Big Reds win district championship with unlikely heroes

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Fraser-Clinton Chronicle | Published April 2, 2024

 Senior captains Marcus Abdal, right, and Mattheos Mitropetros, left, work on moves during a team practice.

Senior captains Marcus Abdal, right, and Mattheos Mitropetros, left, work on moves during a team practice.

Photo provided by Marcus Abdal


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Chippewa Valley wrestling had been through it all this season.

Injuries clouded any bright moment for a healthy lineup for the Big Reds while the Macomb Area Conference Red did its fair share of damage, leaving Chippewa Valley in the basement of the conference.

“We were fortunate to pull through,” head coach Nick Bowers said. “We had a tough year with injuries and stuff. We had a ton of people who were sick, and it seemed like every time we would get people back from being sick, someone else would get sick.”

But through all the obstacles and all the brutal elements of the season, there was one bright spot Chippewa Valley wrestler turned to as a momentum shift.

Senior Marcus Abdal was one of the fallen wrestlers this season for Chippewa Valley, suffering a torn UCL before a MAC Red division meet that saw nearly half of Bowers’ team sidelined.

While displeased that his high school wrestling career came to a close early, Abdal was one of many Big Reds wrestlers cheering from the edge of the mat for freshman Eli Rinas, who was about to send the Big Reds to the district championship.

Rinas had battled the ebbs and flows any first-year wrestler goes through while transitioning to varsity, but as he picked up the win in the 120-pound weight class in the first round of districts against Utica Ford on Feb. 7 at Ford High School, a different feeling surrounded Chippewa Valley wrestling.

“We were all screaming because he had the kid on his back for 10-15 seconds before he pinned him. It was amazing,” Abdal said. “I’ve never seen a person that happy in my life. Not only did Rinas’ win secure the Big Reds a spot in the district championship, but it showed the rest of the team just how hard the freshman wrestlers were working to contribute.”

“We saw the lengths the freshman were going,” sophomore Nathan Murphy said. “One of the freshmen, Eli, at districts in the first dual, he got the pin to win the dual. That was something that we’ve seen, that the freshmen on varsity that don’t know what they’re doing are accomplishing this much for the team.”

Chippewa Valley would carry the momentum just minutes later into a district title meet against MAC Silver league champions Macomb L’Anse Creuse North, and Chippewa Valley would capture their first district title since 2019 in a 39-28 win.

The state tournament run would end in a loss to MAC Red rival Macomb Dakota, but the Big Reds continued to make noise on the individual side.

Senior Mattheos Mitropetros, who was 44-4 on the season, captured an individual district championship and finished top-four at regionals to earn a state finals berth.

Murphy continued his standout season with a regional qualification and will be one Chippewa Valley leans on as a potential state finals qualifier.

Bowers said Murphy, who compiled a 37-15 record, took his preparation for the season to another level.

“During the offseason, he put a lot of work in with some camps, and every open mat we had he didn’t miss,” Bowers said. “He just took to wrestling like a fish to water. He came out this year with a whole different mentality. We’re about halfway in the season and us as a coaching staff are looking like, ‘Wow, he’s come a long way in a short amount of time.’”

With a loaded senior class set to graduate, Chippewa Valley’s underclassmen group has all the makings to continue building on the success.

Murphy, sophomore Brendan Bowers, and sophomore Logan Kowalski will headline the incoming junior class while freshmen Crosby Runevitch and Anthony Hosier will look to take a step forward in year two.

Juniors Brody Kelly, Justin Gjinaj, and Jacob Brown will lead the incoming senior group hoping to fill a portion of the void left by Anthony Wright, Charlton Eden, Ricky Evans Jr., Abdal, and Mitropetros.

With a strong group of veteran wrestlers set to return, Murphy said he expects Chippewa Valley to be right back in the hunt for a district championship.

“We know how hard each other are working and it’s not like, ‘Oh, this person isn’t doing this,’” Murphy said. “With the sophomore class, we’re all working hard towards somewhat of the same goal and we have leadership from the people above us to show us what we should be doing.”