Westland John Glenn takes aim at first quarterfinals win at wrestling team finals

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Westland John Glenn's Caleb Meekins, left, and Kyle Borthwell practice for the team state finals.

Westland John Glenn will attempt to set a school record by making it to the second day of the state team wrestling finals this weekend in Kalamazoo.

John Glenn has won regional championships in past years, but has been unable to win state quarterfinal matches on the opening day of the state finals.

This year will bring another tough challenge for No. 4 seed John Glenn, which will take on No. 5 seed Hartland in a Division 1 quarterfinal Friday at 2:15 p.m. at the Wings Event Center.

Hartland won the state championship in 2016 and earned its 18th straight regional title last week. John Glenn defeated Temperance Bedford 31-29 to win the regional championship at Livonia Franklin.

In other quarterfinal matches, two-time defending state champion and top-seeded Detroit Catholic Central takes on No. 8 seed Clarkston while No. 2 seed Brighton faces No. 7 Macomb Dakota, and No. 3 seed Davison battles No. 6 seed Rockford.

Semifinal matches are set for Saturday morning with all division finals at 3:45 p.m.

Hartland had won nine straight quarterfinal matches before suffering a 30-29 quarterfinal loss to eventual state runnerup Brighton, which went on to lose to Catholic Central 57-1 in the title match last year. John Glenn, a No. 4 seed last year, lost its quarterfinal match to Davison, 28-25.

“This will be our third straight state finals appearance, been there five times in the last 10 years, and we’ve gone down to the last match every year, and lost so we’ve been in some great (quarterfinal) duals,” said Bill Polk, who is in his 21st year as head coach at Westland John Glenn. “Our goal is to get to the second day and everything else is a bonus from there.”

While anything less than a state championship would be considered a disappointment for Detroit Catholic Central, which is ranked No. 11 nationally by USA Today, winning a quarterfinal match would be major accomplishment for John Glenn.

“This team was a pleasant surprise,” Polk said. “We talked about it last year – these guys taking over after we lost 13 seniors and a lot of medal winners. It was outstanding the way these guys led this team. There’s 10 seniors this season and they took over where the kids left off last year, which is pretty nice.”

Brenten Polk, left, and Kyle Borthwell practice their moves as Westland John Glenn gets ready for the team finals.

John Glenn is led by Caleb Meekins (51-5, 125 pounds), Kyle Borthwell (46-5, 135) and Brenten Polk (52-6, 145) – Polk’s nephew – with Graden Bowen (39-18, 160), Shawn Brown (41-13, 140), Ty Cowen (48-13, 112) and Josh Mars (42-14, 103) also having strong seasons.

“Caleb Meekins has been ranked 1-2-3 all year,” said Polk. “Kyle Borthwell has been in the top four all year and then my nephew, Brenten Polk, took eighth (individual state tournament) last year and has been ranked in the top five this year.”

Bowen was a .500 wrestler his junior year, then became a captain his senior year, making big contributions, none larger than in the regional final against Bedford.

“Graden Bowen has been great, my team captain and an outstanding kid,” said Polk. “He’s one of those kids who just keeps grinding and gets better every single day. He just qualified for the (individual) state tournament for the first time. He’s a senior captain and a multi-sport athlete who is a good baseball player, a 4.0 student, just a kid you love to have on your team.

“Graden had one of the biggest matches in the dual (against Bedford). He was down by two or three points with 30 seconds on the clock and tied it up to go overtime, and then won it in overtime, so without him we wouldn’t be in state finals.”

Bowen is proud of his senior season, especially helping his team get into the team finals while also earning his first trip to the individual finals, which will be March 1-2 at Ford Field.

“I put in a lot of work over the summer to get ready for this,” said Bowen. “I watched from the sidelines since I wasn’t in the lineup two years ago, then last year I was in the lineup, first time on varsity, stayed off my back and did my job but we came up short. This year it should be a good one, hopefully for the first time our team will get to the second day.”

Team wrestling finals

Where: Wings Event Center, Kalamazoo.

When: Quarterfinals Friday; semifinals and finals Saturday.

Tickets: Quarterfinals and semifinals, $8; finals, $10; all-tournament pass, $25.

Defending champions: Division 1, Detroit Catholic Central (two-time defending champion); Division 2, Lowell (five-time defending champion); Division 3, Dundee; Division 4, Hudson (two-time defending champion).


► Division 4, noon

No. 1 Clinton vs. No. 8 Schoolcraft

No. 4 New Lothrop vs. No. 5 Manchester

No. 3 Hudson vs. No. 6 Leroy Pine River

No. 2 Carson City-Crystal vs. No. 7 Onaway

Semifinals: Saturday, 9:30 a.m.

Finals: Saturday, 3:45 p.m.

► Division 1, 2:15 p.m.

No. 1 Detroit Catholic Central vs. No. 8 Clarkston

No. 4 Westland John Glenn vs. No. 5 Hartland

No. 3 Davison vs. No. 6 Rockford

No. 2 Brighton vs. No. 7 Macomb Dakota

Semifinals: Saturday, 9:30 a.m.

Finals: Saturday, 3:45 p.m.

► Division 3, 4:30 p.m.

No. 1 Richmond vs. No. 8 Shepherd

No. 4 Remus Chippewa Hills vs. No. 5 Montrose

No. 3 Whitehall vs. No. 6 Alma

No. 2 Dundee vs. No. 7 Dowagiac

Semifinals: Saturday, noon

Finals: Saturday, 3:45 p.m.

► Division 2, 6:45 p.m.

No. 1 Lowell vs. No. 8 Cedar Springs

No. 4 Gaylord vs. No. 5 Tecumseh

No. 3 DeWitt vs. No. 6 Warren Woods-Tower

No. 2 Goodrich vs. No. 7 Niles

Semifinals: Saturday, noon

Finals: Saturday, 3:45 p.m.