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Auburn Hills — Sage Castillo (53-0) of Hartland got off to a good start in the opening round of the MHSAA’s state individual wrestling tournament at The Palace Thursday, scoring a pin over Livonia Churchill’s Chase Gardner (31-11) to remain undefeated at 152 pounds.

“I treat every match the same,” said Castillo, who finished the match in 3:19. “I just go out there and wrestle knowing I have nothing to lose.”

He said the feel of the individual finals is different from that of the team finals.

“You don’t have your boys mat side to cheer you on,” Castillo said. “It’s just basically you and the other guy out there.”

Does that make it harder to compete?

“Yes,” he said. “It’s just more obstacles to overcome and it makes the wins that much better.”

In Division 1 at 135 pounds, Walled Lake Central’s Ben Freeman (39-0) scored a 20-5 technical fall over Jenison’s Austin Falbe.

Schroder seeking fourth

Grand Rapids Catholic Central senior Devin Schroder’s hunt for a fourth consecutive Division 3 title started with a technical fall at 119 pounds over West Branch Ogemaw Heights’ Jonny Dubke Thursday.

Does Schroder feel pressure to be the 21st wrestler to win four in a row?

“It’s not really pressure,” he said. “It’s more excitement to be in that situation.”

Schroeder said that attitude changed after his second and third titles.

“I’ve been given a good opportunity and I’m excited to take advantage of it,” he said.

Schroder (43-1), who got a takedown early, said he was confident from the very start.

“I thought I was going to win, and I always do the moment I step on the mat,” he said. “But getting the first takedown is always reassuring.”

With 43 wins this year, Schroder said he’s still had some adjusting to do.

“Sometimes I have to adjust during matches to get the job done, but I try to stick to what I’m good at,” he said.

And that would be?

“I’m pretty confident on my attacks on my feet and tilts on top,” he said.

Schroder said the win was exciting, but he’s keeping things in perspective with two full days of wrestling left.

“It feels really exciting,” Schroder said. “I’m just trying to take it one match at a time right now, but I’m having a lot of fun.”

Milestone for Perez

Davison’s Deven Perez earned his 150th career win by pinning Sterling Heights Stevenson’s Brandon Kwiatkowski at 2:47 of the first period in his Division 1 match at 125 pounds.

“Those are well-deserved wins,” said Davison coach Roy Hall of the senior, who improved to 36-6 this season. “He’s been a huge part of our success the last four years. He’s in a position where he can win it.”

On the mat

Elijah Weaver scored a pin at 112 pounds and Jajuan Lovejoy took an 8-1 decision at 152 as Warren Woods Tower — which sent six wrestlers to The Palace after losing in the Division 2 team quarterfinals last weekend — finished the first day, 3-3.

“I think he’s our most improved,” Tower co-coach Greg Mayer said of Weaver. “I thought we wrestled well. We could have five of six, but it was promising.”

In his 16th year as Tower’s coach, Mayer said his expectations for his team are simple.

“My expectations are for these guys to compete hard,” he said. “I’m not so concerned with wins and losses. If they compete hard and have fun, to me that’s what it’s all about.

More Day 1 highlights

Also in D1, Howell’s Austin Hansen (43-7) earned his 150th career win at 189 pounds, a fall at 1:52 over Roy Foster (39-6) of Salem.

… In Division 2, Lowell’s Lucas Hall (26-0) pinned Armada’s Robert Nowik (36-12) in 17 seconds to stay undefeated at 125 pounds.

… Ortonville Brandon’s Ryan LaVearn (53-3) won his 200th career match with a fall in Division 2 at 140 pounds.

Al Willman is a freelance writer

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