By: Scott Keyes
2012 Wrestling Preview
When describing the landscape of high school wrestling in the state of Michigan, the word 'dynasty' seems to be the best way to describe the sport right now.
In all four divisions, there is a team that has had a stranglehold on the championship trophy in the recent past.
In Division 1, coach Mitch Hancock and his Detroit Catholic Central Shamrocks have won two of the past three titles. And the year they didn't win, 2011, they lost by a point in an exciting match to Oxford.
In Division 2, the St. Johns Redwings are considered by many to be the best team in the state in any division. St. Johns has won three straight state championships and looks good to win a fourth. Its team is loaded with talented seniors as well as some very good underclassmen.
The Richmond Blue Devils will be wrestling for their fourth straight state championship in Division 3, and another deep run to Battle Creek's Kellogg Arena for the finals seems likely for them this year.
In Division 4, the team that has the longest-standing dynasty is Hudson, which has won four straight team championships and looks good to win its fifth straight.
With four top-ranked wrestlers in their respective weight classes (senior Ken Bade at 135, junior Malik Amine at 140, junior Andrew Garcia at 171, and senior heavyweight Bob Coe), Detroit Catholic Central looks to be the odds-on favorite to win a back-to-back championship this year. But don't count out coach Roy Hall and his Davison team, which is led by freshman Max Johnson at 103, sophomore Lincoln Olson at 112, junior Justin Oliver at 130, and junior Jordan Cooks at 160. Oxford and Hartland could play a part in determining this year's champion, but neither one of those two teams has the depth that Detroit Catholic Central and Davison have this year. Other teams to watch are Rochester, Bedford, Brighton, and Grand Haven.
Last year, this was a two-team race to the title, and this year it is playing out to be the same. Three-time defending champion St. Johns is the favorite to win a fourth straight, and Lowell, last year's runner-up, looks like the only team that may be able to stop it. St. Johns is loaded with talent, including four returning individual state champions in Zac Hall, Jacob Schmitt, Brant Schafer, and Ben Whitford. Throw in runners-up Logan Massa and Payne Hayden, and its easy to see why the Redwings are the favorite. St. Johns also picked up a Lowell transfer; all-state sophomore Angus Arthur will wrestle at 171 pounds this year for the Redwings. Lowell was hit hard by graduation and a pair of transfers. The Red Arrows lost Andrew and Gabe Morse and Gabe Dean to graduation, and Arthur and all-state sophomore Nate Limmex, who transferred to Grand Rapids Catholic Central, are gone as well. But Lowell has several talented returning wrestlers, led by sophomore 215-pounder Josh Colegrove. Other teams to watch are Tecumseh, Allegan, and Lakeshore.
Co-coaches Brandon Day and George Hamblin have built something special at Richmond High School in the sport of wrestling. This team has won three straight, and six total, titles since 2000. The pair do it with tough, hard-nosed kids that focus on the basics of the sport and translate that to the mat. This year, the Blue Devils are led by junior Nick Burg at 125 pounds, sophomore Devin Skatzka at 140, and senior Austin Cattera at 130 pounds. The Dundee wrestling team last won the Division 3 state title in 2007. Since then, the Vikings have finished runners-up four times, including twice to Richmond in 2010 and 2012. Dundee looks strong to break through and finally bring home the title this year with wrestlers like Doug Rojem, Todd Olson, Jay Sroufe, and Joe Marogen on the team. Other teams to watch are Birch Run, Whitehall, Chippewa Hills, and Allendale.
Hudson coach Scott Mary says the best way to describe his wrestlers is that they are tough kids with a great work ethic. Each year Mary and his coaching staff keep getting that type of wrestler, which has allowed the program to win four straight state titles. The Tigers did lose a pair of state champions to graduation in Joel Varney and Devan Mary, the coach's son, but they return 130-pound junior Cole Weaver, another 2012 state champ. Along with Weaver, the team will have J.D. Waters and Zach Rieger to lead this year. The Tigers will have to get by a solid Division 4 field that is front-lined by New Lothrop and Hesperia. Hesperia was the last team besides Hudson to win a Division 4 state title, which it did in 2008. New Lothrop looks like the best team to knock off Hudson from the top of the award stand, with wrestlers like Jacob Perrin, Taylor Krupp, and Owen Wilson. Other teams to watch are Constantine, Bronson, and Sand Creek.