BATTLE CREEK – Richmond senior Brady LaFore admitted that he was nervous Friday night before wrestling for the first time at Kellogg Arena.
He wasn’t nervous, however, about how his team would fare.
“I figured it was going to be tight at the start,” LaFore said. “But I knew we were going win a match at (140 pounds), it was a toss-up at (145). I knew we were at least going to pin them at (152, 160 and 171), and I knew I could pin my kid, so I wasn’t that worried.”
LaFore’s confidence in his team was justified, as the Blue Devils defeated Birch Run 37-19 in the Division 3 quarterfinals, their sixth straight quarterfinal win. Richmond advances to Saturday’s semifinal against Chippewa Hills, which defeated Allegan in its quarterfinal match. Dundee and Saginaw Swan Valley will wrestle in the other semifinal. Both semis will begin at 11:45 a.m.
Richmond and Chippewa Hills squared off in the quarterfinals a year ago, and met in the semifinals in 2007. The programs know each other well, as Richmond coach Brandon Day and Chippewa Hills coach Nate Ethridge are good friends.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Ethridge said. “I respect them. I respect their program. We train with them — I’ve been to Richmond with my entire team. I’ve been in Ohio with them for a couple years in a row now. They’re good people, and hopefully it’s pretty fun.”
The quarterfinal seemed rather drama free for the Blue Devils, thanks to their ability to get bonus points where they needed them, and Birch Run’s inability to do the same. Richmond won eight of the dual’s 14 matches, but was able to get bonus — including three pins in a row from Devin Skatzka (160), Jordan Adams (171) and LaFore (189) — in six. Birch Run, meanwhile, was able to get bonus in only one match, and that came at 125 pounds, after the dual was wrapped up.
“That was the best seventh seed in the history of seventh seeds,” Day said. “David Kaltz (who lost 5-1 at 135) is a tough kid that doesn’t give up bonus points, and Austin Vannatter (who won 8-3 at 140) wrestled a regional champ. He came down a weight and took him out.
“Derek Wyatt (who lost 7-4 at 145) gave us a good match against a state qualifier. (The dual) was ugly, but we’ll take it.”
Richmond took its first lead of the dual after the fourth match, as Austin Pawlak won 16-2 at 152 pounds, putting his team up 7-6. The three pins followed, giving Richmond a 25-6 lead.
Birch Run was able to get a win at 215, but no momentum, as Richmond’s Anthony Hinojosa held Birch Run’s George Lahar — who is ranked No. 2 in the state — to a 7-3 decision, and it was Hinojosa who was pushing the pace throughout the match.
After Colin Slavik won 1-0 for Birch Run at heavyweight, Richmond’s Roy Costello scored 10 takedowns in a 20-7 major decision at 103, and Connor Behem won by technical fall (18-1) at 112 to seal the dual. Graham Barton finished the match with a 9-3 win at 130 pounds.
“It’s good for us to get one of these now, especially for our younger kids,” Skatzka said. “It was pretty much a semifinal experience for them, so they’ll be ready for (Saturday). We can’t look past anybody. We can’t give up bonus points. We have to wrestle it one match at a time.
“It’s hard sometimes to not look ahead, but part of being a good wrestler is taking it one match at a time, and I think everyone did a good job of that today.”
Contact Paul Costanzo at (810) 989-6251 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PaulCostanzo.
RICHMOND 37, BIRCH RUN 19
135 – Joe Damm (BR) dec. David Kaltz, 5-1; 140 – Austin Vannatter (R) dec. Ean Taylor, 8-3; 145 – Tyler Child (BR) dec. Derek Wyatt, 7-4; 152 – Austin Pawlak (R) md. Brenden Pratt, 16-2; 160 – Devin Skatzka (R) p. Justin Elliott, 1:03; 171 – Jordan Adams (R) p. Logan Bovee, 4:22; 189 – Brady LaFore (R) p. Steven Williams, 1:37; 215 – George Lahar (BR) dec. Anthony Hinojosa, 7-3; 285 – Colin Slavik (BR) dec. Adam Boyd, 1-0; 103 – Roy Costello (R) md. Drew Cox, 20-7; 112 – Connor Behem (R) tf. Colton Fritzler, 18-1; 119 – Mason Breece (BR) dec. Cody Keller, 4-0; 125 – Jerry Fenner (BR) md. Alex Roberts, 19-7; 130 – Graham Barton (R) dec. Adam Grim, 9-3