Macomb Dakota advanced to the state semifinals for the first time in school history last year and will try to compete in its first state championship match this time around when the team finals get underway Friday at the Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo.
Dakota has one of the top young coaches in the state in Ed Skowneski, who won an individual state championship for Chippewa Valley back in 2003 before wrestling at Michigan State.
This will be Dakota’s fifth trip to the state team wrestling finals in the last six years under the guidance of Skowneski.
Dakota, the No. 3 seed, will take on No. 6 seed Oxford in a 2:15 p.m. quarterfinal, with other quarterfinal matches having No. 1 seed Detroit Catholic Central vs. No. 8 seed Hudsonville; No. 2 Brighton vs. No. 7 Hartland; and No. 4 Westland John Glenn vs. No. 5 Davison.
Semifinal matches for Division 1 are Saturday at 9:30 a.m. with the championship bout set for 3:30 p.m.
“This group of seniors have been there quite a bit, since we’ve been in the state finals three straight years now,” said Skowneski. “That experience is huge because we’re staying the night before, then you’re there the night of (between match days). You’re out of your element, you’re not in your house, you’re not with your parents, so everything has essentially changed. Definitely not business as usual, and the kids who have been there before know what to expect.”
Dakota defeated John Glenn 26-25 in last year’s quarterfinal before falling to Davison in the semifinals, 37-21.
Catholic Central enters as the defending state champion and overwhelming favorite to repeat. But, Dakota would like nothing more than to face Catholic Central with the ultimate trophy on the line.
Hartland won the Division 1 state title in 2016 and Brighton in 2015. Davison last won the state championship in 2006, its last of five straight titles. Davison has been state runnerup the last two years and four of the last five.
Dakota has 10 starters back from a year ago, including Michigan State-bound Layne Malczewski, (52-0, 171) junior Dustin Solomon (30-3, 160) and junior Nick Alayan (48-1, 119).
“Layne is our senior captain and has been a great leader for us all year long, really pushes the kids,” said Skowneski of Malczewski. “The good thing about him is he puts it in perspective for everybody that our goal isn’t just to get to team states or get to the semis. We want to get to the final and have a chance at winning it. He’s done a great job at keeping everyone focused.”
Dakota has a possible semifinal match with Brighton. The teams met earlier this season with Brighton winning a close match.
STATE TEAM WRESTLING FINALS
At Wings Event Center, Kalamazoo
Division 1: Detroit Catholic Central
Division 2: Lowell (four straight)
Division 3: Richmond
Division 4: Hudson
Division 4: Noon – No. 1 Hudson vs. No. 8 Onaway, No. 4 Mendon vs. No. 5 Leroy Pine River, No. 3 Carson City-Crystal vs. No. 6 New Lothrop, No. 2 Clinton vs. No. 7 Springport.
Division 1: 2:15 p.m. – No. 1 Detroit Catholic Central vs. No. 8 Hudsonville, No. 4 Westland John Glenn vs. No. 5 Davison, No. 3 Macomb Dakota vs. No. 6 Oxford, No. 2 Brighton vs. No. 7 Hartland.
Division 3: 4:30 p.m. – No. 1 Dundee vs. No. 8 Comstock Park, No. 4 Whitehall vs. No. 5 Birch Run, No. 3 Remus Chippewa Hills vs. No. 6 Dowagiac, No. 2 Richmond vs. No. 7 Alma.
Division 2: 6:45 p.m. – No. 1 Lowell vs. No. 8 Tecumseh, No. 4 Eaton Rapids vs. No. 5 Stevensville-Lakeshore, No. 3 Gaylord vs. No. 6 Goodrich, No. 2 Warren Woods Tower vs. No. 7 Allendale.
Division 1 and 4 semifinals: 9:30 a.m.
Division 2 and 3 semifinals: Noon
Championship matches for all divisions: 3:30 p.m.