Mitch Hancock has built a dynasty with Detroit Catholic Central's wrestling program, winning three straight Division 1 state team championships and four titles in the past five years.
Catholic Central has won state championships as the favorite and as the underdog, a role it reassumes in the team finals this weekend (Feb. 27-28) at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek.
State quarterfinals for all four divisions are Friday with semifinals set for Saturday morning and title bouts at 4 p.m.
Catholic Central defeated Davison, its quarterfinal opponent, in the title match the previous two years, winning as the favorite, 29-26 in 2013, then defeating No. 1-seeded Davison last year, 34-19.
"We have eight guys wrestling this year who had never seen a varsity lineup before so it's been rewarding for everybody," said the 33-year-old Hancock, now in his eighth year as head coach. "We have a bunch of guys who work hard and they're getting better every day and that's what it's all about. Our staff is phenomenal, just keeping on top of things."
The Shamrocks have their dominant wrestlers, seniors Trevor Zdebski (130), Myles Amine (160) and Nick Giese (189). Zdebski and Amine won individual state championships last year at 119 and 145, respectively, and Giese finished third at 189.
Amine is 42-0 this season and 158-23 for his career while Zdebski is 37-5 and 147-20. Giese is 40-3 at 189.
Hancock also praised sophomore Tyler Morland for having a strong season after returning from an ACL injury suffered in football. Morland, wrestling at 171, is 22-1.
Hancock, who won a state individual championship with Catholic Central his senior year in 2000 before competing at Central Michigan, knows his team will be in the underdog role with their 20-3 record. Still, he believes it could find itself in the state title match for the sixth straight year. C.C. lost to Oxford in the championship match, 26-25, in 2011.
"Brighton is hands down the favorite," Hancock said. "It's nice to have some parity in Division 1. It's also good to put pressure on those guys.
Hartland makes 14th straight trip
Todd Cheney has accomplished everything as head coach of Hartland, that is everything but leaving Kellogg Arena with the state championship.
Hartland (29-3) will be making its 14th straight appearance in the Division 1 team finals this weekend. Cheney figured Walled Lake Central was the second-best team in Division 1 prior to Wednesday's regionals, where Hartland defeated Central, 34-25, in the title match.
"We've had an incredible season so far," said Cheney, now in his 23rd year as head coach with four consecutive state runner-up finishes (2004-07), including a 30-29 loss to Davison in 2006. "We have just two seniors starting for us."
Senior Jacob Gorial is ranked No. 1 in the state at 152 pounds. He is 50-0 this season and 217-21 for his career. Sophomore Reece Hughes is No. 1 at 130 with a 45-5 record.
Juniors Lucas LaForge (171), Sage Castillo (135) and Noah Lopez (103) also have stepped up for Hartland with LaForge wrestling full time on varsity for the first time, making the most of his opportunity with a 44-7 record, including a big win in January that helped a 28-26 upset of defending Division 2 state champion Lowell, ranked 15th nationally.
LaForge put Hartland ahead of Lowell, 25-23, with an overtime win at 160 pounds with two matches remaining.
"I've never wrestled in the state team finals and I'm really looking forward to it," LaForge said. "We seem to have a different mindset this year, a different attitude where instead of thinking we can win, we now really believe we can win."
Catholic Central dominated Hartland in last year's semifinal, 48-15.
Lopez made sure Hartland would get another trip to Battle Creek, pinning Walled Lake Central's Nick Freeman at 103 pounds to avenge a loss to Freeman in last week's individual district championship match.
"Noah Lopez (40-5) pinned Nick Freeman at 103 to seal the dual for us," Cheney said. "Wow, it was fun."
Castillo is 40-4.
Brighton enters as favorite
Top-ranked Brighton (26-1) overwhelmed Holt, 50-18, Wednesday to win its first regional championship since 2012, when it entered the state finals with a 39-0 record and No. 2 seeding before losing to sixth-seeded Oxford in the semifinals, 52-13.
Tony Greathouse is in his second year as head coach at Brighton and looking forward to guiding the top-ranked team in Battle Creek. Brighton has never won a state team championship.
"Our expectation in Battle Creek is to push the pace and go after a state title," Greathouse said. "These kids set their sights on a state title at the end of last year and they have done everything right to position themselves to make it happen. They have worked their butts off to get to where they are and now they just need to finish."
Seniors Nick Brish and Kyle Bohnsack (125) were the two wrestlers on that '12 team. Brish is the No. 2-ranked wrestler at 171.
Luke Ready is No. 1 at 215.
Noah Lopez, Hartland
The junior pinned Nick Freeman of Walled Lake Central at 103 pounds to power Hartland to a Division 1 team wrestling regional championship Wednesday, avenging a loss to Freeman in the 103-pound individual district-title bout.
"Our expectation in Battle Creek is to push the pace and go after a state title."
Tony Greathouse, Brighton coach, on his team's goal heading into the team wrestling finals.
By the numbers
5 Consecutive state team wrestling championship-match appearances for Detroit Catholic Central, winner of Division 1 titles in 2010, '12, '13 and '14.
14 Consecutive state team wrestling finals appearances for Hartland, which advanced advancing to the Division 1 state-title bouts four straight years (2004-07), losing each time.
217 Career wins for Hartland senior Jacob Gorial, including 50-0 at 152 pounds this year for the state's No. 1-ranked wrestler.