Macomb Dakota senior Layne Malczewski celebrates after winning the Division 1 state title at 171 pounds March 3 at Ford Field. Malczewski finished his career at 225-23, the most wins in program history.

Macomb Dakota senior Layne Malczewski celebrates after winning the Division 1 state title at 171 pounds March 3 at Ford Field. Malczewski finished his career at 225-23, the most wins in program history.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Prater and Malczewski top the podium for Dakota

Eight Dakota grapplers place sixth or better in the finals

By: Timothy Pontzer | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published March 3, 2018

DETROIT — In the east end zone of Ford Field, history was made.

Sophomore Brock Prater and senior Layne Malczewski earned the first individual state championships in Macomb Dakota history, capturing titles at 103 and 171 pounds, respectively, March 3.

Overall, the Cougars had eight representatives earn medals in the two-day tournament. At 103, freshman Brendan Ferretti took third; junior Nick Alayan earned the runner-up spot at 112; and junior Justin Tiburcio was sixth at 119. Senior Tommy Gawlowski notched sixth at 140; junior Dustin Solomon placed fourth at 160; and senior Rahmi Khalil finished fourth at 285.

"I'm really happy, I'm really proud of these kids for working extremely hard," Dakota coach Ed Skowneski said after Malczewski's victory. "The kids that are going to graduate really gave a lot to this program. Days like today are an example of that."

A week prior, the Cougars ended the season with a Division 1 state semifinal loss to Brighton High in Kalamazoo. Skowneski said after the defeat — which handed Dakota a 30-3 overall record — that he believed his club would use the shortcoming as motivation for the individual round.

"We were definitely motivated, and you could tell from the great week of practice we had," Skowneski said. "As a leader, (Malczewski) did what was needed and everyone else followed suit. This is a tough tournament, especially being two days. You have to stay fresh and bring your best each time because this is the best competition you can face."

The event started at 103 pounds, which featured Prater defeating Rochester Hills Stoney Creek sophomore Blake Noonan with an 8-2 decision. 

"It's a good feeling, but I couldn't do it without everyone on this team that helped me out," Prater explained before accepting his medal. "I had a good week of practice, and I definitely went harder than usual."

It marked the first loss of Noonan's season as the opposing Cougar came in at 46-0.

"I wasn't intimidated, we faced each other in eighth grade and I beat him," said Prater who improved his season record to 52-3. "I started off strong and pushed the pace with him. I got early back points and knocked him down, which gave me a lot of confidence."

Prater praised his regular sparring partner in Ferretti as a big reason for his success.

"I'm really happy for him, we work really hard in the room for days like this," Ferretti said. "It was a tough day but everyone wrestled well. Layne is a really good wrestler and Brock is too. They're great examples for us young guys to follow."

Skowneski called Prater's win monumental, helping set the tone for a historic afternoon.

"Somebody has to be first," Skowneski said. "Until you get it, it seems so far off. But once one guy gets it, then others believe they can do it too. It's taken us a little bit to get our first state champ but Prater came out here and went after it. He stayed on the attack the whole match, which is what you have to do in these situations."

In his final prep match, Malczewski earned a 5-0 decision over Davison High junior Cal Stefanko. The Michigan State commit called the victory redemption after medaling in the past three state finals.

"The fourth time is the charm, I finally got it," Malczewski said after apologizing for being out of breath following his win. "I've been working over the summer, trying as hard as I can for this. Obviously putting in the extra work paid off."

Skowneski praised Malczewski's training regimen, pointing to that work in the summer as a key reason for besting the field.

"Layne is a great athlete and he does a lot of other sports," Skowneski said. "Up until last summer, he kind of split his time between baseball, football and wrestling. This past summer he really dedicated himself to wrestling, and he didn't have a close match all year. He had one of the most dominant seasons you can have."

Malczewski finished the season at 55-0 and closed out his career at 225-23. It's the most wins in Dakota history. He set the program record for pins in a season (44), only had three matches go the distance all year and was not taken down once during the campaign.

"Layne is a gamer. Whenever there's pressure on him, he wrestles his best," Skowneski said. "He means so much to us. Not just the guys in high school, but the kids in our youth program see this. They see what he did and want to be like him."

Malczewski looked back to the team loss against Brighton as extra fuel.

"I really had a bad taste in my mouth after not getting to the finals. That's what drove me today, I have to thank Brighton, they pushed me to this point," Malczewski said. "To end things with a state title is an exclamation point on my career. This is the best feeling ever to bring one back to my hometown. It's just a blessing."