The instructions from Hartland coach Todd Cheney to sophomore Kyle Kantola were clear and direct.
“Get the fall, end it,” Kantola said were his marching orders after Hartland got a revenge victory over Walled Lake Central in the team regional semifinal Wednesday, 43-24.
The Eagles immediately moved on to the final match to face Warren Mott.
Hartland defeated Warren Mott, 72-12, earning the defending champion its 16th consecutive regional title and a trip to the state finals Feb.24 at Central Michigan.
Kantola’s pin in 30 seconds at 119 pounds over Ryan Riegal gave Hartland a 37-12 edge with three matches remaining, putting the contest mathematically out of reach for the Vikings. In the prior meeting between the teams, Hartland had a huge lead, only to lose the last five matches that gave Central a 30-27 victory.
“Our team was definitely more prepared for this time than it was last time,” Kantola said. “We put in a lot more work. (The prior loss) was a big wake-up call.”
The win the 100th of Kantola’s career.
Cheney said the turning point was reserve heavyweight David Dunville earning a pin over Ben Smerdon with 1 second remaining (5:59) for the full six points, followed by Wyatt Nault’s victory at 103 pounds over Sam Freeman, 10-6.
By winning seven of the first nine matches, the team score was 31-9 and momentum was building.
“The kids got excited, obviously,” Cheney said about Dunville’s pin. “That was a big deal, and it carried over into the next match where Wyatt hits Freeman for five (points) in like the first 30 seconds. That emotional roller coaster you’ve got to ride sometimes. It was a big turning point.”
Dunville failed to advance out of the individual districts last weekend, so all his effort went into the team regional.
“All week my entire focus was ‘got to do it for the team, got to do it for the rest of the boys,’” Dunville said. “It’s not for me anymore, it’s for the team.
“I really wanted to get the pin.”
Arguably the best wrestler in Michigan, Ben Freeman of Central led off the contest at 140 pounds. Freeman is a three-time state champ and will be seeking No.4 in March.
He pinned Devon Pietila in 1:58 to give the Vikings a quick 6-0 lead.
But Cheney felt good. He said having Freeman go first gave his Eagles a chance to bump up each wrestler one weight class from that point through 215 pounds.
“We wrestled better, we did some things different now that we knew where they were a little bit better than we probably what we knew to start the year,” Cheney said.
Also earning six-point pins for Hartland were Reece Hughes at 152 (3:02), River Shettler at 160 (0:29) and Carter Hankins at 125 (1:15).
Hartland voided the last two weight classes to create the final score differential of 19 points.