Local grapplers earn
The wrestling individual state finals took place Feb. 27 through March 1 at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
The top eight finishers in each weight class through all four divisions earned All-State honors. Here’s a look at the local grapplers who found themselves on the podium.
Walled Lake Northern
Farmington Hills Harrison
Grosse Pointe North
Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse
Rochester Hills Stoney Creek
Utica Ford II
Walled Lake Central
West Bloomfield High
Warren Woods Tower
AUBURN HILLS — Bruised and battered, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek junior Andrew Price and Macomb Dakota senior Jake Johnson shared a laugh before walking up the podium March 1 at The Palace of Auburn Hills in the wrestling state finals.
Price lost two matches in the tournament, both decisions to Johnson. They placed fourth and third, respectively, at 160 pounds in Division 1.
Still, the camaraderie is part of what makes those long winter months — a good deal of which are spent cutting weight and at weekend tournaments, among other sacrifices — all worth it for the grapplers.
“There’s a lot of respect in wrestling,” Price said. “When the match is over, you set the competition aside.”
Price said he had to cut weight this winter, dropping around 20 pounds from the football season, even at the cost of turning down Twinkies when his friends brought them to school.
“Sometimes, you see them and you’re like, ‘Oh man,’ but wrestling is a sport about discipline. … This is what makes it all worth it,” he said, looking up at the crowd and then back down to the mats on the Palace floor. “Seeing those people watching us. It’s a great feeling and what drives me.”
For Clawson High junior Anthony Pizzo, the finals gave him a chance to walk in the Grand March — something he remembers witnessing as a freshman and hoping he’d be a part of one day.
“That was sweet, and it was great wrestling in front of all these fans,” said Pizzo, who finished eighth at 112 in D-3.
Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse junior Brendan Hazelton placed fifth at 112 in D-1 to earn All-State honors. Hazelton said reaching the podium this season helps make up for the empty feeling he’d had after last year’s finals, when he didn’t place.
“I’ve got some hardware now,” Hazelton said. “This is a great feeling. When I started out, thinking about where I am now, it’s unbelievable. But I’m trying to win (a state title) next year.”
Macomb Dakota sophomore 119-pound grappler Zack Prater finished eighth at 119 in D-1 to earn All-State honors in his first trip to the Palace.
Prater said the state finals represented a hectic time for him, but he’ll always remember the experience.
“Being here showed me where I stand with the best wrestlers in the state,” Prater said. “It makes me want to work even harder. I plan on doing a lot in the offseason to get better and, hopefully, finish a lot higher next year.”
Utica Ford II senior Victor Gegic placed eighth at 152 in D-1. Gegic said finishing in the top eight wasn’t even something he thought about when the season started.
“This has been great. I do wish I could have done a little better, though,” Gegic said. “But to make All-State in my first time here is really good. This tournament has been crazy. I’m happy I got to be (in the state finals).”
For Troy Athens senior Thomas Keyes, who placed fifth at 135 in D-1, the finals signified the end of his prep wrestling career.
“If feels kind of good. I can go be lazy now, even though I probably won’t,” he said.
His brother, John Keyes, also a former state placer for the Red Hawks, coached Keyes.
“He was a good coach and didn’t treat me any differently,” Keyes said. “He just told me to go out there and win my last match, because you don’t want to go through life knowing you lost the last match of your career. So I just went out there and tried as hard as I could.”
Keyes accomplished his goal by winning his last bout in the consolation round a 3-2 decision.
Jason Caramel Davis contributed to this story.