Hartland’s Austin Eicher knows how to win, entering the season as Division 1 defending state champ at 130 pounds after being runner-up at 119 the year before.
So Friday’s team quarterfinals at Kellogg Arena seemed like a great place for career win No. 200, leading his team to a 40-27 victory over Macomb Dakota and a semifinal date today with two-time defending champ Novi Detroit Catholic Central. It’s the sixth straight year Hartland (39-2) has reached the final four, and the 10th in the past 11 years.
“It was a lot cooler to do it at team states, especially since our team won, too,” Eicher said of 200 wins. “Now we have one more match to worry about, as our main goal is CC tomorrow.”
Being just inches away so many years without winning the state championship, Hartland — with four runners-up titles — is considered a sentimental favorite. But getting past a burgeoning Dakota team was the first task. Hartland coach Todd Cheney said they are developing a bigger rivalry with Dakota, as even the elementary and middle school programs have faced off more often in recent years.
“(Dakota) is a great program top to bottom, and so we’ll see them for a long time,” Cheney said. “(I liked that) we came out hard early. I think we jumped out to a 36-6 lead, and when you do that, there’s nothing really that you’re upset about. It was a good start for us.”
Catholic Central (16-4) cruised to a big win over developing power Plymouth, 57-9, and coach Mitch Hancock said the Shamrocks are in a good place right now.
“We’ve wrestled a schedule to prepare ourselves for this tournament, so hopefully it will pay off,” Hancock said. “Hopefully our guys will come out hungry tomorrow and can perform right off the scales.
“We’ve just got to keep doing what we’ve been doing all year, be aggressive and put those guys in some difficult situations.”
Oxford (25-4) kept rolling by defeating a tough Grandville team, 32-23, in a come-from-behind quarterfinal win. The Wildcats will face No. 1 Davison in the other semifinal.
Beginning at heavyweight, Oxford won three of the first five matches for a 12-7 edge, but lost four of the next five to find itself in a 23-15 hole. But the Wildcats won the last four matches, including major decisions by Wes Maskill (171) and Grant Krause (189), and a pin in 1:51 by Ben Line at 215.
“Yes, it was a barn burner,” said Oxford coach Paul McDevitt, who said on paper his staff mapped out a 27-27 tie before the match. “Every single match was the way we thought it could go. We thought we could get some wins, and they wrestled really tough. But the guys we expected to get the wins did, and we got the bonus where we needed to get it.
“We did well at keeping our composure, wrestling our physical style, getting off the bottom. But what we really need to get better at is not doing stupid things. We did some roly-poly things that gave up back points that put us in bad positions when we were ahead in matches. We just can’t let those things happen.”
Many eyes are on Division 4 Hudson, and for good reason. The Tigers are seeking a sixth consecutive state team championship and will set a state record for the most successive titles if they pull it off today.