Jim Morisette's 25th year as head coach of Anchor Bay's wrestling program has turned out to be a dream season so far, 36-0, heading into this week's state team finals at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek.
Anchor Bay, the No. 2 seed, will be looking for its first quarterfinal win in the state finals. It will be the Tars' first appearance in the state team finals since 2010, a 57-13 quarterfinal loss to Detroit Catholic Central, which went on to win the Division 1 state championship.
"We like our chances," Morisette said. "The kids have been wrestling well, really everyone has done a great job. We've never won a quarterfinal before, but we're focused and ready to go. Sure, we could get upset by Grand Haven or we could go on and win the whole thing.
"The last time we made the trip to Battle Creek in 2010, we were just happy to be there and got beat up by Catholic Central. We feel like we have a legitimate shot to win the championship this time around. It's a very exciting time.
"You drive down 23 Mile and the businesses have signs wishing us well. It's really been a storybook season so far. It's so cool. You almost have to pinch yourself."
Anchor Bay will take on No. 7 seed Grand Haven in Friday's 3:15 p.m. Division 1 quarterfinal. Other quarterfinal matches have top-seeded Brighton facing No. 8 seed Oxford, No. 3 seed Hartland taking on No. 6 seed Monroe and three-time defending state champ and No. 4 seed Detroit Catholic Central going up against No. 5 Davison in a rematch of the state title bouts the previous two years.
Catholic Central has won the title four of the last five years.
The Division 1 semifinals are set for Saturday at 9:30 a.m. with the title match at 4.
Still, this could be Anchor Bay's year to lift the ultimate trophy, the same way Catholic Central did in '10 when the Shamrocks won the title for the first time in 22 years.
And, why not? Anchor Bay has won every way possible, including matches where it came up on top despite missing multiple starters to injuries. It opened the season with a 28-22 win over Hartland and also earned a 34-29 win Jan. 31 over Oxford, another team in the field.
"I thought we'd be pretty darn good and get to Battle Creek, but I never fathomed we'd be 36 and 0, undefeated, county champs, conference champs, how the kids just rolled along in the districts and regionals.
"We were banged up at the end of January, down three guys against Oxford in the Macomb-Oakland Duals. I was a little down, worried because if we lost we could have easily gone from a 2 seed to a 8, but the kids came through and we won.
"I feel like I've been carrying the kids at times during the last 20 to 30 years, but this year the coaching staff, the kids, parents, really have carried me. It's been special."
Morisette made special mention of Al Biland, an assistant who has been with him since 2004.
Morisette received more good news Wednesday.
"I found out this morning from the state that our team is All-Academic and that means they are getting it done in the classroom too," Morisette. "You have to have a 3.3 grade-point-average as a team so the accolades keep coming and that's something to be proud of."
Senior Tyler Grimsley (51-1 at 152) and sophomore Jack Medley (50-1 at 112) have been dominant all season with junior Trevor Yank (31-1, 189), seniors Joey Dombrowski (44-4, 135) and Ross Morisette (42-7, 171) and junior Jeff Andrews (44-7, 125) also having strong seasons.
Brighton (Division 1), Lowell (Division 2), Dundee (Division 3) and New Lothrop (Division 4) are top seeds.
Lowell is the defending champ in Division 2, ending St. Johns' run of four straight titles last year. St. Johns failed to reach Battle Creek this year, falling to Eaton Rapids in the regional final, 34-27.
Dundee is the two-time defending state champ in Division 3 and New Lothrop enters as the defending state champ in Division 4 after ending Hudson's run of five straight championships last year.
STATE TEAM WRESTLING FINALS
At Kellogg Arena, Battle Creek
Division 1 (3:15 p.m.)
Mat 1 - No. 1 seed Brighton (26-1) vs. No. 8 seed Oxford (16-7). Mat 2 – No. 4 seed Detroit Catholic Central (22-3) vs. No. 5 seed Davison (19-6). Mat 3 – No. 3 seed Hartland (29-3) vs. No. 6 seed Monroe (37-3). Mat 4 – No. 2 seed Anchor Bay (36-0) vs. No. 7 seed Grand Haven (26-3). Defending champion – Detroit Catholic Central (three straight years)
Division 2 (7:45 p.m.)
Mat 1 – No. 1 seed Lowell (26-2) vs. No. 8 seed Comstock Park (19-9). Mat 2 – No. 4 seed Gaylord (39-1) vs. No. 5 seed Flint Kearsley (35-5). Mat 3 – No. 3 seed Niles (23-3) vs. No. 6 seed Tecumseh (32-4). Mat 4 – No. 2 seed Eaton Rapids (39-2) vs. No. 7 seed Warren Lincoln (21-9). Defending champion: Lowell
Division 3 (5:30 p.m.)
Mat 1 – No. 1 seed Dundee (23-5) vs. No. 8 Mason County Central (29-7). Mat 2 – No. 4 seed Saginaw Swan Valley (39-1) vs. No. 5 seed Grand Rapids Catholic Central (19-3). Mat 3 – No. 3 seed Remus Chippewa Hills (26-3) vs. No. 6 seed Allegan (29-6). Mat 4 – No. 2 seed Richmond (29-5) vs. No. 7 seed Birch Run (22-9). Defending champion: Dundee (two straight years)
Division 4 (1 p.m.)
Mat 1 – No. 1 seed New Lothrop (26-1) vs. No. 8 seed Cass City (40-10). Mat 2 – No. 4 seed Manchester (28-7) vs. No. 5 seed Leroy Pine River (25-5). Mat 3 – No. 3 seed Hudson (21-5) vs. No. 6 seed Norway (18-5). Mat 4 – No. 2 seed Decatur (29-2) VS. No. 7 seed Climax-Scotts/Martin (22-4). Defending champion: New Lothrop
9:30 a.m. – Division 1 and 4 semifinals
11:45 a.m. – Division 2 and 3 semifinals
4 p.m. – Championship matches in all four divisions