Detroit – The Individual Wrestling State Finals got underway with a day full of action at Ford Field on Friday and Davison's two-time state champion Alex Facundo was just finishing up business with a quarterfinal pin at 171 pounds in Division 1 while Detroit Catholic Central’s Manny Rojas was earning a quarterfinal pin of his own at 189.
Facundo and Rojas were just a mat away from each other after the two were involved in a controversial call in the State Team Wrestling Finals last weekend when Facundo held a 5-1 lead with Davison leading Catholic Central 17-16 in the Division 1 championship match.
Facundo picked Rojas up and was disqualified for slamming Rojas to the mat when action was halted, and an MHSAA doctor said Rojas couldn’t continue after a five-minute stoppage for checking for a possible concussion.
With Facundo’s disqualification, Catholic Central was given six points and Catholic Central’s Brandin Yatooma (215) and Steven Kolcheff (285) followed with pins — 12 more points — to push the lead to 34-17 in an eventual 34-23 victory to give Catholic Central a program-record fourth straight state team title.
Rojas has recovered and is now healthy, dominating his first two opponents with first-period pins before a hard-fought, 5-3 decision over Damon Dunbar of Birmingham Groves in the semifinals to push his record to 47-1 as a sophomore.
Facundo (40-2), a junior and Penn State commit, had a 16-1 tech fall win in his opener, followed by a quarterfinal pin. He is trying to be a three-time state champion, winning at 152 pounds his freshman year and at 160 as a sophomore. He will be competing in the 171-pound title match Saturday at 3:30, thanks to his 27-11 tech fall win over Dane Donabedian of Brighton in the semifinals.
“Me and my team all went through the same thing (last weekend), so we came in here with a chip on our shoulder,” Facundo said. “Everybody here knows it, but we wanted to prove it to ourselves that we’re the best.
“I feel real good, and that was my goal coming into the tournament, to just dominate, just to prove that I’m the most dominant kid in this arena and so far I’m proving it. I’m getting one step closer to my goal of becoming a four-time state champ.”
Facundo was the only thing that got in the way of Catholic Central’s Cameron Amine becoming a four-time state champion, earning a 4-2 decision over Amine his freshman year at 152.
Amine went on to win his third state title last year to help Catholic Central match a state record with seven individual state champions.
Rojas was thrilled to be able to be back on the mat again. He will be one of nine Catholic Central wrestlers competing in title matches — Dylan Gilcher (112), Cam Trupp (135), Josh Edmond (140), Marc Shaeffer (145), Logan Sanom (152), Derek Gilcher (160), Rojas (189), Yatooma (215) and Kolcheff (215) — a Division 1 record.
“It’s a blessing, just the brotherhood and all, I love the coaching staff,” Rojas said of being a part of Catholic Central’s team, which sent 14 wrestlers to this weekend’s competition, including Derek Gilcher who is trying to leave as a seven-time state champion. “Derek’s a man that you want to be, he’s a man in the room you look up to. He’s always looking out for the best of you.”
Gilcher defeated Nino Tranchida of New Baltimore Anchor Bay by tech fall in the semifinals at 160.
“We got nine in, a Division 1 record, so I’m just proud of our guys, it’s been a tough week, coming off the Team States, no one wanted what happened there, our side or their side, it wasn’t a joyous week, we didn’t celebrate at all, just got ready for this week and this tournament,” Catholic Central coach Mitch Hancock said.
So, when was Rojas cleared to wrestle?
“He went into concussion protocol and wasn’t cleared until way late in the week, just a day-to-day decision,” Hancock said. “When you get to this point of the year pretty much the conditioning is done with, it’s like Super Bowl week or World Series week where you’re just trying to keep them sharp and confident.”
Aaron Boone helped Lowell earn its record seventh straight Division 2 team title last weekend and is now trying to become the second wrestler in history to win eight state championships.
Boone won the 135-pound state title his freshman year, then at 145 pounds as a sophomore and 152 last year.
Boone (Penn State) had a pair of first-period pins before earning a third-period pin of Luke York of DeWitt in a semifinal match at 145.
“I took him down in the third, he knew the match was over,” said Boone of his pin of York, then talked about becoming an eight-time champ. “I’m still not thinking about it, the season’s not over yet. I have another match. It’s always great to wrestle in a final in any tournament.
“The team has put in so much work for us to end up getting state championships and we’ve done it so many years in a row and it’s unfathomable to think how much work has gone in that room and how many guys have had to break their limits and do something that they’re not supposed to for us to win that many state titles.”
Sean Spidle (Central Michigan) of Flint Powers and Skyler Crespo (Michigan State) of Mendon are also trying to become four-time individual state champions.
Spindle had a 56-second pin in his first-round match, then a 37-second pin in his quarterfinal match before pinning JD Gross of Richmond in 29 seconds in the semifinals at 119 pounds in Division 3.
“I’m one step closer, this is what I’ve trained for all year, basically my whole life actually, so I’m really excited for the opportunity and hopefully I wrestle well,” Spindle said.
Crespo earned a 10-1 major decision over Grant Weber of Leslie at 145 pounds in a Division 4 semifinal.
Catholic Central’s Josh Edmond earned a 26-11 tech fall win over Trenton Wachter of Rockford in the 140-pound semifinal.
Edmond won state titles his sophomore and junior years at Catholic Central, losing to Boone in the Division 2 135-pound title bout his freshman year while competing at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s.
“This is a dynasty, we keep breaking records year after year, keep building so it’s incredible to be a part of something this special,” Edmond said.
And, on that loss his freshman year to Boone?
“I needed that loss to get better as a wrestler and a person, so honestly that loss was a blessing in disguise,” said Edmond, who will wrestle next year at Missouri.