with poll: Heavyweight division to pack a punch at Dexter wrestling regional
High school wrestlers across the state will compete on Saturday for the opportunity to advance to the MHSAA Individual State Finals at the Palace of Auburn Hills March 4-6.
While 32 remain in each weight class in MHSAA’s four divisions, by the end of the day Saturday that number will be sliced in half to make up the 16-man state championship brackets. Forty Washtenaw County wrestlers representing 10 schools are hoping to be part of that group.
Of all the 224 weight classes to be contested this weekend, none will be more laden with heavy hitters than the 285-pound draw at the Division 2 regional at Dexter High School. Five of the state’s top six ranked heavyweights will square off there.
“All four guys coming out of this region will place at states, barring injury, no question. And they’re going to place high,” said Tecumseh coach Casey Randolph. “You could see a rematch of this regional final in the state finals and the semifinals as well. It wouldn’t surprise me.”
The most highly-touted of the big men is Highland Park junior Quean Smith. He placed seventh in the Division 1 state finals at 215 pounds as a sophomore and overtook Tecumseh senior Kyle Connors as the top-ranked heavyweight in Division 2 in Michigrappler.com’s final poll of the regular season.
“Some guys look at heavyweight as just guys pushing each other around, but that won’t be the case Saturday,” said Dexter coach Shane Rodriguez. “There’s going to be some good wrestling at heavyweight. Some of the best in the state.”
Both Connors - who placed fourth in Division 2 at 285 as a junior - and Smith took first at their respective districts last Saturday and, if all goes according to seeds, will settle the debate in Saturday’s final.
“It’s a great, great opportunity for these guys to prepare for the big stage,” said Tecumseh coach Casey Randolph. “It’s the toughest weight class in all divisions, no question.”
Although both Connors and Smith pinned their way through districts - Smith's three wins took a combined 2 minutes, 12 seconds - everything going according to seeds is anything but a sure bet. Coming out of the Lincoln Park district with Smith were his sophomore teammate Martez Crutchfield and Ferndale senior Keith Williams, ranked No. 5 and No. 6, respectively.
Connors’ district at Mason was anything but a weak field, with No. 3-ranked Adam Robinson of Mason taking second and Dexter’s Josh Cash and Carleton-Airport’s Evan Epoch - both of whom have been ranked in the top 10 at various points throughout the season - taking third and fourth.
“They’re all tough wrestlers that know how to win,” Rodriguez said, pointing to the fact that Cash beat Robinson earlier in the season, yet lost to him on Saturday as examples of the volatility of the weight class.
“The fact is probably seven of the top 10 heavyweights in the state will be at this region, but only four will be moving on, so it’ll be a battle,” Rodriguez said. “Some very good wrestlers are going to be sent home.”
Forty Washtenaw County wrestlers representing 10 schools will participate in five regional tournaments on Saturday with hopes of qualifying for the state championships. The following is a breakdown of all five regions.
What: Division 1, Region 2 Where: Saline High School Who: Huron: Adam London (140); Lincoln: Eddie Nuttall (130); Saline: Nick Pataro (135), Sam Hepler (145), Brett Clink (152). Weight to watch: Nick Pataro has a tough road ahead as he'll battle with No. 1-ranked Brian Gibbs (Temperance Bedford), No. 2-ranked Kyle Horr (Monroe), and No. 4-ranked Justin Melick (Detroit Catholic Central) for the 135 pound title.
What: Division 1, Region 4 Where: Howell High School Who: Pioneer: Alex Goldfarb (112), Will Jackson (135), Tommy Brosnahan (140), Justin Bose (160), George Petropoulos (215), Chris Biggs (285). Weight to watch: Top-ranked Matt Dietz (Clarkston), No. 3-ranked Adam Fahs (Portage Central) and No. 8-ranked Andre Ermatinger (Kalamazoo Central) will all contend for the 140-pound title with Pioneer’s Tommy Brosnahan. The way the brackets are set up, Brosnahan doesn’t have to beat any of his ranked competitors to qualify for states.
What: Division 2, Region 7 Where: Dexter High School Who: Chelsea: Ben Doll (112), Vince Kause (125), Andrew Nold (130), Dakota Cooley (140) and Travis Ostrowski (189); Dexter: Dan Flowers (125), Alex Sloan (125), Anthony Chisolm (135), Drew Barnes (145), Josh Cash (285); Milan: Cody O’Keefe (135), Tim Sims (145), David Wilson (152), R.J. Gaskill (160), Matt Schultz (189), Sean Domas (215); Ypsilanti: Alex Lillie (119), Greg Cheatham (171). Weight to watch: Standing in the way of Dexter’s Josh Cash is the gauntlet of Quean Smith (Highland Park), Kyle Connors (Tecumseh), Adam Robinson (Mason), Martez Crutchfield (Highland Park) and Keith Williams (Ferndale), ranked Nos. 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 in the state, respectively.
What: Division 3, Region 11 Where: Williamston High School Who: Willow Run: Brandon Britcher (189), Anthony Johnson (285). Weight(s) to watch - Brandon Britcher and Anthony Johnson will attempt to be Willow Run’s first state qualifiers of the millennium at 189 and 285.
What: Division 4, Region 16 Where: Addison High School Who: Manchester: Nate Fischer (103), Ryan Abrigo (112), Case Kittle (112), Austin Deacons (119), Tom Conway (119), Cameron LaDouceur (130), Johnny Woollams (140), Jimmy Hamilton (145), Stephen Sheler (152) and Dylan Neff (285). Weight to watch: Jimmy Hamilton won a district title last week at 145 pounds, but was pinned by Hudson’s Joel Varney (who took third) at team districts on Wednesday. The two would face each other in the semifinals Saturday if they both win their first-round matches.