Kalamazoo — Hayden Rhoades had a chance to help Westland John Glenn make program history Friday afternoon at the Wings Events Center and took advantage of the opportunity.
Rhoades, a junior, stepped on the mat knowing what he needed to do to get the job done with his team trailing Hartland, 28-25, heading into the final match of the Division 1 quarterfinal.
Rhoades (23-19) got off his back in the opening period to avoid being pinned, then carried an 8-7 lead into the third and final period, knowing he needed at least a decision that would have evened the score and sent the outcome to a tiebreaker scenario.
Rhoades was taken down by sophomore Paul Corder (39-17) in the 189-pound bout, which gave Corder a 9-8 lead before Rhoades sent Corder on his back and collected the pin with 47 seconds left to send the John Glenn coaching staff and fans into a frenzy with a 31-28 win.
John Glenn (30-5) got that elusive quarterfinal win. Its reward, a 9:30 a.m. semifinal match Saturday with two-time, defending and top-seeded Detroit Catholic Central, which is ranked No. 11 nationally.
Championship matches in all four divisions start at 3:45 p.m.
“It’s a huge step, huge step and we’re excited,” said Bill Polk, who has been head coach at John Glenn for 21 years, guiding the team to five state team wrestling finals appearances in the last 10 years, only to lose in the final match of the bout each time to come up short in the quarterfinals until Friday. “We’ve been here and lost so many close ones like that every year so we needed to go over that hump and we finally did it.”
So, what was Polk’s mindset when Rhoades took the mat?
“You know, that’s Hayden, he’s just getting better every single day,” Polk said. “At the beginning of the year nobody even knew who he was, and then toward the end of the year he ended up being a regional qualifier and nobody barely knew his name. He’s just been getting better and better and more confident and he got it done for us.
“I told him he got an opportunity to do something that nobody has ever done before and I could tell that he was nervous and I said to embrace it, and give it everything you have and if you lose that’s OK, but go out there and try to win and he did. We’re super proud of him.”
Polk had a feeling the quarterfinal would again go down to the wire, especially since John Glenn — the No. 4 seed — defeated No. 5 seed Hartland, 33-30, last month.
“I knew it was going to go down to the end, but I didn’t expect it to be like that,” Polk said. “We had two guys who stepped up and win matches that I wasn’t sure if we would. My 140-pounder Anthony Hudson beat Coach (Todd) Cheney’s son (Bryce Cheney) who is a state qualifier. Anthony has kind of been that guy that we put wherever we need him and he goes out there and takes one for the team most of the time so he was another senior that had a big moment.”
Hudson (14-13) earned a 10-4 decision over Cheney to turn an 18-16 deficit into a 19-18 lead, followed by John Glenn’s Shawn Brown earning a 10-4 decision at 145 pounds for a 22-18 cushion and John Glenn’s Brenten Polk — Bill Polk’s nephew — coming up with a 12-6 decision for a 25-18 advantage before Hartland took the lead with a 12-3 major decision by Tanner Culver at 160 and Reece Potter’s pin at 171 for the 28-25 lead.
And, of course the second guy who stepped up and won a match was Rhoades to close the deal.
“I’m not used to this kind of stuff, but it’s a nice change of events,” Rhoades said. “It feels great.”
So, how did he get out of his bad position in the first period?
“In practice Coach (Polk) was talking to me about if they go chicken wings to sit through underneath so I remembered that and said, ‘Oh, it works,’” said Rhoades, a junior who then talked on his final move to get the pin. “That was a sit-through one. I don’t really work on too much in practice, but I’m lucky it worked out. It was going back and forth, kind of stressful, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. It was a good match.”
Said Polk: “I’ll never forget it.”
Detroit Catholic Central had an easy time with No. 8 seed Clarkston (63-6) while No. 2 seed Brighton (32-0) dominated No. 7 seed Macomb Dakota, 60-10.
Brighton’s Luke Stanton (215), Colby Ford (285) and Quaylon Newton (103) opened the match with pins to open up an 18-0 lead.
Sam Freeman (119), Eddie Homrock (130), Victor Grabowski (145) and Greyson Stevens (189) also had pins for Brighton which will face No. 3 seed Davison, a 44-19 winner over No. 6 seed Rockford, in the other semifinal.
“It felt good, gave us some momentum going into the further matches and some of the tougher matches later on so it was nice,” said Stanton, a junior, of the early pins. Stanton improved to 19-1.
“We have Davison next so that will be a brawl, a fun match to wrestle and once we get past them we’ll have C.C., who I think we can take and then bring home the mitten (state championship trophy).
“We won the state title in 2015, it was at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek and I was there, in seventh grade. I remember that, it still gives me goosebumps thinking about it.”
Catholic Central will be eying its seventh state championship this decade, which would be a record for Division 1/Class A. Davison won six state championships last decade and Catholic Central has matched that total, winning in 2010, 2012-14 and again in 2017 and ’18.
Catholic Central won the first five matches to take a 26-0 lead with Brendin Yatooma earning a 3-1 decision at 215, followed by a pin by Steven Kolcheff (285), a 22-6 technical fall by Anthony Walker (103), and consecutive pins by Caleb White (112) and Matt Anderson (119).
Kevon Davenport (152), Manny Rojas (171) and Easton Turner (189) also had pins for Catholic Central (24-1).
Davenport, who will wrestle next year at Nebraska, will try to become a four-time individual state champion next weekend at Ford Field, but first wants to be a part of a three-time team champion.
“This is super fun, a great time coming out here, it’s my last time out here and my teammates are putting on a show,” Davenport said. “I think it’s a pretty big target (on us). I talk to my teammates every day and we love it. It keeps things fun for us knowing that we’re the hunted. We always talk about attacking state titles. Everyone says we’re the two-time defending state champs. We’re the two-time attacking state champs. We’re chasing this title and we love that we have a target on our back. It just makes things more fun.
“We came in with the same mindset. Coach Hancock did something really neat. He pulled up our practice plans from the week of the state tournament last year and we used the exact same practice plan coming all the way through. We just try to keep things routine and keep things the way it was, and when we find success there’s no real need to change anything.”
Mitch Hancock, now in his 12th year as Catholic Central head coach, was obviously pleased with his team’s performance.
“I thought the guys looked sharp, business as usual attitude with the guys and to beat a Clarkston team 63-to-6 I think is what we somewhat expected,” Hancock said. “Our guys came out here and performed, scored points and our hammers did their jobs.”
And, on his practice plan?
“Yes, things went well last year so why reinvent the wheel,” said Hancock, realizing Catholic Central defeated Brighton in the title match, 57-to-negative 1. “I’m able to go back into my binders, I keep binders from every season, every practice plan so I’m pretty organized and I give credit to my assistant coaches. We don’t want to change too much. When we performed well last year we went directly back to last year’s practice plan the last few weeks, put the same thing together and it’s paying off so far.”
When asked to comment on what it would mean to win a record seven state championships in a decade, Hancock said: “I wasn’t aware of that, but our focus right now is the semifinal and John Glenn and Hartland are in a tight one. We know that both of those teams are fairly good even though we wrestled them early in the year and had lopsided scores. Our focus right now is on them.”
Top-seeded Richmond (25-2) took a step closer to earning its sixth state title this decade, defeating No. 8 seed Shepherd 43-12 to advance to Saturday’s noon semifinal against No. 4 seed Remus Chippewa Hills (28-1), a 35-24 winner over No. 5 seed Montrose (27-6).
Hunter Keller (103), Austin Kilburn (125) and Noah Montanari (189) all had pins for Richmond.
No. 2 seed Dundee (16-5), the defending state champs, a 60-9 winner over No. 7 seed Dowagiac, will face No. 3 seed Whitehall (29-2) in the other semifinal. Whitehall defeated No. 6 seed Alma, 36-24.
Top-seeded Clinton (29-4) defeated No. 8 seed Schoolcraft (27-12) 66-10 to move on to Saturday’s 9:30 a.m. semifinal match with No. 4 seed New Lothrop (24-7), a 37-22 quarterfinal winner over No. 5 Manchester (23-3).
No. 2 seed Carson City-Crystal (40-2) defeated No. 7 seed Onaway (21-3) 70-12 and will face two-time defending state champion and No. 3 seed Hudson (18-7), a 53-16 winner over No. 6 seed Leroy Pine River (25-10) in the other semifinal.
Detroit Catholic Central 63, Clarkston 6
Westland John Glenn 31, Hartland 28
Davison 44, Rockford 19
Brighton 60, Macomb Dakota 10
Lowell 44, Cedar Springs 18
Gaylord 40, Tecumseh 20
DeWitt 36, Warren Woods-Tower 27
Goodrich 36, Niles 26
Richmond 43, Shepherd 12
Remus Chippewa Hills 35, Montrose 24
Whitehall 36, Alma 24
Dundee 60, Dowagiac 9
Clinton 66, Schoolcraft 10
New Lothrop 37, Manchester 22
Hudson 53, Leroy Pine River 16
Carson City-Crystal 70, Onaway 12
Division 1, 9:30 a.m.
Detroit Catholic Central vs. Westland John Glenn
Brighton vs. Davison
Division 2, noon
Lowell vs. Gaylord
Goodrich vs. DeWitt
Division 3, noon
Richmond vs. Remus Chippewa Hills
Dundee vs. Whitehall
Division 4, 9:30 a.m.
Clinton vs. New Lothrop
Carson City-Crystal vs. Hudson