Detroit Catholic Central is ranked No. 5 in the country and will try to do something it has yet to accomplish, win a fourth straight team wrestling championship.
Catholic Central, ranked No. 1 in the state, will be competing in the Division 1 State Team Wrestling Finals this weekend at the Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo. Quarterfinals take place Friday with semifinal and title matches on Saturday.
Catholic Central made history last season when it became the first school in Division 1/Class A to win seven state championships in a decade.
Catholic Central also won three straight state titles from 2012-14, but Brighton ended its run in 2015.
Davison was the last Division 1/Class A team to win four straight state championships, winning five straight from 2002-06 under coach Roy Hall.
No doubt, Catholic Central is primed to get the job done after earning an 80-0 regional final win over Canton at Saline last Wednesday when it had double-digit pins, including a 7-second pin at 285 pounds by Steven Kolcheff.
Top-seeded Catholic Central will face No. 8 seed Macomb Dakota Friday at 2:15 while No. 2 seed Davison faces No. 7 seed Clarkston; No. 3 seed Brighton takes on No. 6 seed Rockford and No. 4 seed Hartland faces No. 5 seed Temperance Bedford.
Catholic Central defeated previously unbeaten Brighton in the state title match last year, 34-19, winning the first four matches to take a 15-0 lead, then building the cushion to 29-3.
“We wrestled Davison earlier in the year, beat them by 10 in a very competitive dual, so it will be a shootout if we wrestle them, didn’t wrestle Brighton,” said Catholic Central coach Mitch Hancock, who replaced the legendary Mike Rodriguez after the 2007 season.
Hancock wrestled for Rodriguez, who is recovering from a stroke he suffered earlier this month. Rodriguez led Catholic Central to seven state titles from 1969-88 and retired with a 734-272-5 record.
“He’s doing well, he has that wrestler’s mentality in him where he’s a fighter,” said Hancock of Rodriguez on Wednesday after the regional final. “He’s going through their physical therapy process now. His mind seems strong and the paralysis in the body was very limited.”
So, where does this year’s Catholic Central team rank with some of Hancock’s other state championship teams?
“We’ve had so many good teams, so many lethal wrestlers, but these guys are capable of putting points on the board … that’s for sure,” Hancock said. “It’s hard to judge, they’re ranked fifth in the country so that tells you something. They’ve got the ability to win a state title and beat a very, very, very good team in Division 1 in Brighton or Davison, but this team is one of the better teams we’ve seen at Catholic Central.
“I think it’s a three-pony race here. I just think that all three teams are really loaded this year. There’s really good depth in Division 1 since Hartland and Temperance Bedford are also really good, but this year the three teams just have really powerful teams.”
Said Catholic Central senior Brendin Yatooma, the state’s No. 1 ranked wrestler at 215: “It would be great to win four state championships, especially since it would be the first time in CC history, would really mean a lot to us. We’re staying focused and not making it more than what it is, it’s for the state title and we have to be focused and ready to go.”
Yatooma, who is one of the team’s senior captains, was one of Catholic Central’s 10 champions in the individual regionals at Saline Saturday, winning all three of his matches by pins to improve to 41-1. Catholic Central advanced 14 wrestlers on to the individual state finals which will take place at Ford Field March 6-7.
Catholic Central has multiple defending individual state champions, including two-time state champs in senior captains Joshua Edmond (40-0, 140) and Derek Gilcher (41-2, 160).
“I think the sky is the limit for us, we have a lot of potential and we have some young guys who are learning every day,” said Edmond who will wrestle next year at Missouri.
Said Gilcher (Indiana): “I have high expectations for us at State Finals, just real excited for it. We have eight senior captains and it’s cool because it’s never been like that before.”
Bedford returns to team finals
Logan Frantz couldn’t stop smiling Saturday afternoon in the individual regionals at Saline, and for good reason, since he just won an 11-7 decision over Woodhaven’s Joshua Watters at 160 pounds in the blood round to punch his ticket to the individual state finals for the first time.
Frantz was also happy because earlier in the week he helped his senior class win a team regional championship for the first time to move on to state finals on Friday where Bedford will face Hartland.
“It’s really exciting because for the past few years since I was a freshman they (Westland John Glenn) beat us (in team regional final) and last year was a close one so to punch our ticket felt great,” Frantz said. “It feels great to show everybody what Bedford’s made of and keep pushing through. It’s going to be cool to wrestle there (in Kalamazoo), but we’re confident and we’re going there to win.”
Bedford’s last state championship came in 2001, last advancing to the title bout in 2008.
“This will be our first time in the state finals since 2016, met John Glenn the last three times, including a one-point match last year, so we got past them this time around and it’s back to the team state,” said Bedford ninth-year head coach Kevin Vogel who wrestled at Bedford under Bill Regnier before competing at Central Michigan.
Vogel went on to become a two-time Olympic qualifier, winning the World Cup in 1996.
Bedford was the premier team in the state with Regnier guiding the program to seven state titles in an 11-year stretch (1976-86). Now, Vogel wants his wrestlers to get a taste of the big-time competition.
“None of these seniors have been there so they’ve been working really hard,” Vogel said. “We have six seniors leading this team and they are doing an excellent job.
“We’re going to keep wrestling the way we’ve been doing it all year. Don’t change anything, just keep wrestling like we have and let the chips fall where they may. We’re 33-and-1 as a team, so we’ve been wrestling well all season long. We’re just going to go out there and compete.
“This is probably our most solid dual meet group we’ve had since I’ve been here. We really don’t have any holes in our lineup. We have a solid team. We’ve qualified here (state finals) three times since I’ve been here but haven’t gotten out of the quarterfinals. The very first year we tied Hartland and lost on the eighth criteria, so we want to get past them this time around.”
Vogel is thrilled for Frantz, saying: “It was an amazing match, to go ahead and beat somebody when it comes down to the wire, probably the best match I’ve seen him wrestle in his career. He lost to him a handful of times prior to this one, the last time we wrestled him he might have been pinned by him.”
Bedford is led by Randy Boisselle (44-5, 140), Colin Jagielski (44-3, 189) and Cage Dye (41-9, 215).
Title run on the line
U-D Jesuit has won seven straight boys basketball Catholic League championships but will be in the role of an underdog this time around.
U-D Jesuit came back from a fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Detroit Catholic Central 63-54 in last year’s championship game.
Orchard Lake St. Mary’s will be the favorite to end U-D’s run this time around. St. Mary’s is 16-1 and ranked No. 3 in The News Super 20, earning a pair of wins (60-50, 68-60) over U-D (11-6) this season.
St. Mary’s will play to Birmingham Brother Rice in a semifinal Wednesday with Detroit Loyola facing U-D Jesuit in the other semifinal on Tuesday. Both games will take place at Birmingham Marian.
The final is 5 p.m. Saturday at Calihan Hall.