opponent to 20 or fewer points. Gross was an Individual Finals placer last season as a freshman and he adds high-pressure experience to an already-veteran lineup including eight seniors and two juniors.

#8 Sturgis

Record/rank: 27-7, unranked
League finish: Second in Wolverine Conference.
Coach: Bryan Boughton, ninth season (242-122)
Championship history: Has never finished among the top two teams in Finals competition.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 160 Luke Carver (48-2) sr.; 215 Anthony Neal (31-4) sr.; 285 Jake Stevens (30-3) sr.
Outlook: Sturgis has won four District titles under Boughton, but this is the first trip to the Quarterfinals in program history. The Trojans defeated annual power Stevensville Lakeshore by three in the Regional Semifinal as part of this run, and are setting up nicely to continue contending with only six seniors in the starting lineup. Carver and Neal were both Regional runners-up.

PHOTO: Gaylord and Lowell met during MHSAA Team Finals weekend in 2015 and could face off again this weekend in Division 2. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)