Novi — Mike Rodriguez built Detroit Catholic Central into a state wrestling power during his 51 years as head coach, then passed the torch to Mitch Hancock, who has elevated it into a national power.
Hancock was proud to be able to show off Catholic Central’s program on its home mat Saturday afternoon while hosting the Detroit Catholic Central Super Duals with a handful of teams ranked among the Top 20 in the country competing.
Catholic Central became the first team in state history in Division 1/Class A to win seven state championships in a decade when the Shamrocks defeated previously unbeaten Brighton, 34-19, last winter. They had won a state title in 2010, then three straight from 2012-14 and three more from 2017-19, surpassing the six state championships Davison won in the 2000s.
Catholic Central entered Saturday’s super duals ranked No. 3, with Davison coming in at No. 16 and Brighton No. 18, making it the first time in recent history that three Michigan teams were ranked in the Top 20.
“We have the DCC Super Duals every year, but this is the most powerful we’ve had in the past decade," Hancock said. "It’s remarkable, the center for high school wrestling right now and all eyes are on this tournament nationally, so it’s pretty cool when you say that and think about it.”
Catholic Central defeated Dundee, which had upset Brighton, and beat No. 7 Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward before falling to No. 5 Lombard (Ill.) Montini Catholic in the championship match, which went down to the final bout to decide the winner.
Detroit Caholic Central is ranked No. 5, according to updated rankings from InterMat published Wednesday. Davison is No. 16, and Brighton No. 26.
Catholic Central senior Brendin Yatooma enjoyed the competition.
“Competing in an event like this is great, seeing some of the best teams in the country and really going at it and competing at a high level is always nice to do; it’s fun,” said Yatooma, who won the individual state title at 215 pounds last year and is ranked No. 1 in the state in his weight division this season.
It was Yatooma’s 10-2 major decision over Luke Stanton at 215 pounds which proved to play a major role in last year’s state title win over Brighton. The two could be facing each other again with the title on the line when the state wrestling finals take place Feb. 28-29 at the Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo.
Hancock was proud to see dozens of alumni return for the day with Catholic Central honoring its 1970 and 2010 state championship teams, with Rodriguez making an appearance for the 50th anniversary of the 1970 title.
“It’s not so much the state championships, but the memories that we have and the effort that we put into accomplishing what we did so that’s a reward to me in that respect," Rodriguez said. "Just great to see.”
Rodriguez called the job Hancock has done as his replacement, which took place more than a decade ago, "a blessing."
"I asked him when I was getting ready to retire, ‘Mitch would you be interested in coming back and taking this job?’" Rodriguez said. "He said, ‘I would love to, Coach, how would I do it?’ That’s when I told him, ‘The job is yours, 51 years is long enough.’”
Rodriguez retired in 2007 as the state’s winningest coach (734) — he is now No. 7 — with seven state championships. Hancock has matched his mentor for state championships won and will try to surpass that total next month.