DEWITT – Gabe Larner wants nothing more than to win a state wrestling title. So much so that the DeWitt High School two-sport athlete intensified his efforts last season when he skipped out on football to focus solely on the mat.
It worked out well for Larner, as he placed fifth at the Division 2 state tournament a season ago. A year later, the senior is still reaping the benefits of his decision.
Larner, who is 43-0 this year at 171 pounds, captured his first-ever individual district title Saturday when he defeated Eaton Rapids’ Tristen Schultz, 5-4, scoring a two-point reversal with less than 30 seconds remaining in the match.
“I really focused on my technique and just getting better overall as a wrestler,” said Larner, who was diagnosed with bronchitis a week ago. “My goal was to come in this year and not lose and win states.”
Larner was one of seven Panthers to qualify for next weekend’s Division 2 regional tournament, and he was one of three to capture a district title. Sam York, who is 45-2, won the 152-pound title, and Lucas McFarland, who is 44-2, won the 160-pound title.
Ionia’s Trevor Piggot is another one who got a taste of success at last year’s state tournament. He placed eighth a year ago, and the 215-pound senior has since been on a mission to get to the mountaintop. Piggot took another step in the right direction by capturing a district title and moving to 49-0 on the year.
He was one of three Bulldogs to advance to regionals.
“Every year coach (Bill Rodgers) makes us do a goal sheet. My goals were to be state champ and have no regrets,” Piggot said. “I got on the podium (last year), and it gives you the drive to be on top of that podium.”
Eaton Rapids had seven wrestlers place in the top-4 at districts, and junior Austin O’Hearon (145) and freshman Caleb Fish (135) were the two who brought home titles.
O’Hearon had to take on teammate Hunter George in the finals.
“It kind of (stinks), because I don’t like wrestling my own guys,” O’Hearon said. “Me and Hunter are buddies, and we train real hard in the room. It was a good experience — by no means did we go as hard as we would in (practice). We just didn’t want anyone getting hurt this late in the season.”
Junior Riley Smith was the only Mason Bulldog to win a district title, as the 285-pounder defeated the Greyhounds’ Collin Lewis in the finals. The Bulldogs sent six wrestlers through to regionals.
Anthony Williams (160), Jarrett Thorne (130) and Chris Fauson (130) were the three Charlotte wrestlers who grabbed a top-4 finish. Fauson, a junior, was the only one to win a district title, which was the second consecutive of his career.
“I’m trying to win a state title this year, and last year was just a big confidence booster,” said Fauson, who placed fifth at states a year ago. “I had a couple of big wins at the state tournament to get to fifth.”
Fowlerville’s Wyatt Daniel (112), Jacob Dixon (152), Hunter Wilson (171) and Tyler Bennett (285) all qualified for regionals. Manuel Leija (103) of Eastern was the only Quaker to qualify.
Micah Williams (125), Domion Tijerina (215) and Nevin Brittain (189) were the Haslett Vikings that placed. Brittain fell in the finals after defeating Mason senior and Michigan State signee Brad Wilton by decision, 5-2, in the semifinals.
Contact James L. Edwards III at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.