Following a run to the Division 4 team state quarterfinals a week earlier, the Mendon wrestling program filled up its share of spots at the Michigan High School Athletic Association Individual Championships at Ford Field over the Weekend.
And the Hornets wrapped up a stunning season with a pair of state champions and three other all-state performances.
Sophomore Skyler Crespo, who won it all at 125 pounds in 2017, added to his trophy case with a title at 135 pounds. Senior Wyatt Cool climbed several steps on the podium after last year’s fifth-place finish at 160, becoming the last man standing Saturday at 171.
For Cool, whose final season also netted a 53-2 record, it was a dominant run until the finals. He pinned Ravenna’s Matthew Hutson in the second period of his first-round bout Friday before posting a 13-4 major decision against Whittemore-Prescott’s Ridge Schutte in the quarterfinals. To end the long day, Cool churned out a 14-4 major over Union City’s Colton Johns. It set up a Saturday showdown with New Lothrop’s Justin Carnahan, whom Cool edged by way of a 7-5 decision for the crown.
Cool, a three-time all-state performer, had an early takedown but trailed 3-2 at the end of the first period in the finals. Cool scored early with his signature barrel roll, but Carnaham came in with a good game plan to drain Cool’s energy. The first takedown gave Cool confidence, but uncertainty started to creep in as he found himself trailing after Carnaham rallied with an escape and takedown.
“I didn’t wrestle my best match,” Cool said. “But, hey, I won a state title. A win’s a win. I was panicking inside (at the end of the first period). I was a little winded, but I eventually took over the match like I knew I could. I fought through it and took him down a couple times.
“I think this year I was just on a mission. I worked hard and I came through with it. It’s something I’ve been working for for a long time. It feels good. At the same time, it’s a little sad knowing I wrestled my last match.”
Crespo, who is 111-2 in his varsity career, kicked off the weekend with a 12-4 major decision over Athens’ Hunter Bowersox, followed by a pair of 4-0 decisions against Manchester’s Blake Belaire and Springport’s Thomas Potter. In Saturday’s championship match, he got past Onaway Area’s Matthew Grant with a 4-2 victory.
“Friday I wrestled smart, but I honestly wasn’t very satisfied,” Crespo said. “I controlled all my matches, but I didn’t really dominate on the scoreboard as much as I’d like. After the semifinals, I tried to just focus on the finals and not really get too happy about being a finalist. I tried to just stay focused on my match all day, and then just kept telling myself I was going to win and stay confident.”
Confidence has never been one of Crespo’s shortcomings, and he needed it in Saturday’s championship match as Grant proved to be a handful.
“The kid was actually stronger than I expected and was kind of hanging with me on my feet,” Crespo said of the match. He tried for a headlock and I slipped it and got a quick takedown. I rode him out and finished on top.”
Grant opted for the bottom position to start the second period and Crespo turned him for a 4-0 lead heading into the third period. Crespo rode out most of the third period before giving up a reversal with about 30 seconds left and taking a defensive posture the rest of the way.
The top eight finishers in each weight class made the all-state team for their respective divisions. The Hornets added a third-place finish by senior Nik Andaverde at 119, a fourth-place effort by junior Kody Drewer at 130, and a sixth-place performance by sophomore Emmett Bingaman at 215.
Andaverde was on track for a spot in the finals until running into Roscommon’s Brenden Spencer Friday night in the championship semis — a match Spencer won 8-2. Andaverde got back on the mat Saturday morning and took out his frustration on Ethan Crawford (Blanchard-Montabella) in a 19-6 major decision in the consolation semifinals. He’d go on to beat Carcon City-Crystal’s Jamison Ward 6-4 in the third-place bout.
Drewer won his first two matches Friday before a 15-5 major decision defeat at the hands of Burton-Bentley’s Robert Rogers in the semis. Drewer regrouped with a 7-0 win over Carson City-Crystal’s Aiden Adkins in the consolation semis. Dansville’s Anthony Mack pinned Drewer in the third-place match (2:19).
Bingaman was on the mat a total of six times over the weekend. He survived a 6-4 decision against Cass City’s Nick Perry to start the tourney, then lost a 3-2 decision to Carson City-Crystal’s Brian Yeakey in the quarterfinals. Bingaman pressed on with two wins by decision in the consolation bracket before suffering an 8-4 defeat to Manchester’s Charlie Depp in the semis. Yeakey had Bingaman’s number again in the fifth-place match, winning 2-1.
White Pigeon enjoyed plenty of success at Ford Field with four all-state grapplers.
Junior Kyle Black and senior Nate Weber each claimed fourth place in their respective weight classes. Black, who was eighth at 130 pounds back in 2017, was cruising along Friday with two wins until Onaway Area’s Matthew Grant won a 5-3 in the semifinals at 135. Black rallied Saturday morning with a first-round pin over Caryn Shepler (Carson City-Crystal) before experiencing a 3-2 defeat against Bad Axe’s Ryan Wehner in the consolation finals. Black ended the year with a 46-6 record.
Weber also was 2-0 to start the tournament but would lose a 5-0 decision to New Lothrop’s Austin Wolford in the semis Friday. Weber (45-5) eked out a 2-1 decision versus Climax-Scotts/Martin’s Jordan Tutt in the consolation semis but dropped an 8-2 match to Hudson Area’s Carson Price in the consolation finals.
Also for the Chiefs were fifth-place finisher Evan Atherton (130) and sixth-place performer Kobie Debruine. Atherton, a junior who ended the season with a 50-6 record, was bounced from the championship bracket Friday in the second round, but he won a pair of decisions to stay in the all-state hunt. A 4-1 loss to Dansville’s Anthony Mack in the consolation semis set up a fifth-place bout against Carson City-Crystal’s Aiden Adkins, whom Atherton topped 8-4. Debruine, a sophomore with a 38-16 final record, lost his opener Friday to set up a brutal route back to the all-state podium, which included three straight pins in the consolation bracket. Debruine then lost by pin to Whittemore-Prescott’s Charlie Prescott in the consolation semis and then lost a 7-4 match with Clinton’s Don Stump in the fifth-place match.
Climax-Scotts/Martin senior Payton Hunt finished out his career with a runner-up effort at 145 pounds. Hunt (53-8) squared off with St. Louis’ Jayce Kuehnlein in the finals and was edged 2-1. Before that, Hunt rattled off 7-1 and 4-1 decisions in the championship bracket before winning by injury default in the semifinals.
Portage Central senior Dominick Wilson capped an outstanding season (44-2 record) with a third-place performance at 215 pounds, pinning Roseville’s Marcus Fresch in the third-place bout. Wilson was sixth overall in 2017.
After losing a heartbreaking tiebreaker to Temperance-Bedford’s Blake Wingate in the championship quarterfinals, Wilson bounced back with four straight wins, including a pair of one-point decisions.
Bringing home hardware from Detroit were a pair of Three Rivers seniors with previous state finals experience. Chris Morrill, a 135-pounder who ended his final season with a 56-6 record, was fourth after losing a 9-5 decision to Fenton’s Jayden Rittenbury in the consolation finals.
Classmate Tyler Moore (57-3) pinned Lowell’s Keigan Yuhas in the consolation finals, finishing 4-1 at Ford Field following a run to the championship semifinals, where he lost to Warren Woods-Tower’s Joel Radvansky (9-2). Moore was a fourth-place finisher in 2017.
For Schoolcraft, senior 215-pounder Devin Obryant and junior heavyweight River Fox secured spots on the all-state podium with eighth-place performances.
Obryant (41-9) started the tournament with a 10-4 decision against Algonac’s Joe Ahles but would fall in the first period against Dundee’s Brandon Whitman in the championship quarterfinals. He bounced back with a pin (4:29) versus Linden-Lake Fenton’s Zolen Marron in the second round of the consolation bracket. A loss by pin to Corunna’s Jack Thayer in the third round bumped Obryant to the seventh-place match, where he lost to Gladstone’s Jared Demeuse by pin (4:02).
Fox (51-8) had an uphill climb after losing in the opening round Friday, but he came back with consolation wins by pin and decision to guarantee a top-eight position. Fox lost a tiebreaker to Algonac’s Mike Nykoriak in the third round of the consolation bracket and fell to Alma’s Greg Simmons (4:56).
Constantine boasted three all-state efforts, with senior Jack Jones leading the way in fourth place at 145 pounds. Jones, who ended the year with a 47-9 record, made it to the championship semifinals before dropping an 8-0 major decision against Linden-Lake Fenton’s Sean Trombley. He came back with a tiebreaker win in the consolation semis versus Dundee’s McCallister McAvoy and lost, 8-1, against Hudsonville-Unity Christian’s Seth Konynbelt in the consolation finals.
Senior Devyn Begley added an eighth-place finish for the Falcons at 112, as did freshman Boe Eckman at 171.
“As a coach, it can be very hard to watch your wrestlers compete at this level especially knowing when they’re a senior and it could be the last they ever wrestle in competition,” Constantine coach Dale Davidhizar said. “They made it a lot easier for me by leaving it all on the mat and hopefully not leaving any regrets.”
Begley (21-6) lost his opener Friday and but made his way back with two consolation victories before suffering a 3-2 defeat in the third round against Yale’s Brendan Connelly. In the seventh-place match, Clawson’s Allan Davis edged Begley 3-2.
“I have never seen a wrestler put so much into the sport all year around and to finally be able to achieve a goal of his is an amazing thing,” Davidhizar said of Begley. “Devyn has had a lot of hardships in his high school career with injuries keeping him out of the tournament in years past. It has been a very gutsy year for him with having shoulder surgery and trying to compete with us not even knowing how painful it was for him.
“I am so very proud of him and can’t say enough about his grit and integrity. Even with his bad shoulder he told me all year he was ready to go at any time to wrestler for the team just to win a team dual during the season. Knowing that it could effect him wrestling in the postseason. He was in it for the team before individual and that is a true leader. He deserves a lot more but he will have his name on the board in the wrestling room for the rest of his life and I know I’ll smile every time I walk into the room at get to see his name written there.”
Eckman (47-11) earned a quick pin in the first round Friday before losing a 9-3 decision to Algonac’s Jack Jewell. Eckman went on to top Gladwin’s Damien Leddy 7-0 and then lost an 8-0 major versus Whitehall’s Kayleb Venema. In the seventh-place bout, Dundee’s Jaxon Guinn defeated Eckman 9-2.
“Boe exceed our expectations this year, and along with Darren (Begley), will be a leader for us moving forward,” Davidhizar explained. “Boe is one of only two freshmen in the whole state to place at 171 in all divisions. He has the potential to be one of only a couple four-year all-state wrestlers for Constantine.”
Photos by Nicci Plummer