D4 Preview: Entering the Hornets' Nest

February 23, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

If seedings hold true, we will have a new Division 4 wrestling champion Saturday for the first time since 2014.

But that next champion wouldn't really be new; Hudson is the top seed entering Friday’s Quarterfinals and won every Division 4 title from 2009-2013 before finishing runner-up to New Lothrop the last three years. But if the Tigers trip up, the Hornets – and six more teams seeking first wrestling championships – will be ready to pounce.

Below is a look at all eight teams competing in Division 4, listed by seed. Quarterfinal matches begin at 12 p.m. Friday, with Semifinals at 9 a.m. 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 Friday’s schedule and results throughout, check the MHSAA Wrestling page.

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

#1 Hudson

Record/rank: 16-9, No. 1
League finish: Second in Lenawee Country Athletic Association
Scott Marry, 29th season (749-175) 
Championship history: 
Five MHSAA championships (most recent 2013), three runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Tucker Scholl (27-2) soph., 119 Jordan Hamdan (41-2) soph., 130 Scotty Torres (23-11) jr., 189 Tylor Grames (35-11) sr., 285 Zach Bailey (35-9) sr., 285 Isiah Krizeki (26-14) soph.
Outlook: After three straight runner-up finishes to New Lothrop – last year the closest falling in the Final by eight points after entering as the third seed – Hudson is on top again in this bracket. After finished second in the LCAA this season to Division 3 second seed Dundee, the Tigers have dominated the postseason and took down second-ranked Manchester 59-8 in their Regional Final. Scholl and Hamdan were individual champions last season at 103 and 112, respectively.

#2 Leroy Pine River

Record/rank: 30-4, No. 6
League finish: First in Mid-Michigan Wrestling Conference
Coach: Tim Jones, 18th season (501-116)
Championship history: Class C runner-up 1991.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Holly Bailor (27-13) sr., 112 Dylan Stephens (35-10) jr., 119 Tyler Signor (38-12) jr., 125 Jacob Roberts (39-7) jr., 130 Andy Park (51-1) jr, 135 Brocko Nelson (41-12) fr., 140 Justin Cole (35-7) sr., 145 Tucker Fansler (27-15) sr., 152 Malachi Holmes (38-20) soph., 160 Joe Rigling (44-7) sr., 171 Tim Rizor (25-11) fr., 189 Raden Holmes (45-6) sr., 215 Bryan McCurry (40-6) soph.
 Pine River bumped up to the second seed after making the Semifinals last season as a seventh (by upsetting No. 2 seed Decatur by a point in the Quarterfinal). The Bucks have won 17 league and District titles during Jones’ 18 seasons and Regional titles six times – but a win Friday would give the team its most victories in one season under its longtime leader. Stephens, McCurry and Park all were Individual Finals placers last season.

#3 Carson City-Crystal

Record/rank: 29-8, No. 7
League finish: First in Central Michigan Athletic Conference
Coach: Kacy Datema, seventh season (157-63)
Championship history: Division 4 runner-up 2000 and 2001.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Nolan Datema (44-8) soph.; 103 Jamison Ward (48-2) fr.; 119 Daryn Shepler (38-12) soph.; 140 Braxton Seida (45-4) soph.; 152 Spencer Shook (17-6) sr., 171 Daniel Smith (38-13) soph.; 189 Brian Yeakey (39-9) fr.
 The Eagles won their fifth straight league and District titles and are back at the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2014. They navigated one of the closest Regionals in any division, downing St. Louis and Hart by a combined seven points to advance. There are only two seniors and one expected to start; Carson City-Crystal could be building for a nice run with nine underclassmen among its top 14.   

#4 Bronson

Record/rank: 30-8, No. 9
League finish: Second in Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference
Coach: Chad Butters, fourth season (105-15)
Championship history: Division 4 runner-up 2002 and 2003.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Ben Modert (42-5) fr., 160 Gavin Alger (34-15) sr., 171 David Erwin (48-2) sr., 189 Chase Gibson (48-5) jr.
 Bronson is back at the Quarterfinals for the first time since making the Semifinals in 2013 and after winning a fourth straight District title under Butters, formerly a longtime assistant in the program. The Vikings took down BCS champion White Pigeon and No. 8 Mendon in the District and then Reading and No. 4 Decatur at the Regional. Erwin and senior Nathan Caudill (29-4, 285) both were Individual Finals placers last season; along with those two, the four heaviest weights in the starting lineup are a combined 160-15 this winter.

#5 Springport

Record/rank: 17-3, No. 3
League finish: First in Big 8 Conference
Coach: Matt Darling, first season (17-3)
Championship history: Lower Peninsula Class D runner-up 1984.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 125 Tyler Teague (33-8) sr., 135 Noah Teague (31-7) jr., 140 Sean O’Hearon (37-0) sr., 160 Zach Betz (30-11) jr., 215 Nick Cooper (36-3) sr., 285 Luke Overweg (33-4) jr.
 New coach, same story for Springport, which repeated as league and District champion with Darling now leading the way and enters as the fifth seed for the second straight season – the Spartans advanced to the Semifinals and fell to eventual champion New Lothrop by only eight points. Cooper was the Division 4 individual champion at 189 last season and Noah Teague and O’Hearon both were Finals placers.

#6 New Lothrop

Record/rank: 14-8, unranked
League finish: Second in Genesee Area Conference
Coach: Jeff Campbell, 16th season (406-78)
Championship history: 
15 MHSAA championships (most recent 2016), four runner-up finishes.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 103 Logan Wolford (25-14) fr., 112 Logan Zell (26-17) soph., 119 Tommy Malloy (30-10) jr., 135 Austin Wolford (35-7) soph., 140 Justin Carnahan (18-13) fr., 145 Cole Wendling (29-12) jr., 152 Zackery Riley (26-15) soph., 160 Austin Wendling (27-19) soph., 189 Erik Birchmeier (26-1) sr.
 Coming off three straight Division 4 team championships, New Lothrop has to be arguably the scariest sixth seed in MHSAA Finals history. The Hornets graduated three individual champions after last season, but Birchmeier is back after winning the title at 171, and Malloy and Austin Wolford also were Finals placers. Birchmeier also is the only senior starter and joined by nine underclassmen who should speed up New Lothrop’s rebuilding effort.

#7 Clinton

Record/rank: 28-7, No. 5
League finish: First in Tri-County Conference
Coach: Jeff Rolland, fourth season (101-33)
Championship history: Has not appeared in an MHSAA Final.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 112 Christian Minard (31-11) soph., 112 Noah Comar (46-0) soph., 130 Anthony Stockdale (29-17) jr., 135 Fletcher Mellinger (27-16) sr., 145 Jacob Phillips (38-11) sr., 189 Trent Sexton (37-13) jr., 215 Austin Popp (33-7) sr., 285 Josh Brown (36-7) sr.
 Clinton is back at the Quarterfinals for the second time in four seasons under Rolland. The Redskins have given up a total of 24 points over four postseason matches. Comar was the individual runner-up at 112 last season and Popp also was a Finals placer; despite graduating three other placers, Clinton boasts eight upperclassmen among its starters.

#8 Munising

Record/rank: 22-3, unranked
League finish: Does not wrestle in a league.
Coach: Bob Miles, 12th season (192-127)
Championship history: Upper Peninsula runner-up 1968.
Individual Finals qualifiers: 119 Zach McGowan (26-5) sr., 125 Nick Miles (31-12) jr.
 The Mustangs are making their second straight appearance at the Quarterfinals after winning their third straight District title. Nick Miles also was an Individual Finals qualifier last season, and McGowan is one of five seniors on the team – a solid number of veterans for a roster of only 13 that voids two weights because it is unable to fill them.

PHOTO: A New Lothrop wrestler (right) competes during his school's Hall of Fame Tournament on Jan. 7. (Click to see more by Varsity Monthly.)