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Utica High falls in district final after beating Eisenhower to advance

Published February 15, 2012

» click to enlarge «
Utica High 119-pound grappler Kyle Teller, top, looks to score points in a match with Rochester High’s Seth Birchmeier during a Division 1 district final Feb. 9 at Utica. Teller would win the match on points, but the Chieftains fell to the Falcons 54-15.

UTICA — For the third straight year, the Utica High wrestling team advanced to a district final. And for the third straight year, the Chieftains came away disappointed — this time falling to Rochester High 54-15 Feb. 9 at Utica.

“We’ve made it to this point in all my three years on the team,” Utica senior heavyweight Andrew Ackerman said. “It’s pretty tough knowing this is the last match I have with the team.”

Chieftains grapplers couldn’t seem to find a groove against the Falcons, as they fell behind 10-0 two bouts into the final.

Rochester built a 45-9 lead on the strength of scoring six pinfalls — worth six points each — in the first 11 matches of the 14-fight final. Utica 171-pound grappler Erik Culberson scored a pin to cut the Falcon’s lead to 45-15. That was as close as Utica would get.

Rochester grapplers recorded seven pins in the 14-bout affair.

“We just weren’t able to pull it out,” said Ackerman, who next year will continue his wrestling career at Alma College.

“We knew going in that a lot of the Rochester guys were ranked pretty high, but that’s still no excuse.”

The win gave the Falcons their first division championship since 1993, according to coach Frank Lafferty.

“We had injuries hold us back the last couple years, with a guy breaking his arm and separating his shoulder before districts, Lafferty said. “This feels great.”

The Chieftains bested crosstown rival Utica Eisenhower 43-27 in its district semifinal; Rochester had a bye in the three-team heat.

Eagles coach Ricky Hinchlissfranke said pins killed his team in the match. Utica recorded five pins in the semifinal, while Eisenhower managed just two.

Utica coach Clint Davis said the loss was a tough one before shifting his focus to next season.

“Now it’s on to getting the guys ready to work in the offseason,” Davis said, adding that his team (at 24-6 overall, 6-1 in the Macomb Area Conference White Division) had a solid season.

“We’ve got to get their dedication up for wanting to put work in during the summer if they want to improve.”

Davis said he hopes to get a majority of his wrestlers to take part in several offseason activities, including attending camps at Central Michigan University and locally.

Utica graduates six seniors, but should have several wrestlers from this year’s team back next season, as the Chieftains this year had no juniors on the squad.

“We’re pretty young going into the future,” Davis said. “So I think the guys will look at this loss as a learning experience and grow from it.”

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