Novi Detroit Catholic Central's Alex Mooradian won the Division 1 individual state title at 119 pounds last year and was a big reason why Catholic Central won the team state title. He'll look to be No. 1 again this year both individually and team-wise.
2010-11 Oakland County Wrestling Preview WITH VIDEO
Last year’s state championship run was enjoyable as ever for Novi Detroit Catholic Central, as the Shamrocks added another award to their bulging trophy case.
But that was last year. This year, with a number of graduation losses and the transfer of a pair of all-staters, the Shamrocks could be vulnerable. That would be delightful news for the opposition, but it won’t be the case for Catholic Central.
Expect another state-title run for a team which takes on all comers and usually defeats them.
In Oakland County, only Oxford has the firepower to challenge the Shamrocks, who’ll send out a battle-tested group in search of more awards this season.
Here’s a league-by-league look at the season:
With a lineup featuring seven returning state qualifiers, expect the Oxford Wildcats to not only challenge for the league title, but make a deep run in the Division 1 state tournament. Matt Frisch (152 pounds) was state runner-up last year and Keegan Cantera (112), Ben Ralston (171), Prescott Line (215) and Rocco Borg (125) all earned state medals. Mike Thomas (135), Matt Anger (189) and Kyle Hill (130) are all experienced, along with Dakota Peasley (152). Zach Wood (285) will also help, but Jacob Peasley, another returning state qualifier, has to heal from an injury before returning to the lineup.
Brad Keener, an assistant for several seasons, takes over as head coach, and he plans to develop the total wrestler.
“We’ve got a lot to work on ... developing strength, agility and total family ... a sense of community,” said Keener, who’s emphasizing character, too.
Oxford’s adjustment from the Flint Metro League last year to the OAA Red should be smooth.
“Obviously the competition in the OAA is going to be ... a learning experience in styles and competition,” said Keener, whose Wildcats are ready for a prime-time performance.
At Clarkston, gone are coaches Joe DeGain and Derek Moscovic. Taking over is Andy Auten, a Clarkston wrestling alum who’ll have enough returnees to the keep the Wolves competitive. Matt Vandermeer (171), Mike Henige (160) and Jeff Sloney (130) are returning state qualifiers and Ty Foltz (145), Raymond Wilkie (112) and Nick Vandermeer (140) will help form the core of a solid lineup.
“It’s my first year (and) I don’t know what to expect,” Auten said, “but I always aim for the top. By counties, we should be rolling.”
There’s not as much experience at the varsity level as in past seasons for Lake Orion. But that’s a fixable problem according to coach Cory Kuzinski.
“There’s never any doubt the kids will get better,” he said, “(but) there’s always a question how fast we can get them ready.”
With the season already started, the process has already begun. Meanwhile, Dom Arnold (152) and Adam Gros (189) are returning state placers, Mitch Ladd (171) doesn’t give up points easily and Deven Ellis (140) and John Atwater (140) have gotten bigger and better. Cam Masters (125) has experience. Most everyone else will be battling for mat time with Vinne Gianino (135), Dmitri Hudson (160), Dan Deachin (145), Jon Yeglinski (215) and Mac Boyer (295) hoping to contribute. Freshmen Charlie Highlen (112) and David Moore III (103), a middle school champ, could help immediately.
“It’s an OK lineup. We’ll see how it pans out,” Kuzinski said.
Despite being the smallest school in the OAA Red, Auburn Hills Avondale isn’t backing down.
“I think we’ll have one of the strongest teams we’ve ever had,” said coach Ray Went, who emphasizes character, unselfishness and hard work, “and they’re following through.”Junior Victor Vettese, a two-time state placer — he won the state title as a freshman — heads the group along with Trevor Wright (130), a two-time regional qualifier, James McCoury (189), Sam Trella (125) and Kyle Reinhart, another returning state qualifier. Other key wrestlers include juniors Chris Wilson (215), Jarrell Fields (145) and Jesse Mitchell (119), a regional qualifier, and sophomores Skyler Russ (112), Grant Sharkey (140) and Dean Vettese (145). Went has headed the program for 36 years and counting. “I’m thankful for the health and energy to do this,” he said.
With a solid group of returnees, Rochester Adams coach Mike Holtz is encouraged.
“We only graduated two seniors out of the lineup, and we have a great freshman class,” he said. “This senior class is extra special for me, because it’s my first full class to come through since I’ve been coaching.”
Among those are Kevin Jock (135), who had 35 wins last year, Jordan Gowman (171), Grant Broihan and Paul Mikhjian, who won more than 40 matches last year.
But returning Oakland County champ Mac Fisher leads the crew. He had more than 40 victories last year and seeks more. Justin Schofield (103), Jack Sickinater and John Coe (112), a returning state qualifier, will also contribute among close to 40 wrestlers.
“Obviously, I’m just looking to be able to compete with the heavy hitters,” Holtz said. “(But) I think we’re able to bang with anybody.”
The OAA Red provides a strong challenge in nearly every outing, which concerns West Bloomfield coach Greg Alessi.
“We hope to be competitive and not embarrass ourselves,” said Alessi, who’ll have enough manpower to do just that. Avery Hasenauer (152) brings experience and grit, Anthony Thompson (130) is solid and Trace Williamson (125) just missed going to state last year. Darin Bahro (171) and Ross Bahro will also contribute among some 35 wrestlers on the squad.
With a strong returning lineup, Rochester has great expectations. Sophomore Josh Wood (112) was a state finalist, Kaelan Richards (125) was a state placer and Matt Waskiewicz (171), who hit all the right notes when he sang “God Bless America” at last season’s state individual tournament, is a returning state qualifier, along with Diego Camp (140). Cody DeVoe (160) and Marcell Johnson (215) have another year of experience, along with Trevor Elliott (145), Derrick Steinard (152) and Todd Puchovan (119). Justin Kim (103) and Joey Gunther (125) and Jack Glancy give the Falcons experience up and down the lineup.
“Our lightweights are obviously pretty good,” coach Frank Lafferty said. “We’re actually a pretty rounded team. We’ll be real competitive. We’ll practice hard every day and improve as the season goes on and see what happens.”
Although it lost a state placer to Catholic Central as a transfer, Farmington Hills Harrison won’t be hurting. The Hawks have already taken down a pair of foes in the OAA Blue. And coach Jim Stuef, who has a squad of some 34 wrestlers, expects some help from a few football players from the state championship team.
Until then, Andre Sanders (130) has experience, James Roberts (145) is solid, Evan Doyle (119) continues to improve and Marcus Shepherd (152) is physical.
“Our division, there’s a lot of parity,” Stuef said, “(but) I think we’ll be right up there in the thick of it.”
Birmingham Seaholm will wrestle with courage and pride this season in memory of its late coach, Mike Hessling, who passed away this summer.
“They miss him a lot,” said Neil Tuomi, who was an assistant under Hessling for many years and enjoyed their friendship. “There was nobody like him to bounce off ideas.”
With about 30 wrestlers on the squad, Seaholm will be led by juniors Ryan Law (135) and Cameron Brady (119), who combined for more than 50 victories last year. Tuomi recently notched his 100th career victory as a head coach as he seeks to keep the Maples going.
Troy, with only five seniors on the team, just hopes to make some noise with Danny Coleman (119) and John Biegen (125), a pair of county meet placers from last year, returning. Eric Confer (140) is a regional qualifier and Jeff Morton (152) and Cory Meyer (189) hope to get their licks in, too.
“We don’t have a lot of juniors and we were a real young team last year,” said Troy coach Gary Harland, now in his 30th season.
“We’ve got about five or six 10th graders in the lineup and we’re hoping they picked up some valuable experience and can win some matches for us. (But) we’re having fun and guys are learning.”
Farmington could be a factor, despite its youth.
“We still have a lot of young wrestlers on the team,” Falcons coach Al Beyar said, “and we were young last year.”
Still, they return Nick Tomski (152), Kevin Kennerly (119), Nimantha Herath (112) and Justin Rowe (285). Kieunuwa Davis (130) and Zach Schulz (135) are among some 40 wrestlers available for Beyar, whose squad had a 6-2 league record last year.
Stoney Creek has the mindset of a contender in a balanced league, where the title is up for grabs.
“I had my best freshman class last year and biggest freshman class this year, so I’m real excited about the numbers,” said Smart, who’ll have some 50 wrestlers available.
Among them are Nick Gajdzik (215), a returning state placer, and several regional qualifiers — Anthony Bowlson (189), Dominic Waldorf (145) and Jake Hazelton (135).
North Farmington lost a slew of seniors from a squad which reached the team regional finals, so it’ll be hurting for a while. But veteran coach Tom Seremet knows how to get the most of a squad which includes Courtney Drew (189), Kevin Miller (171) and James Ward (152).
While Ferndale has trouble filling a complete lineup — it’ll have about 18 wrestlers — they usually can bring thunder with a few individuals. Chavez Farris (171), a returning all-stater, and Donovan Jackson (140) will bring the heat for the team.
“We don’t have a lot of experienced kids,” Eagles coach Charlie Morgan said, “but we’re always willing to work.”
He figures the team’s conditioning will go a long way toward improvement.
Since veteran coach Mike Conflitti has left the Hazel Park premises, Dale Hart, a former Viking from the 1980s, and assistant Steve Morton are in charge, as they try to keep the team’s momentum going. Two-time returning state qualifier Cody Vanderhagen (130) leads the pack with Adam Quintero (135), Shelby Mullins (189) and A.K. Anouya giving ample support. Freshman Joe Saferian (103), from a line of top-caliber wrestlers from the Saferian family, will be a solid addition. Heavyweight DaKwan Dillard will anchor the upper weight classes. Hazel Park, which has reached the team Division 2 state quarterfinals in four of the past five years, is still thinking big.
“One of our goals is to return to Battle Creek for team state finals,” Morton said.
Royal Oak, with about 25 wrestlers, still must compensate for nine graduated seniors, whom coach Scott Welborn may find hard to replace. Even so, the Ravens are up to the challenge. Sophomore Zeke Burns (112) had a solid campaign as a freshman, senior Sean Kavanaugh (215) had only one loss going into last year’s regionals, and Tyler McCullough (125) is looking to make a great leap forward.
“We’re a pretty young team (so) we’re in a youthful movement,” Welborn said. “Hopefully those guys will step up and fill some shoes.”
Defending champion Southfield will have league title aspirations again. The Bluejays opened their season with a pair of dual-meet victories and seek more along the way.
“Our goal is to win it,” said coach Vernon Burden, who’ll have the bodies to do it. Keith Hines (125), Dan Wagner (152) and Bernard Cheairs (145) are returning with experience, although Wagner and Cheairs have been slowed by injuries.
In its second year since the merger between the former Central and Northern high schools, Pontiac will be guided by first-year head coach Adam Polk. Seniors Devoniere Jackson (171), Andre Young (145), Cory Cogdell and Qashawn Logan will bring experience to a squad of some 36 wrestlers, most of whom are freshmen.
That includes Dazon Cole (140) and Davion Logan (119) who, despite their youth, are expected to make immediate contributions.
“We will be ready to compete in the OAA,” Polk said. “However, our main focus is getting better with the little things consistently every day and everything else will follow.”
The lack of a junior high program for 10 years has hurt Berkley, which will nevertheless forge on with hopes of getting mat time. Pat Dooley (171), Daniel Okun (130) are among the leaders, along with some youngsters who could also contribute. Sophomores Austin Brantley (135) and Adam Kopitz will help along with freshman Aaron Par-Besemer.
“I’m happy with what I see with the young kids,” Bears coach Dave Roche said.
Bloomfield Hills Lahser, still struggling with low numbers, will yield points in every outing. Still, Yazan El-Baba (119), Mitchell Gall (140) and senior captain Jake Hughes (119) should carry Lahser throughout the season. Lahser coach Chuck Donley, with a tall task ahead, is undaunted with his youthful squad.
“Every practice, every kid has shown has shown all the heart in the world,” Donley said. “By the end of the year, if we can get 11 kids in the lineup, we’ll be able o compete. As long as they stay with me, we’ll develop.”
With another year of experience and more bodies (from 18 last year to 24), improving Bloomfield Hills Andover is looking upward.
“I’ve got some pretty good young guys,” said coach Tony Scigliano, whose assistant, Dave Hack, has been on the recruiting trail in the hallways. “Dave coached freshman football and he was able to bring in some football players. We’re definitely solid this year with ... new kids and veterans.”
Indeed, John Williams (152), a regional qualifier from last season, returns along with Sasha Bogdanov (112), Brody Wagerson (189) and E.Z. Kidron (285), who notched some 20 victories last season. The Barons were third in the division last year but could move up. “I think we’re more prepared as team,” Scigliano said. “I’m confident.”
As defending state and league champs, the Novi Detroit Catholic Central Shamrocks will draw lots of attention. And that’s fine with them.
“They’ve got a target on their back (and) they’re not afraid,” CC coach Mitch Hancock said. “They’re excited and they embrace it.”
That’s despite returning state champ Todd Melick and state finalist Justin Melick, who were supposed to be on the roster, but transferred to Lake Fenton. However, the rest of the Shamrocks, numbering around 90, aren’t concerned.
They return six state placers, including T.J. Fagan (119), Ken Bade (125), Alec Mooradian (140), Nick Mason (140), Miles Trealout (189) and Kevin Beazly (171), a transfer from Farmington Hills Harrison. Andy Erickson is a state qualifier and Zack Colone (119) and Riley Hanson (135) add depth, along with a strong freshman class headed by Andrew Garcia (152) and Logan Marcicki (130).
“They’re some of the best freshmen I’ve seen,” Hancock said. “I know they can compete hard (and) give upperclassmen some challenges.”
The Birmingham Brother Rice Warriors just don’t have the manpower for the Shamrocks, who can field several competitive teams. But coach Scott Moseley hopes to continue driving Rice upward. Returning state qualifier Andrew Napieraj (135) is in the lineup. So are J.D. Plomin (140), Shon Powell (160) and John Schuele (125), along with Tom Girardot, an all-state distance runner. Dillon Ervin (215), Tom Schneider (285) and Josiah Thomas (189), who give the Warriors strength up top.
Orchard Lake St. Mary’s has a signature victory over Brother Rice, although the Eaglets may struggle in a tough league.
This title is up for grabs in perhaps the most balanced league of all. Lakeland, which already has a victory over Milford, it’s first over its in-district rival since 1998, is seeking more surprises.
“We’re pretty young,” second-year Lakeland coach Matt Bishop said, “(but) we’ve got our whole lineup back, pretty much.”
Alex Sokoll, who placed fifth in the KLAA tournament last year, and Brandon Calma (119) will help, along with Eric Gerber (103) and Kyle Babin (125), who has the most experience.
Walled Lake Western is still climbing.
“Our numbers are up after losing 10 seniors,” said coach Nick Atwood, who’ll have some 30 wrestlers available. “We’re a pretty young team but we’ve got a huge junior class (and) we have a nice freshman class.”
Senior Evan Yezbick (119) will lead the Warriors with help from juniors Brent Zdebski (215), an all-county football player, Nick Denney (285) and Gabe Costanzo (135). Anthony Chudler (103) has the most experience out of the freshman group.
Walled Lake Central’s deep run in the state football tournament may affect the squad, but only temporarily.
“We had a really good football year, so a lot of these guys have only been practicing a few days,” Vikings coach Al Feeman said. “But the last half of the year, we’ll be solid.”
Charles Sovel (189), Conner Marion (171), Nick Zakovich (160) and Kyle Marion (152) form the core of a competitive lineup.
Waterford Kettering will be in command of a young squad of mostly freshmen and sophomores, according to head coach Brett Hanna, and they’ll have to earn quickly. County meet placer Montell Watkins (130) and Luke Reno (189), who was injured much of last season, will lead the Captains, who number around 60 wrestlers.
“Even though we are young, we still expect to compete in the KLAA North,” said Hanna, who’ll have assistants Chris Tyle, Drew Gerds, Fred Jensen and the Willits brothers, Gavin and Tom, helping.
Waterford Mott’s victory at the Waterford Invitational last week has encouraged the Corsairs, who are still trying to rebuild.
“We’re flying under the radar early,” coach Ted Bowersox said. “We’re moving our way up this year, and we’re young.”
Second-year wrestler Chris Saikalis (215) should help, along with veteran Keybondra Sangster, who notched 30 victories last season. Jakeese Cody (189) and four-year varsity wrestler Kevin Shafto (103) will also contribute.
“Last couple of years we’ve been short on guys,” said Bowersox, who is trying to build a synergy with the football team, “but we’ve got a full squad this year and you can definitely see the spirit.”
Walled Lake Northern coach Neil Fenzel will have to weather heavy graduation losses, as Anthony and Andrew Hahnenberg, a pair of scrappy sophomores, and seniors Jake Helka and Alex Zatouna help carry the burden.
Perennial power Hartland, which spent much of the past decade chasing a state title, is in a situation coach Todd Cheney has rarely faces.
The Eagles graduated 14 seniors, “some absolute shredders,” Cheney said. “For the first time in 16 years, we’re having a rebuilding season.”
And that’s even more challenging for the Eagles, since Brighton returns nearly its entire starting lineup from last season, and Howell also features a solid squad.
Hartland has been one of the state’s top teams for much of the past decade or so, winning 10 straight conference and district titles, and nine straight regional crowns. There was a four-year stretch from 2004-07 where the Eagles reached the finals each time.
Even though they won’t fly as high as in the past, Hartland has tradition, a veteran coach and five returning state qualifiers, including Chase Snider (145), a three-time state qualifier, Matt Ostermiller (189) and three state placers in Keith Boldt (119), John Julien (152) and Ross Kantola (125).
“Everybody else on the team is new,” said Cheney, who’ll have some 35 wrestlers on the squad. “We know we have a lot of work to do to get where we’ve been in the past.”
Howell’s Ben Calandrino (103) and Alex Calandrino (125), among the top-ranked wrestlers in their classes, will help drive the Highlanders.
Milford was hit hard, right in the starting lineup with the loss of a number of key starters to graduation at a time where the wild, wild West is at its strongest ever. Still, the Mavs will rebound with a young crew willing to learn under coach Ryan Arnold. Ryan Gibbs (160), Luke Rea (152), Nick Hartley (140) and John Ernst (189) will be among key wrestlers in a tough division.
Although Holly lost four-time county champ Josh Houldsworth — he’s wrestling at Columbia University —the Bronchos won’t be hurting. The Flint Metro League title, especially with the departure of Oxford, is in sight with returning state champ Anthony Gonzales (119) and state placer Esteban Gonzales (125) on the roster. Shawn Scott (171) also medaled at state along with Mason Cleaver (112). Freshmen Andrew Scott (135), Kyle Pepper (119) and Dominic Russ (103) add depth to the loaded lower weights for Holly, which will have some 40 wrestlers available. Zack Jones (130), a transfer from Fenton, will also help.
“We’re definitely one of the top three teams in the league,” Holly coach Don Pluta said, “(but) it’s up top where we’ve really got to come through. We have a nice core of returning kids who we need to step up to the next level if we’re going to do anything as a team this year.”
Ortonville Brandon placed third at the Berkley Invitational and hopes to maintain a competitive pace.
“We’re a little down (in numbers) but we have 12 freshmen,” said coach Erik Donders, who’ll have some 23 wrestlers at his disposal. They include Franklin Privette (171), Luigi Reo (215)) and Eric Vandenbossche (145), who each won titles at the Berkley meet. Nate Manfroni (112) and Nick Bis (103) will also help and freshmen Trevor Bourdeau (119) and Max Wardel (135) will be counted upon for contributions.
“We’ll take our lumps at the beginning of the season,” said Donders, who is confident his squad will get better.
Madison Heights Lamphere is looking at another solid season with Division 2 state runner-up Jackson Lewis (189) heading the list of returnees which include state qualifiers Andrew Gorman (112) and Griffen Winke (140). Returning starters include seniors Peter Mcalpine (152), Ben Smith (160) and Adam Techow (125) and sophomore Evan Reich.
“If we stay healthy and continue to work as hard as we are, we will have a good season,” said coach Russ McKenzie. “With the addition of our strong freshmen group we should reload on the fly and be in the mix come tournament time.”
Predicted Order of Finish
1. Oxford; 2. Clarkston; 3. Rochester; 4. Rochester Adams; 5. Lake Orion; 6. Avondale; 7. West Bloomfield; 8. Troy Athens
1. Farmington Harrison; 2. Stoney Creek; 3. Farmington; 4. Hazel Park; 5. North Farmington; 6. Birmingham Seaholm; 7. Troy; 8. Ferndale; 9. Royal Oak.
1. Southfield; 2. Pontiac; 3. Berkley; 4. Bloomfield Hills Andover; 5. Birmingham Groves; 6. Oak Park; 7. Bloomfield Hills Lahser; 8. Southfield-Lathrup
1. Walled Lake Central; 2. Waterford Kettering; 3. Waterford Mott; 4. Walled Lake Northern; 5. Walled Lake Western; 6. Lakeland
1. Brighton; 2. Hartland; 3. Howell; 4, Grand Blanc; 5. Milford; 6. Pinckney
1. Livonia Stevenson; 2. Salem; 3. South Lyon; 4. Novi; 5. Northville; 6. South Lyon East
1. Canton; 2. Livonia Franklin; 3. Westland John Glenn; 4. Livonia Churchill; 5. Plymouth; 6. Wayne Memorial
Flint Metro League
1. Holly; 2. Linden; 3. Lapeer East; 4. Fenton; 5. Fenton; 6. Ortonville Brandon; 7. Swartz Creek; 8. Clio; 9. Flint Kearsley