By Butch Harmon
Special for Second Half
AUBURN HILLS – Last wrestling season ended in heart-breaking fashion for Hudson senior Kyle Johnson.
This year, spurred on by the memory of his grandfather, Johnson wrapped up his high school wrestling career in a big way by winning the 160-pound title in Division 4.
Johnson outlasted Spencer Knizacky of Scottville Mason County Central 4-2 in the Final to finish the season with a 49-8 record.
“Last year my grandpa passed away, and I was not mentally into it,” Johnson said. “This year, I dedicated my season to him. My grandpa meant a lot to me. He showed me how to be a man.”
Immediately after clinching the title, and in the process winning his 200th career match, Johnson put on the black T-shirt with orange lettering that said “RIP Gramps, this one is for you.”
“This title was for him,” Johnson said. “I stayed focused all season because of him.”
Champion: Tucker Sholl, Hudson, Fr. (48-3)
Major Decision, 11-0, over Reese Fry, Manchester, Soph. (44-7)
Practice partners throughout the season, Hudson’s Sholl and Jordan Hamden came into the Finals looking to hit a freshman daily-double by winning the 103 and 112-pound titles. Sholl completed his part in impressive fashion, as he didn’t allow a point en route to winning a major decision.
“It feels real good,” Sholl said. “We practice together every day. I can’t begin to tell you how many hours we put in working out together.”
Champion: Jordan Hamdan, Hudson, Fr. (51-6)
Decision, 5-1, over Noah Comar, Clinton, Fr. (55-4)
Hamdan completed the freshman double-dip by defeating a familiar foe in fellow freshman Noah Comar of Clinton. Hamdan scored a two-point near fall in the second period and then put the match away with an escape and takedown in the third period.
“It’s very special to win it as freshmen with Tucker,” Hamdan said. “We’ve been practicing together since grade school. We go at each other in practice and show each other a lot of different styles. I think we strengthen each other.”
The MHSAA title was also the second for the Hamdan family as Jordan’s older brother Roddy won a title during his sophomore year.
“My brother helped me out a lot,” Jordan said. “He has really given me a lot of support and helped me reach my goal.”
Champion: Robert LeFevre, Erie-Mason, Jr. (39-0)
Decision, 6-1, over Coy Helmuth, Decatur, Jr. (49-6)
After falling short in overtime in the 112-pound title match last year, LeFevre was determined to take the final step this season.
LeFevre turned in a workmanlike performance as he took a 2-0 lead in the first period, then built the lead to 4-0 in the second before closing out the match with two more points in the third period.
“I was just more mentally focused this year,” LeFevre said. “I put in a lot more work during the offseason, and it paid off. Words can’t explain how good this feels.”
LeFevre also finished the season with a perfect record despite bumping up in weight class several times for the good of the team.
“The undefeated record is nice,” LeFevre said. “It’s really exciting to get it here in the Finals. I finished third as a freshman, second last year and now first this year.”
Champion: Robert Rogers, Burton Bentley, Soph. (48-0)
Decision, 8-6, over Davian Gowens, Hesperia, Sr. (43-4)
Burton Bentley may not be a household name on the list of outstanding Genesee County wrestling schools, but Bentley sophomore Robert Rogers is single-handedly changing that. Rogers became the first Bentley wrestler to win an individual MHSAA title in 39 years.
“This shows everybody that someone from a little school can win a state title just like the big school down the road,” Rogers said. “This is really thrilling. It shows that hard work pays off. I’m here not just for myself, but for my teammates and my coaches. This is for them.”
Rogers placed third at the MHSAA Finals last year and came back this year focused on improving.
“My coaches kept me level-headed all season,” Rogers said. “Losing in the Semifinals last year gave me a lot of extra motivation.”
Champion: Dallas O’Green, Carson City-Crystal, Sr. (59-0)
Decision, 8-2, over Ethan Woods, Manchester, Jr. (48-3)
O’Green ended his career in a big way. Not only did he win a second straight championship, but he finished his senior season with a perfect record.
“This one is very special,” O’Green said. “It’s a big accomplishment. We don’t get many wrestlers winning two state titles in a row at our school.”
O’Green ended his career as a four-time Finals placer as he took sixth as a freshman and third as a sophomore. That accomplishment is something he shares with his coach Trent Ward.
“That has only happened once in our school’s history, and that was our coach,” O’Green said. “That makes it very special. I feel like we have the best coaches in Division 4, and to be a four-time state placer like Coach is amazing.”
Champion: Sean O’Hearon, Springport, Jr. (49-1)
Decision 6-1, over Clay Ragon, Dansville, Sr. (51-5)
After placing fourth last year, O’Hearon was not about to let an opportunity pass him by this winter. O’Hearon took an early 2-1 lead and then built the lead to 5-1 in the second period.
“I just kept the pressure on him,” O’Hearon said. “We have a lot of pride in Springport wrestling, and I was glad to represent our school and our tradition.”
O’Hearon also represented his family well along with his cousin, Austin O’Hearon, who wrestles for Eaton Rapids and placed seventh at 125 pounds in Division 2.
“We’re hoping that next year me and him will both be state champs,” O’Hearon said. “We get together to practice a lot. Working out with him has really helped me.”
Champion Dresden Simon, Dansville, Sr. (52-1)
Fall, 1:30, over Konnor Holton, St. Louis, Jr. (41-5)
Simon wasted little time in winning his second straight MHSAA title, as he recorded a fall in the first period.
“Winning a state title was something I expected,” Simon said. “I’ve been working hard for it. I put in a lot of hard work for it, and it paid off. I went out there and tried to push the pace.”
Simon, who is headed to Central Michigan University to wrestle next season, won the 130-pound title last year.
Champion: Cole Hersch, New Lothrop, Sr. (51-1)
Fall, 4:00, over Gerrit Yates, Hesperia, Soph. (53-5)
For Hersch, it was his first time in the title match and only chance he would get to win an individual championship. The senior from New Lothrop, who has been part of three team MHSAA championship teams, didn’t let the opportunity slip by.
“This is just an amazing feeling,” Hersch said. “I lost in the second round all three years I’ve been here. To win it like this as a senior is amazing.”
Hersch’s title was the fourth individual title of the Finals for New Lothrop, as 145 was the final weight contended at this year’s meet.
“For our team to win four individual state titles is pretty special,” Hersch said.
Champion: Steven Garza II, New Lothrop, Sr. (57-1)
Decision, 9-5 over Zeth Caudill, Springport, Sr. (42-5)
After finishing as an undefeated individual champion last season, Garza came back and won a second straight title and finished his senior year with a 57-1 record.
“This is something I’ve wanted all year,” Garza said. “I’m grateful to be here and to be able to take home the state title. There are some great wrestlers here, and to be able to win two state titles is an awesome feeling.”
Garza jumped out to the early lead in the match and controlled the pace throughout.
“Last year I was really nervous,” Garza said. “It was the first one. This one I was still a little nervous, but the jitters were a little different this time.”
Champion: Erik Birchmeier, New Lothrop, Jr. (34-2)
Decision, 7-5 SV-1, over Mark Workman, Hesperia, Sr. (34-1)
Persistence paid off for Birchmeier. Trailing 5-2 going into the third period, he battled back to tie the match at 5-5 and then won in overtime.
“When I was trailing 5-2 I knew I needed to get after it,” Birchmeier said. “I gave it everything I had to bring it to overtime. I knew I just had to keep the pressure on.”
Champion: Nick Cooper, Springport, Jr. (41-1)
Fall, 1:49, over Hunter Sadler, Munising, Sr. (54-3)
Cooper’s older brother Jacob was a three-time MHSAA champion who graduated last year. This year Nick claimed his first title to carry on the family tradition.
“I can tell him that I’ve got one now,” Cooper said. “My brother has been very supportive of me. He has really helped me out a lot.”
Winning his own was actually less nerve-wracking for Jacob.
“I actually get more nervous watching him then when I wrestle myself,” Cooper said. “This really means a lot to me.”
Champion: Caleb Symons, New Lothrop, Sr. (55-1)
Fall, 2:35, over Devon Kozel, Bangor, Jr. (48-1)
After taking second at 189 pounds last year, Symons was not to be denied. A second period pin gave Symons the championship and also the 150th win of his career.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Symons said. “Losing last year tore me apart. Winning it this year made it all worthwhile.”
In his second appearance in the Finals, Symons was more comfortable.
“Being here last year, I was not as nervous this time,” Symons said.
Champion: Kevin Koenig, Laingsburg, Sr. (55-1)
Fall, 1:22, over Logan Kennedy, Decatur, Jr. (49-6)
A Finals champion as a sophomore, Koenig dropped a two-point decision in last year’s 215-pound title match. This time, Koenig left nothing to chance.
“Heck yeah, this feels real good,” Koenig said. “Being a two-time state champion, not many people have done it. It definitely feels great.”
Koenig won all four of his matches at these MHSAA Finals with first-period falls.
“I’ve pretty much been doing it all season,” Koenig said. “I can’t describe the feeling of winning a second one.”
The MHSAA Wrestling Finals are presented by the Michigan Army National Guard.
PHOTO: Hudson's Kyle Johnson works to gain control against Farwell's Garrett McQuiston during Friday's Semifinal match. (Click to see more at HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)