There are no guarantees in wrestling, except one.
At the Palace tonight, Hartland will win the Division 1 individual wrestling title at 130 pounds. That’s because Eagles teammates Jacob Gorial and Austin Eicher will face off for the championship — the first time they have wrestled each other in an official match since late elementary school.
The matchup has coach Todd Cheney in a quandary.
“I can’t coach that tomorrow, I guess I’ll just sit there and smile,” he said Friday night, beaming from ear to ear.
“And tomorrow night, one kid’s going to be disappointed and one’s going to be happy. But he won’t be all that happy because he will have just beaten the friend he’s wrestled since he was 6. So, who knows, but it’s pretty cool.”
The last official head-to-head match either wrestler recalls was about five or six years ago, when Eicher won in overtime.
“There’s good and bad,” Eicher said about facing his teammate. “Everyone is excited to watch it. We’re really good friends and hang out together all the time. We’ve talked about it in practice and just had fun with it.”
Gorial could not say who might have the edge.
“We’ve been practicing all year for this as hard as we possibly could, and we’ll go at it 150%,” he said. “You never know with wrestling. Anybody can get anybody on any given day.”
Rochester had a good run this year, the team reaching the state semifinals last week for the first time in program history before bowing to eventual champ Novi Detroit Catholic Central. The Falcons had four wrestlers in Friday night’s semifinals, but only junior Shwan Shadaia (53-1) made it through at 189.
“When I watched the others wrestle, it looked like things just weren’t going their way and I had to step it up, I wanted to make sure someone made it to the finals,” Shadaia said. “My defense is good right now. I haven’t been taken down that often. I feel that’s helping me win my matches.”
Conversely, CC junior Drew Garcia was one of five Shamrocks (Robert Coe, Ken Bade, Malik Amine and Logan Marcicki) to reach the individual finals. He is the defending state champion and is 51-0 at 171 pounds.
“Our coaches tell us every postseason is the start of a new season,” Garcia said. “Everyone is 0-0, so I really try to forget about it and come to this tournament thinking I have to get a title and not defend one. That takes a lot of pressure off.”
So does already having the Division 1 team title to their credit.
“That has helped us in the room,” he said. “We’ve had a good atmosphere all week. Everyone’s in a good mood, and that helped us go even harder. My mind is right, my body feels great, other kids are nicked up, but I feel really healthy. Right now it seems a lot of things are going right.”
Senior Kyle Gillies of Westland Glenn was equally impressive by going 54-0 this year entering the semifinals.
He was losing to Grand Haven’s Camden Bertucci midway through the 112-pound match Friday night, but Gillies was able to turn the tables and scored a pin at 3:53 to advance.
Gillies tried a move he first saw from a teammate three years ago, what he called a front quarter to a headlock to secure the pin.
“He kept on me with a lot of pressure. and I was getting down,” he said. “But I kept moving and didn’t give up. It’s a move I’ve practiced a few times but never hit it in a match, but gave it a shot in the state semifinals.”
“It would mean the world,” Gillies about a potential title. “It’s been my dream since I was in second grade. This is my only sport, it’s my life. One day you hate it, the next day you love it and you just have to keep pushing through it. I found a love for this sport I never found before.”