Detroit — When one thinks of traditional Division 1 wrestling powers, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek doesn’t usually come up.
But the Noonan and Smith families were trying to change that Friday at the individual championships.
On the heels of older brothers Kyle Noonan (112 pounds) and Andrew Price (171) placing second at for Stoney Creek in 2014 and 2015, respectively, it was their little brothers’ turns — sophomore Blake Noonan (49-0, 10, ranked No. 1) and senior Kevin Price (27-20, 171).
The success is nothing new to two families that spend Thanksgivings together and have been grappling side by side since the kids were in grade school with the Eagles Wrestling Club at Utica Eisenhower High School.
“Both are great families, great character, amazingly good kids,” Stoney Creek coach Jedaiah Kramer said. “When they commit to something, they do it to the very best of their ability. When you have a couple kids in the room like that, it brings everyone up to their level. I’ve really enjoyed coaching them.”
Kyle wrestles at Central Michigan and Andrew at Lehigh, but both made sure to make it back to Detroit to see their little brothers on the big stage. It was a 10-hour drive for Andrew, but Andrew told Kevin that if he made it to states, he’d be there.
“It’s awesome that Andrew made it,” Kevin said after his first bout, a defeat. “It was a big motivation for me to make it here today when he told me he would drive up to watch me. I’ve always come to watch him at this tournament, and now he’s coming to watch me. I wasn’t the best wrestler in elementary school, and when I saw him in the state tournament it motivated me so much to get better.”
Andrew knew Kevin had the requisite toughness when a backyard football game — always tackle according to Andrew — turned bloody.
“He (Kevin) was in second grade, and he got tackled, and someone’s teeth went right into the back of his head,” Andrew said. “I started freaking out because his blonde hair turned red, but he didn’t start crying until I told him what happened.”
The way Andrew describes his family would make one think wrestling was baked into its genetics.
“Whatever we’re doing, even outside of wrestling, it gets pretty heated,” he said. “We’re very physical people, very touchy. When I see him (Kevin) I give him a nice punch in the shoulder. We’re pretty comfortable having hands on each other.”
Their father, Rob, felt like a referee sometimes.
“We had an empty room early on, and we didn’t put furniture in there, just turned it into a wrestling room,” Rob said.
The age difference is a little more for the Noonans, but Kyle was happy to mentor his younger brother on the mats.
“It was nice to have somebody else that was going through the same things I had,” Kyle said. “We got to spend a lot of time together because in youths you wrestle every weekend in the winter. I basically got to coach him all the way through until I got to college.”
“I just know that he pushes me harder to try and beat his records,” Blake said. “It’s played a big part in motivating me.”
Kevin’s day ended collapsing into Kramer’s arms after losing his first two bouts, the first by fall at 1:45 to Isaac Torrey (43-5) of Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central and the second a 9-1 major decision to West Bloomfield’s Mario Pallazola (48-9).
Blake won his first three bouts to proceed to the finals. The first was a 19-2 technical fall at 5:22 over Mojahid Ahmed (42-11) of Dearborn Fordson, the second a 4-3 decision over Owen Norman (41-4) of Caledonia, and the third a 1-0 ultimate tie-breaker, as close as a wrestling bout can be, over Brendan Ferretti (52-6) of Macomb Dakota.
Blake will take on Brock Prater (53-3), also of Macomb Dakota, in the finals on Saturday.
C.C. puts seven in finals
Detroit Catholic Central has long been a power in Division 1 wrestling, and this year is no different, sending a record 14 wrestlers to the individual state championships and getting seven of them to the finals Saturday. No surprise, the school won the team event.
Joshua Edmond (25-0, 130) won a tight 16-9 decision over Hunter Garrisi of Romeo (46-8) to reach the finals.
“I believe in my conditioning,” Edmond said. “We train hard and go through that situation every day in practice, so it wasn’t that difficult.”
Edmond mentioned that having such a strong team is a definite asset: “The other guys motivate you along. If one guy wins, you want to win too.”
No. 1 ranked Benyamin Kamali (34-1, 119) advanced to the finals with a win by fall at 5:02 over Mark Brado (43-5) of Waterford Kettering. Kamali is a two-time state champ.
At 145 pounds, Kevon Davenport, another two-time state champ, had no problem with Vic Schoenherr (49-3) of Auburn Bay City Western in the semifinals, winning by fall in 32 seconds. Davenport is also ranked No. 1.
Derek Gilcher (41-5, 135) dispatched Jack Samuels (49-3) of Hudsonville in a 5-0 decision to reach the finals.
Yet another two-time champion ranked No. 1, Cameron Amine (46-2, 152), got to the finals by beating Jaden Fischer (47-6) of Lake Orion by fall at 3:43.
Easton Turner (41-1, 215) took on Blake Wingate (43-9) of Temperance Bedford in the semis and won by a 10-1 major decision.
At 285 pounds, Steven Kolcheff (39-7) beat Aaron Gilmore (40-8) of Davison with a slim 4-2 decision to join his teammates in the finals.
Dominick Lomazzo (125, 37-11) lost a 9-5 decision to Kyle Kantola (53-1) of Hartland in the championship quarterfinals but defeated Damien Ballan (44-12, Traverse City West) by a 6-0 decision in the consolation bracket to keep a possible third-place finish alive. He’ll wrestle on Saturday at 9 a.m.
Ford Field is a new venue for individual states, moving over from its longtime home at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
The format has also changed. Instead of three days, the tournament has been condensed into two, with most of the action taking place on the first day. Each division has five mats to wrestle on at once, quickly moving several bouts simultaneously.
“I’m going to see how it plays out in the end, but so far it looks pretty good. I like that we have five mats,” Romeo coach James Cali said.
Instead of weighing in twice, once before the tournament and once before semifinals, wrestlers only stepped on the scales before the first bouts. Some thought it provided the athletes with relief, ensuring they’re not trying to cut weight between bouts. The change also made the tournament more efficient, key when trimming a day off the schedule.
Many wrestlers achieved career milestones. Ben Cushman (Division 1, 189, 50-0, Flushing) won his 200th bout, and Carlos Diaz (Division 3, 130, 40-8, Kent City), Keigan Yuhas (Division 2, 215, 20-1, Lowell), Hunter Bowersox (Division 4, 135, 38-8, Athens) and Mac Hanselman (Division 1, 125, 38-13, Clarkston) each won their 150th.
Eric Coughlin is a freelance writer.