Warren Mott wrestling celebrates its first-ever regional championship title on Feb. 14 at Fraser High School.

Warren Mott wrestling celebrates its first-ever regional championship title on Feb. 14 at Fraser High School.

Photo provided by Mott wrestling

Friendship sparks unforgettable season for Mott Wrestling

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Warren Weekly | Published March 1, 2024


WARREN — Who knew a picture of seven freshmen from a team banquet would last a lifetime in the history of Warren Mott wrestling?

The 2020-2021 Michigan High School Athletic Association wrestling season was abnormal to say the least with COVID-19 contact tracing at the top of every coach’s mind, figuring out how to keep their wrestlers safe while still active at the same time.

For Mott, it would be the final season of longtime head coach Paul Salyers running the show, who has since joined on as an assistant coach, and the ushering in of now third-year head coach Nolan McPartlin.

Call it intuition or just some sense of knowing talent when you see it, but the team’s finals banquet for the 2020-2021 season featured a photo of seven freshmen: Keaton Godfryd, Jude Kaptur, Paul Khamo, Tristian Perdue-Daniels, James Robinson, Adil Salam and Kiet Tran.

Now the veteran leaders and with multiple individual district and regional championship titles to the group’s name, their friendship that started long before wrestling has blossomed into a history-making season for the Marauders. The Marauders have also won the Macomb Area White Conference and the district championship in eight of the last nine years.

“The bond between us is very strong,” Perdue-Daniels said. “I feel like I could not see the guys in 20 years and we could still pick up right where we left off. The friendship that we have is very unique. We can go from being best friends one second but when we need someone to kick us in the butt, they’re there for us.”

Behind their seven four-year seniors, the Marauders won the school’s first-ever regional championship, defeating Warren Cousino and Berkley in districts and Dearborn Fordson and Fraser in regionals before falling to Detroit Catholic Central in the state finals on Feb. 23 at the Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo.

The Marauders notched a close 37-35 win over Fraser as a Perdue-Daniels pin sealed the deal on the regional title and a win against a Fraser team in their own gym.

“We knew we were the better team,” Salam said. “We knew that going out there, but we just had to get the job done. The atmosphere in that gym was ecstatic. We had a lot of our people with parents, coaches, and former alumni from our school over at Fraser cheering us on. The entire gym was loud.”

Perdue-Daniels, Robinson, and Kaptur were no strangers to wrestling, holding experience in the sport before joining the varsity program.

For Salam, Khamo, Godfryd and Tran, it was an opportunity to spend time with friends while giving the sport a try, although some of them will willingly admit they thought there was no chance they’d make it this far.

Now senior veterans and four-year varsity wrestlers, they’re the ones holding the mentor role for the underclassmen looking to be mainstays in the program.

“It’s a big point of pride when I can look back and reflect on myself when I was maybe a freshman to a sophomore and I was looking up to the older guys and the seniors,” Godfryd said. “Now I’m that older guy and I can rub some of my knowledge off or things I wish I knew when I was younger on some of these younger guys.”

If there’s anyone the younger wrestler can learn from, a group consisting of three district champions (Perdue-Daniels, Tran, and Khamo) and regional champion in Khamo, and four state finals qualifiers (Tran, Khamo, Salam, and Kaptur) would be ideal mentors.

Junior Cameron Leone, a district champion, and sophomore John Kaminski also qualified for the MHSAA Division 1 individual state finals on March 1 at Ford Field, setting a school record for most state qualifiers in Mott history with six. Senior Mohammed Ahmed was also a key contributor for Mott, compiling a 20-18 record.

Kaminski, a two-time state qualifier, is one of Mott’s many sophomore sensations alongside Shane Stevens, a district champion in the 106-pound weight class after competing at the junior varsity level last year, and Ethan Drozdowski, a first-year wrestler last season with a background in karate. Freshman Robbie Deal and sophomore Jullian Reeves were consistent contributors for Mott as well.

McPartlin said the senior class’s role as mentors helped elevate the underclassmen.

“The younger kids see the success that the seniors had this year and how fast they’ve developed, and they ask them, ‘Hey, where did you go over the summer? I want to come too,’” McPartlin said. “I’m hoping that the culture of wrestling and putting the work in the summertime is going to start spreading and become kind of a norm like it is at other schools.”

For Godfryd, he stepped into more of a coaching role this season after being sidelined due to a back injury.

Godfryd has been unable to wrestle, but that hasn’t stopped him from impacting teammates around him.

“I was very sad for a while and I wasn’t hanging around as much, but when I got back into the room I got a new perspective,” Godfryd said. “I’m not competing or cutting weight, so I have more time to interact with these guys that are learning like I was.”

It will be a different type of atmosphere after graduating 15 seniors and a slew of experience, but the hope is the mentality of the 2024 class leaves a mark on the underclassmen and soon-to-be seniors.

There’s still one weekend left before the 2024 class bids farewell to an incredible high school career, but Salam said he’s confident the team will pick up right where they left off next year.

“I look at them (the underclassmen), and they’re just like us,” Salam said. “They’re coming back, working hard in the offseason, and they’re always putting in 100% effort. They just remind me of myself and all of us seniors. You can really depend on them.”