Thirty-two teams from Macomb County and the surrounding area met at Macomb Community College for the annual county tournament this week. Competition began Tuesday and concluded Wednesday as Algonac finished as runner-up to Dakota, Armada placed seventh, and St. Clair was eighth to highlight the top 10.
“We used to finish like 23rd, so we’ve worked our way up,” Algonac head coach Brian Ranger said. “We’re still trying to catch Dakota, but they’re the biggest school in the state.”
Dakota, ranked No. 4 in Division 1, won the tournament with 348 points. Algonac had 234, finishing ahead of fifth-ranked in Division 1 Romeo, who was third with 207.
Ranger said the Muskrats wrestled Dakota last week in dual meet and were “beat up pretty good,” but this time his athletes picked up more head-to-head wins and those who previously won extended their margins.
Sky Langewicz (106-lbs) was one such athlete. The sophomore had previously been pinned by Dakota’s Carl Nihranz, but on Wednesday, she won 3-2 to advance to the championship round, where she ultimately finished as runner-up to St. Clair’s Cristian Haslem 16-0.
She made history last year as the highest-female finisher when she placed third at the tournament, and this year, she was the first-ever female to make the final.
“Ironically they had a girls tournament for the first time this year, but we had to pick one or the other and we need her for our team points,” Ranger said, “plus she wanted to wrestle against the boys.”
Another noteworthy improvement came from David Clemons (138-lbs). Last time he wrestled Dakota’s Dominic deMasa, he escaped with a 3-1 victory. This time, however, he won 13-5 to advance to the championship, which Ranger called “probably the most exciting match of the finals.”
Clemons, a junior, won in the last five seconds by a 2-1 decision against Utica Eisenhower.
Lucky Gartin (120-lbs) also finished first for the Muskrats by a narrow 7-6 decision against Dakota’s Ozia Wilson, an opponent he had previously lost to. Reid Hitunen (190-lbs) finsihed second, and Chris Campbell (113-lbs), Steven Shannon (126-lbs), and Julian Walker (150-lbs) each placed third.
Ranger said his upper weight classes were recently “ravaged by sickness” leaving them either out of the tournament completely or with very little preparation. But he was pleased with the way his younger athletes, such as Walker who’s a freshman, stepped up.
“We needed points form somewhere, and Julian knocked off a couple of tough seniors,” Ranger said. “We knew he could do it, but it was kind of more for him to realize that on his own to get a little more self-confidence. Regardless of grade, he’s a pretty darn good 150-pounder.”
Another talented 150-pounder is Armada senior Kyle Coenen, a returning all-state finisher. He won by a 7-2 decision to lead the Tigers to a team score of 144 points. Head coach Dan Coenen said he was pleased with the results as they were within just 12 points of the next three schools (Utica, Anchor Bay, and Warren De La Salle).
“We were really happy with it. Before last year, as far as I know, at least during my tenure, we had never placed in the top 10 before,” Dan Coenen said. “We placed fifth last year. This year we took seventh but were right behind the few teams ahead of us. I was really happy with it. We had a lot young wrestlers who won some matches.”
Athletes like Zac Dykes, a sophomore, who placed fourth overall at 175-lbs. He fell by a 3-2 decision to Dakota’s Aiden Criteser in the third-place match.
“Zac Dykes is an extremly good wrestler. Last year he didn’t place at all, so that was good to see,” Coenen said. “Criteser was the only wrestler to beat him…It was real close. Dakota was up until the third period, Zac got a reversal and was up by a point for not very long, maybe 15-20 seconds, and then the Dakota kid got another reversal and ended up winning the match, but it was very close.”
Coenen also noted freshman Jackson Mulberg (138-lbs) and senior Tristan Lietz (190-lbs). Mulberg placed eighth and Lietz finished seventh.
“Jackson is really tough. To place at Macomb as a freshman is pretty impressive,” Dan Coenen said. “And Tristan had never placed in the past and this year he took seventh place, and out of his four wins, three of them were pins.”
Finishing behind Armada in eighth place with 123.5 points was St. Clair. While Haslem was the only Saint to win a championship, five other teammates placed in the top eight:
Freshman Zachary Drugach (113-lbs) placed fourth, seniors Nathan Tallon (126-lbs) and John Westfall (175-lbs) each placed fifth, sophomore Jack Wiegand (132-lbs) finished seventh, and sophomore Stevie Nieman (285-lbs) was eighth.
Several invitationals remain on the schedule for the next couple of weeks before league competition begins in January.
Algonac and Armada will both be in Imlay City along with Croswell-Lexington on Jan. 6 to start BWAC competition. St. Clair will take on Port Huron Northern on Jan. 12 for its first MAC-Blue dual.
For in-game updates and other news, follow Calli on Twitter @ newberry_calli
To receive notifications about new stories from The Sports Report, subscribe for free.