DeWitt had battled through injuries to key wrestlers and won their district and earned a hard-fought win over Clio in a regional semifinal on Wednesday night, but their league nemesis put an end to their season.
St. Johns continued its attempt for a fifth-straight Division 2 state championship by rolling 62-11 over Goodrich and then 59-18 against the Panthers in the regional final. The Redwings will learn Sunday who their quarterfinal opponent will be a week from Friday at the Kellogg Center in Battle Creek..
“I was really impressed with their composure and the way they just went out there and went after it,” St. Johns coach Derek Phillips said. “DeWitt is a great team, and they wrestled us hard. I know they were a little banged up, but they’re still a tough, tough team.”
The two finished first and second in both the CAAC Red regular season and the league meet, with the Panthers actually leading through the first three round-robin cycles of the league tournament.
“They’re a big rival for us, so it kind of ups the stakes,” St. Johns senior Zac Hall said after getting a pin in the semifinal and a tech fall in the final for 11 total points. “In regionals, it’s already a big deal because you’re trying to punch your ticket to state. Then for it to be a rival, we’ve already seen these kids a couple of times this year so we’re really familiar with them. We knew we had already beat them a couple times, so having that familiarity with them really gave us some confidence going into the match.”
Hall gave the Redwings five points to start the regional final at 140 pounds with a 19-2 tech fall win over Kameron Melton.
Mark Bozzo, Drew Wixson and Logan Massa then followed with three straight pins and St. Johns was off to a 23-0 lead.
DeWitt got six points from a forfeit at 171 pounds, but Angus Arthur followed with a pin at 189 for the Redwings to increase the lead back to 23 points at 29-6.
St. Johns closed with four pins in the remaining eight bouts. Austin Melton ended the match on a positive note for the Panthers with a pin of Ben Fedewa in just 1:23 at 135 pounds.
“To come back and make it to the regional finals, we were just ecstatic with the guys,” DeWitt coach Brian Byars said. “For them to step up and perform again — it seems like every time we ask them to go a little bit further, they go a little bit further for us. . It stinks running into our league rivals in the finals, but that’s the way it works.”
DeWitt led Clio 27-9 in the semis following a pin by Josh Brannon at 189 pounds, but Clio roared back to take a 33-27 lead.
The Panthers were able to advance to the final after taking the final two weight classes by void at 125 and 130 pounds.
Eight DeWitt wrestlers are still alive for the individual regionals on Saturday at Bay City Western after advancing from the individual district tournament at Fowlerville last weekend.
“The only team that qualified more in our district was St. Johns, so the guys are feeling really good about that,” Byars said. “I think if they come out and wrestle the way they should, we should get a good number of them through to states.”
DIVISION 4 at Carson City-Crystal: The No. 3-ranked Eagles edged No. 10 St. Louis 39-38 to advance to the state quarterfinals after topping Laingsburg 55-21 in a semifinal. The Sharks nipped Kent City 30-27 in the other semi.
DIVISION 1 at Portage Northern: No. 5-ranked Holt routed the host Huskies 63-12 but lost 33-28 to No. 3 Hartland in a final. Hartland had eliminated Grand Ledge 74-3 in the other semi.
DIVISION 2 at Tecumseh: Mason crushed South Lyon East 78-6 in its semifinal before losing 47-24 to No. 3 Tecumseh in the team regional final.
DIVISION 2 at Hastings: Eaton Rapids lost 38-25 to eventual regional champion Byron Center in its team regional semifinal.
DIVISION 3 at Grand Rapids Catholic Central: Portland, which upset CAAC White champion Lakewood a week ago to earn a district title, lost 55-9 to Allendale – which was then eliminated by the host No. 4 Cougars.
DIVISION 3 at Grass Lake: Leslie lost 72-12 to No. 6 Manchester – which then lost 57-7 to No. 1 Dundee in the final.
DIVISION 3 at Birch Run: Perry and Corunna both lost to ranked teams in team regional semifinals, the Ramblers 58-17 to No. 5 Birch Run and the Cavaliers 51-25 to eventual regional champion No. 9 Lake Fenton.