St. Clair Shores Lakeview celebrates a team district championship win on Feb. 7 at Grosse Pointe South High School.

St. Clair Shores Lakeview celebrates a team district championship win on Feb. 7 at Grosse Pointe South High School.

Photo provided by Lakeview wrestling

Lakeview wrestling: The MAC’s best-kept secret

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published March 1, 2024

 Lakeview senior Logan Craft will compete in the MHSAA Division 1 individual state finals on March 1 at Ford Field.

Lakeview senior Logan Craft will compete in the MHSAA Division 1 individual state finals on March 1 at Ford Field.

Photo provided by Lakeview wrestling


ST. CLAIR SHORES — For the past two seasons, St. Clair Shores Lakeview has quietly constructed a program ready to prove they’re one of the top teams in the Macomb Area Conference.

With back-to-back league titles in the MAC Gold, back-to-back district championships, and another state qualifier in junior and 157-pounder Logan Craft, who will compete on March 1 at Ford Field in the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 individual state finals, it’s time the Huskies start drawing some attention to what they’re building.

Lakeview collected a 54-21 win over MAC Gold rival Grosse Pointe South in the district finals on Feb. 7 at Grosse Pointe South High School.

Behind second-year head coach Eric Julien, who previously served as the head wrestling coach at Macomb Community College, Lakeview has adapted a mentality synonymous with a winning mindset: Your spot is earned, not given.

“The big quote that I used this year with the kids was ‘competition breeds success,’” Julien said. “When you have a bunch of guys behind you that all want to wrestle, you seem to step it up so you don’t lose your spot.”

Taking that to heart, the freshmen and sophomores jumped at the opportunity to earn a spot on the mat for the Huskies and also a chance to show the rest of the MAC what they’re in for over the next couple of years.

Freshman Chris Rodgers, an athletically gifted wrestler in the 150-pound weight class, broke out to the tune of a 26-13 record but really made his money when the state tournament rolled around.

Rodgers qualified for regionals on Feb. 11 at Royal Oak High School, placing third. Although he missed the top-4 spot at regionals to qualify for states, Julien said Rodgers showed his true potential as a wrestler.

“In order to make it to regionals, he knocked off a kid from Cousino that was ranked eighth in the state,” Julien said. “We didn’t think he (Rodgers) was that good. In order to make it to the blood round at regionals, he knocked off the guy that took first in his district. He turned it on at the right time.”

Alongside Rodgers, sophomore Dion Lacey, sophomore Gino Gisevan, sophomore Nikholas Dix, freshman Kingston Dix, and freshman Aiden Deguzman all made an impact as underclassmen. The Huskies are also counting on freshman Gavin Houthoofd and junior varsity county champion in the 157-pound weight class Jaylen Lewis to be consistent contributors next season.

A motivated, young group can do wonders for a program, especially when they’re keeping the upperclassmen on their toes at all times.

Holding in-team tournaments to challenge spots, wrestlers such as senior Brady Pope were consistently being pushed with six guys in the 165-pound weight class.

Pope held his own time and time again, and his 26-10 record reflected his work ethic and the adversity he overcame.

Even as seniors would lose their spots, they came back energized from a leadership perspective, mentoring the younger wrestlers in their own weight class.

Julien said seniors Max Mowrey, Anthony Gisevan, and Corion Lattimore were key veterans for the Huskies.

“We had seniors that weren’t the starters at their weight classes, and they were helping out the underclassmen who took their spot, stepping up and helping them out,” Julien said.

But as polarizing as the youthful Huskies were, Pope, senior Hayden Grainger and the junior class were as effective as a group can be.

Six Huskies tallied 25 or more wins as Grainger (31-6), junior Karl Monasterski (30-11), junior Ryan Doebler (26-16), junior Oliver Koepp (33-6), Pope (26-10) and Craft (40-3) put on a show. Grainger, Monasterski, Doebler, Koepp and Craft were all regional qualifiers for Lakeview.

Grainger, a four-year varsity wrestler, came into his own as a junior, and said he came into the season ready.

“Junior year, I really started to pay attention to what the coaches were saying and I really made a step up that year,” Grainger said. “I was only 180 last year as our starting 190, but we didn’t have a 215 or heavyweight (285) so I wrestled all three weight classes. Now as a senior, I made my way up to 215 and wrestled the 215 and the heavyweights. It was kind of a kick in the butt every time I had to wrestle a heavyweight because these guys are 285 and way bigger than me, but I still did it for my team.”

Grainger said he has to adapt on the fly with what weight class he’s wrestling, utilizing a more conservative, defensive approach against heavyweights.

He has the talent to wrestle collegiately, but Grainger’s time as a coach for the Jefferson Middle School wrestling program has unlocked a passion for coaching wrestlers as well, especially having someone like Julien as his coach the past two seasons.

“I really built a relationship with him (Julien),” Grainger said. “He really made me enjoy wrestling more than I did before because I made a bond with the coaches, and I really love my coaches so much. I wouldn’t do anything wrestling without them. I like having them in my corner.”

While Craft looks to end his junior season with a strong showing at the state finals, Lakeview will regroup for the 2024-2025 campaign behind a loaded senior class and a slew of young talent.

From what the Huskies have shown recently, don’t be surprised to see them in the district finals again, or even competing for a regional title.