HARRISON TOWNSHIP — After the Division 1 regional meet Feb. 19 at Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse, no one wants to face the Lancers’ grapplers at the Division 1 individual state finals.
All three of L’Anse Creuse’s finalists — senior 119-pouner Chris Bohacek, senior 145-pounder Erik Winnega and junior heavyweight Jeff Tautolo — made their way to the final from the consolation bracket at the regional, where the consequences are win or go home.
“We went through a lot of pressure with five guys in the blood round, with no one guaranteed to get out,” coach Keith Weiand said of the regional. “But all three of the guys that got out made it out with pins, so that was really nice to see.”
That added fight through the regional has made the Lancers all the more confident and hungry heading into the 2010-11 individual state finals March 3-5 at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
“It feels good,” Bohacek said of knowing he’ll be returning to the finals after qualifying as a junior. “I’d rather be a two-time state placer, but I’m really feeling good this year.”
With the experience of the consolation bracket under their belts, grapplers like Bohacek and Winnega, who both qualified for the finals as juniors, can’t wait to make the most of their finals matches.
“I really wanted to do better and place last year, ” Bohacek said. “After I didn’t, a lot of people said, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be back.’ But I always wondered if I would.
“I didn’t want to miss out on that. And now that I am going back and I’ve got a taste of it, I really want to place.”
Grapplers earn All-State honors at The Palace by placing among the top eight in their division and weight. And to join the ranks of best in the state, wrestlers must first get comfortable to the unique environment.
“It didn’t sink in last year until I was in my first match, and I was pretty shell-shocked,” Winnega said. “From the march to everything else, it can be pretty hard to concentrate. But this year, I’m focused on wrestling.”
Tautolo, who made his way to the finals after pushing himself to improve from a freshman season that saw him win only four matches, is new to the environment.
“I felt really bad my freshman year. … I felt like I let my team down,” Tautolo said. “My sophomore year, I did a little bit better. This year, I feel better because I haven’t let my teammates down.”
While he is making his first appearance at The Palace, Tautolo has the benefit of his teammates’ experience and leadership, which is yet another reason the Lancers could be very dangerous.
“There’s a time to celebrate, and it’s not before your last match,” Winnega said. “You have to be ready to wrestle at the finals and be ready to wrestle against the best.”
“Some kids want the season to be over, and they are just happy to be there,” Bohacek added. “Not me, I want to win matches and place.”