Detroit — A team winning five individual state wrestling championships in a year used to be exceedingly rare.
But after Saturday’s finals at Ford Field where Detroit Catholic Central reeled off its third-straight year of five title-winners, it’s becoming the norm.
As long as Catholic Central is involved.
“We had 14 qualifiers, 13 placers, an MHSAA record, and five champs, the fourth time we’ve done that and the third in a row,” Catholic Central coach Mitch Hancock said, matter-of-factly rattling off this team’s individual accomplishments.
Catholic Central’s dominance was near-inescapable in Division 1.
Sophomore Joshua Edmond (26-0, 130 pounds) put an exclamation point on Catholic Central’s day by doing an impromptu backflip after defeating Jackson junior Jared Riggins (38-3) in a 7-4 decision.
“Everyone’s going to come swinging,” Edmond said regarding the competition. “I heard him breathing heavy in the third period, and I knew he was broke. He made one mistake, and it was over.”
No. 1 ranked Benjamin Kamali (35-1, 119) made himself a three-time titleholder when he beat Mark Brado (44-6) of Waterford Kettering
“It’s special to be with all the other three-timers in the state of Michigan,” said Kamali, who will wrestle at the University of Virginia in the fall. “It proves that all the hard work I put in paid off. Some people get nervous, but I don’t really get nervous.
“Wrestling is not going to be your whole life. It’s important to remember it’s a privilege and you’ve got to take advantage of it.”
In an 8-5 decision, Derek Gilcher (42-5, 135) had one of the more surprising wins coming against Oxford senior Sergio Borg (49-6).
“I didn’t let off at all,” Gilcher said. “I’m very happy about how I performed.”
Gilcher scored a crucial takedown in the second period to even the score at five and turn momentum.
“Once I had the leg, I just ran him, and I got the two (points),” Gilcher said about the big move.
“It’s a great thing to be wearing the shamrock. It’s about the toughness of all of us. That’s how I knew I could win that match.”
At 145 pounds, No. 1-ranked Kevon Davenport (44-3) became another three-time state champ when he overwhelmed junior Vic Schoenherr (50-3, Auburn City Bay Western) in a 7-1 decision.
Junior Easton Turner (42-1, 215) made it five for Catholic Central when he dispatched junior Blake Wingate (Temperance Bedford, 44-9) with a pin at 5:28.
In one of the more competitive matches, Catholic Central’s two-time champion Cameron Amine (46-3, 152) was upended by freshman Alex Facundo (31-0, Davison) in a 4-2 decision.
Amine was wrestling below his normal weight.
“Hats off to Facundo,” Hancock said. “He’s (Facundo) a top-five guy in the country. Amine showed a lot of character. I think he easily could have went 160 (pounds). I think that may have been somewhat of an easier route than Facundo.”
Steven Kolcheff (39-8, 285) was the other Catholic Central wrestler to lose his title bout, a 5-1 decision to senior Austin Emerson (Temperance Bedford, 51-3).
Of seven Catholic Central grapplers to make the finals, only one is a senior, meaning the sky is the limit for the future of the state’s premier wrestling factory.
Hancock thinks six, seven or eight individual titles next year is possible.
“I think these guys are going to continue to climb,” Hancock said. “When these guys come to Catholic Central and wrestle on our team, there are expectations. I’m very proud of them, and next year we’ll see.”
Trombley and Whitman reach milestones
Lake Fenton’s Jarrett Trombley (Division 3, 130, 68-0) and Dundee’s Brandon Whitman (Division 3, 215, 50-0) became the 23rd and 24th Michigan wrestlers to ever win four individual state championships.
Trombley set the single-season national record for takedowns this season with 609.
“I didn’t know how it would feel,” said Trombley, who is headed to and is headed to North Carolina State. “It’s an amazing moment, and I’m glad to share it with all my friends and family. It was all worth it now.”
Trombley defeated Christian Killion (37-9) of Dundee in an 8-2 decision but was surprised Killion scored points. It wasn’t the first time they had met on the mat.
“There are obviously things he improved on that made it a much tougher match this time around,” Trombley said. “I wrestled a little bit better, so I came out on top.”
Whitman defeated senior Colton McKiernan (Richmond, 46-3) in a 6-0 decision, slightly more decisive than last week when he beat McKiernan in a 6-2 decision to help Dundee to the Division 3 team title.
Lake Orion duo falls short
Lake Orion coach Jeff Smart was named the Michigan Wrestling Association Region 1-1 Coach of The Year, and Lake Orion got five participants to individual states, and two to the semis, but no one could advance to the final round.
Junior Jaden Fisher (49-6, 152) fell victim to the Catholic Central buzz-saw in a loss to Cameron Amine (46-2), a fall at 3:34 in the semis.
Fisher finished with a 6-3 decision over Hartland’s Tanner Culver (42-6) to win third place.
At 171 pounds, senior Tyler Verstrand (40-10) lost by technical fall at 2:26, 17-1, to undefeated Layne Malczewski (53-0) in the semis.
Verstrand finished in fourth place after losing a 13-4 major decision to Isaac Torrey (47-5) of Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central.
Lake Orion coach Jeff Smart gave credit to others for the good season.
“We had hard-working kids,” Smart said. “It was a fun group. Between the coaches and the kids, everyone was on the same page.”
Despite losing three of its state qualifiers to graduation, Smart, in his fourth year at Lake Orion, was upbeat about his team’s future.
“I think we’ll be better. I like the kids coming in that are behind these guys. We had 10 at regionals, and a lot of the ones that didn’t make it to states were freshmen or sophomores, so I like where we’re at.”
Other notable results
D1, 103: Sophomore Brock Prater (Macomb Dakota, 54-3) def. Blake Noonan (49-1) in an 8-2 decision in the championship bout.
D1, 125: Senior Mikey Mars (Westland John Glenn, 58-0) def. Kyle Kantola (Hartland, 58-2) in a 5-1 decision to win his third individual state title.
D1, 140: Senior Nick Freeman (Walled Lake Central, 32-0) def. Anthony Gibson (Westland John Glen 54-5) in a 2-0 decision to win his second individual state championship.
D1, 160: Senior William Marano (Dearborn Edsel Ford, 61-0) def. River Shettler (Hartland, 47-4) in a 10-5 decision to win the title.
D2, 160: Austin O`Hearon (Eaton Rapids, 51-1) def. senior Dustin Gross (Dearborn Heights Annapolis, 58-1) in a 3-1 decision to win the state championship.
D1, 170: Senior Layne Malczewski (Macomb Dakota, 59-0) def. Cal Stefanko (Davison, 44-6) in a 5-0 decision to win the state title.
D2, 189: New Boston Huron’s Drake Pauwels (54-0) def. Dave Kruse (Lowell, 42-5) in a 10-0 major decision for the state championship.
D1, 135: Isiah Berry (Southfield A&T, 48-6) took sixth place after he was defeated in a 1-0 decision by Mason Grasso (Woodhaven, 49-11), who won fifth.
D1, 189: Chris Hackney (Fraser, 22-5) was pinned by Keegan Moore (45-9, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central) at 1:56 to finish sixth.
Eric Coughlin is a freelance writer