EATON RAPIDS — Riley Smith couldn’t catch a break last year.
The Mason High School multi-sport athlete, who is now a junior, tore his PCL and broke his foot last football season. By the time he was healed, and wrestling rolled around, Smith played fill-in for former Bulldog heavyweight Sam Benson for two weeks, only to break his thumb shortly after returning.
It was a debacle of a year for Smith, but he’s left the past behind him.
A week after grabbing his first-ever Division 2 individual district title, the 285-pounder encored that performance by grabbing a second-overtime decision, 3-2, over Lakeshore’s Tyler Hill at Saturday’s individual regional tournament at Eaton Rapids High School and capturing his first regional championship.
“You never do something individually like that,” said Smith, who was one of four Mason wrestlers (Brad Wilton, Ben Surato and JD Greathouse) to qualify for the state tournament. “You play football, you do track, all that other stuff, it’s a team effort. Team wins are great, but, on the mat, it’s just you and the other guy. It really strikes you. It’s all on you.”
On Saturday, the accomplishments continued to pile up for the DeWitt Panthers, who grabbed their first Division 2 team regional title in school history Wednesday. DeWitt pushed seven wrestlers through to states, which, according to coach Brian Byars, is the most in school history.
Lucas McFarland (160), Gabe Larner (171) and Sam York (152) were the three Panthers who walked away as regional champions. For McFarland, it’s his second regional title of his career, as he won his first last season as a member of the St. Johns wrestling team.
“(Winning as a team) made me want to thrive a little more to want a championship,” McFarland said.
Eaton Rapids qualified five wrestlers for the state tournament. Freshman Caleb Fish (135) and junior Austin O’Hearon (145) were the two flight winners for the Greyhounds.
Charlotte 130-pound junior Chris Fauson won his individual title and grabbed his 100th career win in the process.
“I knew coming in that I had 97 wins and needed to win the tournament to get to 100,” he said. “I dug deeper for that match than any other in my entire life. It was all because I had the 100th win over my head. I didn’t want to let anyone down, or myself.”
Ionia’s Cameron Mahlich (112) and Trevor Piggot (215) both qualified for states.
Haslett senior Nevin Brittain was the only Viking to make the state tournament. The 189-pounder qualified last season by placing third at both the district and regional tournament. This year, Brittain, who started wrestling in sixth grade, finished as runner-up at both tournaments.
“Last year, it was kind of disappointing losing to some people who I know I could have beat,” he said. “This year, beating the people who I lost to last year makes me (feel good). I can see the improvements.”
Contact James L. Edwards III at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.