MT. PLEASANT – DeWitt almost tied state history – but came up two points short in the Division 2 wrestling quarterfinals Friday evening at Central Michigan University.
The Panthers could have become just the second No. 7 seed to advance, but DeWitt lost the last three matches to No. 2 seed and undefeated Warren Woods Tower to finish the match on the low side of 35-33.
“I told the kids I was proud of them. They still made history as the first team from DeWitt to ever makes it to states, so they should be proud of what they’ve done. And while it didn’t go the way we wanted, we’ve got a great community and crowd behind us and we’ll just keep plugging away,” said DeWitt coach Brian Byars.
When DeWitt’s Nicholas Brandt earned a pin at 215 pounds in 3:07, DeWitt had what appeared like a nice cushion at 33-18. But Byars knew not to celebrate too soon.
“We really knew we had to have our top guys get us bonuses and we kind of knew in advance where everything was going to fall, so we were not really comfortable with that lead, because of the starting weight,” he said. “That heavyweight match was big.”
Tower (27-0) won the next two matches with pins, followed by a tech fall at 112 to seal the win.
“We’re hoping to reload and come back even stronger,” Byars said about 11 underclassmen starters. “Coming to states is the start and we’re not going to stop coming for a long time.”
St. Johns stopped
The wrestlers and fans of St. Johns have become accustomed to tears of joy for many years at the team dual state finals.
That’s not what the tears were for this year.
The Red Wings were also knocked out of the Division 2 tournament, with a 36-26 loss at the hands of upstart Niles, which forfeited the last two matches after building a 36-14 edge. The Red Wings earned just three wins to that point.
The anguish on most players’ faces was heart-wrenching.
“That’s what happens with heartbreak, it’s kind of rough,” said St. Johns coach Derek Phillips. “Niles is a super tough team; they are very well coached. They do wrestle a lot of downstate teams that we don’t see very often, so we didn’t have a lot of common opponents which makes it a little harder to scout. But we knew how tough they were going to be, we just needed to be better today.
“One thing that I just keep going back to is that wrestling teaches such positive life lessons. We’re going to be better people for having wrestled and they’re going to be successful young men because of all the hard work and the things that they got from this sport. It’s hard for them to see it now, the heartbreak is always going to be there. But I want them to know they’re always going to have the toughness of being a wrestler and sticking it out.”