It’s just about all the No.1-ranked Brighton wrestling team talks about: Advancing to Battle Creek and competing as one of eight teams for a Division 1 state title. The talking is done. The Bulldogs now get to live the moment in eight days.
After winning regionals by defeating Portage Northern, 59-13, and Holt, 50-18, Division 1’s best team according to MichiganGrappler.com is heading to the state finals on Feb. 27-28 at Kellogg Arena to battle for that coveted championship.
“It’s exciting,” said senior Nick Brish, who was one of two wrestlers on the current team — the other being Kyle Bohnsack — to be part of Brighton’s last regional championship-winning and state semifinalist squad in 2012.
“I haven’t been there since freshman year and I’ve been itching to get back.’
He and his teammates finally are after wrapping up the fifth regional title in Brighton wrestling history Wednesday night.
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Brighton coach Tony Greathouse said. “As a team, these guys set their goals to win a state title, and it’s something they work really hard for and are really on board for.
“So you can’t underplay how big of a deal this is. It’s the fifth time we’ve been to Battle Creek. It’s a big deal, especially with it being Division 1 and the area we are in, facing the best competition all the time.”
That stiff competition included Holt and Portage Northern, even if the scores of the head-to-head duals might not indicate how talented the Bulldogs’ two regional opponents’ rosters are.
Holt proved it by defeating Grand Ledge in a closely-contested match prior to facing Brighton. Grand Ledge had entered the night as the No. 9-ranked D1 team on MichiganGrappler. The upset wasn’t necessarily shocking, but it was a surprise.
Brighton certainly didn’t take the Rams lightly, especially the latter having the home crowd behind them. Greathouse also knew of the Rams experienced lightweight wrestlers. Therefore, he was thrilled with the draw forcing the teams to begin at 145 and go up through the strength of the Bulldogs’ group.
“Our starting weight was huge because we got right into our wheelhouse with our seniors,” Greathouse said.” By the time it got to their lightweights and they had some firepower, we kind of shut them down. It was over by then.”
The order allowed the Bulldogs to immediately jump out to a 26-5 lead through seven of the 14 weight classes, starting with Ryan Salmon’s 5-0 win at 145 pounds over Holt’s Mike Shaw. It was a particularly impressive win given Salmon had just lost to Shaw at individual districts less than a week earlier.
“For Ryan Salmon to come out and beat a kid who beat him last week, who was ranked higher than him, it really set the tone,” Greathouse said.
Tanner Maschke (160), Beau Mourer (171), Nick Brish (189), Eric Conquest (215) and Luke Ready (285) made sure the Rams and their crowd wouldn’t get renewed life, all following with a steak of victories before Holt got another six points on a void at 108.
Brish and Conquest both earned pins during the streak, the former in 30 seconds. Brish actually only wrestled for a total of 1 minute and 2 second on the night, making quick work of his Portage Northern opponent in less than a minute as well (32 seconds).
Although things got a bit tougher when after the heavyweight matchup, Jackson Renicker (125) and Bohnsack (130) were also able to score pins in 1:04 and 2:31, respectively, to seal the victory.
It was a huge win for the Bulldogs, one could even argue historic given it’s only their fifth regional triumph. But similarly to when they took home the district title last week, they weren’t exuberant in celebrating the return to Battle Creek.
That’s because they still aren’t satisfied.
“We feel pretty good about our season,” Brish said. “But no one’s going to mark it up for a team that just makes it there. You gotta be able to try to win it. … We’ve been talking about that a lot. We were counting down to regionals. Now we’re counting down to the state meet.”