Call it a second chance, call it retribution.
Whatever the label or the motivation, wrestlers from at least four schools have something extra to prove at the individual state wrestling finals, beginning Thursday at 2 p.m. and running through the final round, Saturday evening at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Davison was team runner up at the Division 1 team finals last weekend, falling to champ Hartland. St. Johns was also a runner up, in Div. 2, as was Remus Chippewa Hills in Div. 3 and Hudson in Div. 4. All four teams have earned multiple chances to bring home an individual state championship or more.
Davison earned the most state qualifier spots between the four teams with 11 wrestlers coming out of regionals. Two are in the same weight class at 189 pounds so there could be a teammate vs. teammate showdown at some point. Davison qualifiers are 103-pounder Steven Garty (28-8), Max Johnson (27-0) at 112, AJ Facundo (28-9) at 119, Deven Perez (35-6) at 125, Ryan Schlak (24-13) at 130, Brain Case (33-5) at 135, Kurt Schlak (25-13) at 145, Gabe Ellis (26-11) at 160, Brenden McRill (34-2) and Logan Mabbitt (20-7) at 189, and Tanner Thomas (24-11) at 215.
St. Johns, which won four consecutive team titles from 2010-13, is sending eight wrestlers to the Palace: 152-pounder Brett Fedewa (45-4), 160 Lucas McFarland (34-5), 285 Jake Gnegy (42-2), 103 Brendan Zelenka (32-4), 112 Emilio Sanchez (37-10), 125 James Whitaker (15-6), 135 Trent Lashuay (39-9), and 140-pound Iowa State signee Ian Parker (42-2).
“Our goal this weekend is the same as it’s been every day all season and it’s not changing now, to have fun and get better, that’s all we can do,” said St. Johns coach Derek Phillips. “It’s what we’ve done and it’s given us a successful season so far.”
Chippewa Hills, which had never been in the team final before, is sending nine state qualifiers: 103-pounder Mason Hayes, 119 Kaden Ellis, 140 Slade Todd, 145 Jaycob Sharp, 152 David Spedowski, 160 Luke Henderson, 189 Brendan Barry, 215 Billy Koepf and 285 Andrew Vinton.
“The biggest challenge for us is we’re a very team-first oriented program, so the challenge will be making the mental switch from team concept to individual, and thinking only about themselves,” said coach Nate Ethridge. “We don’t look at it as retribution (for team runner up title), but just refocusing and getting them to see this is an individual effort, too. That said, none of my kids left Mt. Pleasant with a good taste in their mouths so this is a good second chance and extend our wrestling lives one more week.”
Hudson coach Scott Marry had similar comments about his seven state qualifiers.
“One of our motives is to have a second chance at least proving where we are, and at minimum show we are worthy of the team runner up,” he said. “We have some kids who have very good shots at the individual finals and we want to make that last push at a title run.
“When you wrestle as a team you wrestle a lot of the same opponents you’ll see at the Palace, so we’ve had the chance to go back to the drawing board and make some adjustments for the second time around.”
Hudson’s qualifiers are regional champs 103 Tucker Sholl, 112 Jordan Hamdan, 145 Mason Lopinski, 160 Kyle Johnson and 189 Tylor Grames; plus 103 Dylan Leathers and 119 Carson Price.