The individual state wrestling finals is the biggest tournament of the year for the 896 wrestlers who kicked things off Thursday — but it’s a unique atmosphere for more than the huge and sometimes intimidating venue.
Each wrestler gets only one match at the Palace, then must wait overnight, compared to regular-season tournaments where multiple matches take place all day in succession.
Two more full days of wrestling remain after Thursday’s opening round.
“It’s definitely a lot easier on the body over three days, when you get time to rest up,” said Mike Mars of Westland Glenn, a returning state champ (103) wrestling at 112. “You have time to get your energy again. It’s definitely a slower pace, but the matches are a lot higher quality here.
“You have to rewarm up every time, and your body’s not used to it. After wrestling lots of matches in a row in tournaments through the season, your body’s not used to sitting out for half a day and then wrestling again, so you definitely have to learn how to adjust.”
Mars got off to a good start, winning his opening match with a pin at 2:46 over Leann Abad of Warren Mott.
“It’s nice to get this kind of a warm-up match because we haven’t had a real wrestling match the last two weeks, so it’s nice to get this warm up to take into the next day,” said Maddox Maki of Williamston, defending heavyweight champ in Division 3. “Some days we wrestle four to five times in one day. It’s good to get the one day of rest here in between (before this morning’s quarterfinals), but it also kind of sucks just waiting and waiting. You can get a dead head and all.”
Maki is alive and well in the winners bracket after pinning Mike Nykoriak of Algonac in 1:05.
Division 1 has seven returning champs — an unusually high percentage for 14 weight classes — and including Brighton’s 215-pounder Lucas Ready, all seven moved forward with Thursday wins.
“You just want to get the first match out of the way because it’s not the most important one, but it definitely prepares you for the following days coming up,” said Ready, who won by pin in 1:53 at 215. “Mentally, I’m really well-prepared, focused. You don’t want to come in cocky or anything … but my season has been pretty steady, just climbing right now.”
Davison’s Augustine Facundo (119), Ben Freeman (135) of Walled Lake Central, Dylan Steward of Grand Ledge (140), Blake Montrie (160) of Temperance Bedford and heavyweight Dan Perry of Lapeer are still alive in their quest to repeat as Division 1 state champs.
NOTEBOOK: The wrestling community had a moment of silence during Thursday’s opening ceremonies for longtime referee Michael Young of Rockford, a main fixture at the individual finals for many years who would have been officiating this weekend. He died from a stroke Jan. 28 at 48. In honor of him, all referees are wearing his initials ‘MY’ on their uniform backs.
What: Individual wrestling finals.
When: Through Saturday.
Schedule: Today — Round 2, 8:30 a.m., Round 3, 10:30, Round 4, 1:30 p.m., semifinals, 7 p.m. Saturday — Round 6, 8:30 a.m., Round 7, 9:45, consolation finals, 11 a.m., grand march, 4:30 p.m., finals 4:45.
Tickets: Semifinals $7, finals $9, Palace box office.