The Algonac wrestling team has had a memorable season so far, and former Muskrat wrestler Jake Kasner wanted to make sure everyone's contributions were accounted for:
Sky Langewicz (106)- Sky is one of the most unselfish people on the team. She always cuts down to 106 and doesn’t complain. Being in the starting lineup, she is forced to wrestle an all boys season. Not only does she have an outstanding record, but has some ranked wins over guys. Being ranked in the girls rankings, she does not get recognition for those wins, but they definitely should be noted. She also puts a lot of time outside getting better, watching videos and asking questions.
Jack Reyes (106)- Jack came in this year as a freshman, and the 106 pound weight change definitely affected. That did not stop him from putting up some good results. The biggest being placing 7th at the Macomb County Tournament as a freshman in a bracket he was very undersized.
Haylee Byerly (106)- Haylee was a first year wrestler who exceeded expectations and had nothing short of an outstanding first year. She made it to the blood round at the girls regional tournament and lost a tough match in double overtime. She also had a quality win over the 4 seed. There are definitely state qualifying appearances in her future if she sticks with it.
Chris Campbell (113)- Chris has had a great year once again. This year was a little different for him as he took some tough losses, but also had a huge win over Landon Sopha in the Yale dual meet. With those wins and losses, he’s right back where he was last year, in a good spot to place and place high at the state tournament, which we expect him to post good results. He very quietly goes out there and gets the job done and maybe doesn’t always get the same recognition since he’s not a flashy wrestler, but dominates opponents and scores a lot of team points.
Lucky Gartin (120)- Lucky is another quiet one who is very unselfish. The amount of times he cut to 120 pounds without complaining or saying anything was crazy. A funny moment was when he got his hair cut with scissors right before the weigh in to make sure he was on at individual regionals. He not only manages to cut the weight, but he also gets the job done on the mat as he can score well from all three positions and pick up a lot of team points. Lucky puts a lot of time in outside normal practices, coming to extra practices and watching videos.
Griffin Degowske (120)- Griffin has also put together a good year. Being behind tough competition in the room, he doesn’t let that stop him from believing in himself. Every time he’s in the room, he’s making his teammates and himself better. Unfortunately, Griffin suffered a season-ending injury, but he was one who got thrown against good opponents this year and battled. The end result wasn’t always what he wanted, but improvement was definitely noticeable.
Emmanuel Lenkiewicz (120)- Emmanuel was one we weren’t sure with at the beginning of the year. Now he has found his role on the team and fits in very well. When given the opportunity, such as against Mt. Morris in the team regional, he went out there and battled against one of their better kids. He has also posted great results and has won a lot of matches at the JV level. While that isn’t often credited, it should be because he has wrestled very well in those matches.
Steven Shannon (126)- Steven has improved tremendously this year, which doesn’t come without doing the typical stuff a wrestler would do. He puts time in and asks a lot of questions and goes over a lot of film. He’s always wondering where he can improve and makes in-match adjustments very well. He has piled up a lot of good wins along with many good results, and we expect a strong end of the year from him.
Gavin Bennett (126)- Gavin has been in a position where he has got thrown out in big dual meets and against very tough opponents. He never complains, never comes off the mat making excuses or talking about how he got put in bad positions. He just goes out there and battles. The end results maybe aren’t what he always wants, but you can definitely have a lot of good moments in him. If Gavin sticks with this and keeps working hard, he will become an even bigger part of this lineup in years to come.
Jasmine Walker (126)- Jasmine had a very good freshman year this year. At the beginning of the year, you could tell she was very nervous and was someone afraid to let stuff fly. That changed by the end of the season. She lost the blood round match at girls regional as she just couldn’t get the fall in the final seconds. There is a bright future ahead of her, especially now that she sees what she can do and has that self confidence. Many big things will be expected from her in the future, like multiple trips to Ford Field.
Alex Bright (132)- Alex would definitely have my vote as the most improved on the team this season. At the beginning of the year and even throughout, he was struggling to keep composed during matches and it was stopping him from maximizing his potential. With how hard he works, the adjustments he makes, the film he watches, and just how much he cares about the sport, he’s earned many huge wins for himself and the team. He won against two kids he lost to at the end of the year the very next match. That shows how quickly he’s able to adjust and make good changes.
David Clemons (138)- David is simply one of the best wrestlers on this team. That doesn’t stop his work ethic and his will to get better. He’s always at extra practices, always asking to watch videos, and always asks questions on how he can improve. He is also a good leader and makes his teammates better. He has wrestled well and has been big in duals, such as sealing up the win against Richmond, and we expect a big end of the year from him.
Vance Tilly (138)- Vance is a freshman that is a first-year wrestler. Coming into the room knowing you are going to get beat on isn’t something people are always willing to do. Vance does it, and he has gotten much better from it. You can tell he enjoys wrestling and wants to be good at it. He came to an extra Sunday practice one time to make his teammates better. He’s a very unnoticed factor, but is a big part in team success and making this team better. He can definitely be very good if he keeps putting time in.
Julian Walker (150)- Julian would be my vote for freshman of the year. He has had a lot of great moments and results this year piling up a ton of wins. He ended up in a loaded postseason bracket eliminating him from individual competition. He has been huge for this team this year and after this summer when he puts the work in to get better, mark my words, he will be one of the best on this team and will make multiple appearances at Ford Field.
Mark Romanowski (157)- Mark is another one who has been quietly big for this team. He just goes out there and wins matches. He doesn’t wrestle flashy or do anything you get noticed for, but just goes out there and does his job. He battles and is tough for any opponent and is also very tough in the practice room. He’s got many matches ahead of him this year and we expect him to keep doing what he's been doing all year.
Connor Hadden (165)- Connor’s got my vote for team MVP this year. While it’s a name you wouldn’t expect, what he did for the team was awesome. Not only did he have a lot of individual success and would likely have qualified for the state tournament, which should be noted, but was huge for team success. He came back from an injury this season just to do the team stuff, cut the weight, and went out there and won a huge match against Richmond and was probably the most crucial part in pushing us over the top to team state.
Josh Kasner (175)- Josh has been great all year. He’s a person you can trust to go out there and score a lot of points for the team. He often doesn’t get enough credit for what he does each and every tournament because it’s an expectation. But just like every wrestler who’s at the top level in the state, he puts time in watching video and making small adjustments. While the common person may not see the improvement, it is definitely happening.
Daniel Ladd (190)- Daniel is another key reason why we are where we are today. Being a lighter big guy, he’s always outsized in the practice room. He just battles, never complains. He was a 215-pounder most of the season and very unselfishly dropped to 190. Not many in his position would make a sacrifice like he did to help a team and maybe even most people don’t realize how big that sacrifice is, but it definitely should be noted.
Reid Hiltunen (215)- Reid has been a huge piece for the team this year. He puts a lot of work in outside of normal practice hours too, hence why he’s doing so great this year. While having a great year, there came an injury towards the end of the season. He didn’t let that stop him from battling though. He stepped right back into the lineup, delivering big team and individual efforts at the end of the year. A lot is still expected to come for him this season.
Derik Maciag (285)- Derik has been a key piece of this loaded lineup this year. He should be given credit for just his grit and will to battle. Every match he goes out there, he remains tough to break. He came up huge in the Richmond duals, even though those weren’t winning results for him, he was just tough and did what it took to put the team in the best situation to win. And that I think explains him. Just a good person and a team first person.
Andrew Ferrrara (285)- Andrew has shown many great moments this year. Obviously the biggest was when he qualified for the state tournament. But what should be noted the most is when Derik went down earlier this year, Andrew had to step in and was very nervous about it. Wrestling many quality matches, his improvement in wrestling and confidence was sensational. As a freshman heavyweight, he’s got a very bright future ahead of him.
Brian Ranger- Obviously, the program Coach Ranger built in his 12 years here speaks for itself. Everyone knows that. What people don’t realize is with four kids of his own, how much extra time he puts in making this team great, taking time away from his own family. Obviously when having a great team, you have to put extra time in. But the way Coach Ranger does it is what everyone should respect. He does things the right way, always with a positive attitude, and is just a person everyone should respect, whether you like the program or not.
Kenny Thomas- Coach Thomas winning the regional coach of the year was something that made me very happy. With how much he does, he doesn’t get enough credit. His 45-minute drive to and from school is enough to show how much he cares, but it’s also the quality time he spends with the athletes in the practice room and watching film always gives them the opportunity to get better. That’s what Coach Thomas is about: making this team better. And his contributions are a huge reason why the team is what it is today.
Joe Gartin- Coach Joe has been phenomenal for this team all year. As a person who never wrestled heavyweight, he stepped in a role he was quite unfamiliar with. That didn’t stop him though. He adapted. He’s in the room wrestling with those guys each day to make them better. His passion and energy gives this team something noticeably extra. He also provides kids with such an opportunity to get better with all the film. That’s a huge reason why this team is so good today.
Andre Bourlier- Coach Andre is a person where if you go to a dual meet, you might not notice him much. While he is very quiet, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t contribute. In fact, he has made this team so much better. A specific person he has worked with all year is Mark, and obviously he was a huge reason Mark made the state tournament. The knowledge he has about wrestling and shares with all the kids to make them better often goes unnoticed, but it shouldn’t.
Kyle Willey- Coach Kyle does not get to be around the high school team at practice a lot, but was a huge part in turning this program into what it is today. Coaching these kids from the youth level up, he’s played a role in not just making these kids better, but creating good connections with all the kids. His efforts are huge and should definitely be noted.
Jacob Kasner- I know everyone would be mad if I didn’t put myself in here, so I’m going to do it. While I’m not going to talk about myself, I will say I’m extremely thankful and grateful to have the opportunity to help these kids improve and push them towards their end of the year goals.
Others That Make This Team so Great
Shannon Gartin- Shannon does a lot of the filming and uploading of the videos for this team. She does an outstanding job and like I said, the video provides a huge opportunity for the team to get better. If you see her, say thank you, because she is a huge reason why these kids are getting better.
Sara Ranger- Sara is huge for this team's success. While Coach Ranger is helping the team get better, someone has to take care of everything else. Not only does Sara take care of everything, but she’s so positive about everything Coach Ranger does and lets him spend the time with the kids to make them better. Without her contributions, this program wouldn’t be nowhere near what it is today.
Mitch Landrum- Mitch is the best athletic director there is. Simple as that. The resources he gives and things he allows us all to do are very appreciated. He provides everything we need so we have the best opportunity to make each individual and the team better. Without his efforts, the team would not be where it is today.
Algonac Parents- What these parents do often goes overlooked, but getting these kids where they need to be on time and the tremendous support they provide is unmatched. The food tables each and every weekend are nothing less than impressive. Without all the help from the outstanding parents, this program and team wouldn’t be what it is today.
Algonac Community- We are always grateful for the Algonac community. From helping us out and fundraisers to coming and cheering us on at big events, seeing where we are today, this team feeds off the energy from all of you. Over the next couple weeks, we are expecting it to be loud again, maybe even louder than ever, so please keep doing what you’re doing because it is huge.
What Makes this Team So Special
The team is one big group. It’s not like there is a bunch of small friend groups all put into one team. It’s one big family. All the kids love each other and respect each other.
The team is put together so well. All the people I mentioned above do such a great job preparing the team for what they need to be doing. So much goes into this and everyone does such a great job.
Kids take advantage of opportunities. I always say, “I won’t make you do anything, but I’ll give you the opportunity to get better.” Things like extra practices, going over film, asking questions. That type of stuff is the thing that makes a team great. These kids do that and they choose to do it without anyone making them.
Lastly, I have to add in the word trust. Everyone trusts each other and believes that they’re being put in the best situations with the best opportunities to win. They all believe in everyone so that is huge for team success.
Best Moments of The Season
Before team regionals I forgot who it was, but someone asked me, “Do you think we’re gonna win?” I said, “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. I believe in you guys, now you believe in you guys.” They went out there and believed in themselves and that was a huge reason they’re in the team state finals.
Earlier this year, we got smoked in a dual meet against Dakota. We went and watched all the videos and made adjustments. After doing that, we won a lot of those rematches at the Macomb tournament. It showed the kids’ abilities to make adjustments and apply them so quickly. Many adjustments will be made this weekend in hopes to go all the way.
The last moment I think that’s worth noting is beating Richmond at Richmond three times: in two dual meets and the BWAC tournament. Going to wrestle a great team in a great environment so many times, it’s hard to keep getting the job done. That showed their poise though. As a young team, it was awesome to see them achieve such an accomplishment.
Message to Algonac Fans- We thank you all for your tremendous support this season. We all hope you come out and support the team over the final two weeks. We are far from done. This year has already been special, but the ending will be even greater!
Jake Kasner is a 2022 graduate of Algonac High School. He is studying sport management and coaching at Olivet College where he also competes on the wrestling team. In his spare time, he comes back to help coach the Muskrats.