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 Macomb Dakota junior Justin Tiburcio has his arm raised by the referee following a technical decision at 119 during the Division 1 state semifinal in Kalamazoo Feb. 24. Tiburcio and the Cougars fell 33-23 to Brighton High in the match.

Macomb Dakota junior Justin Tiburcio has his arm raised by the referee following a technical decision at 119 during the Division 1 state semifinal in Kalamazoo Feb. 24. Tiburcio and the Cougars fell 33-23 to Brighton High in the match.

Photo by Patricia O'Blenes

Dakota wrestling falls in state semifinals

Cougars end season at 30-3 overall

By: Timothy Pontzer | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published February 24, 2018


KALAMAZOO — For the second straight year, Macomb Dakota's wrestling campaign ended tantalizingly close to history.

The Cougars came close to becoming the first Macomb County team to ever appear in a Division 1 team final, falling just short with a 33-23 loss to Brighton High Feb. 24 at Wings Event Center.

The state semifinal match started at 189 pounds, with Brighton notching a decision followed by a major at 215 to jump out to a 7-0 advantage.

"(Brighton) is a really good team, well coached, solid all the way through," Dakota coach Ed Skowneski said. "They really don't have a weakness to attack. We were hoping to get some wins earlier on and minimize things with some bonus points, but things didn't go our way. I'm still proud of the kids, they wrestled hard."

The Cougars responded with a 15-0 run through the next four bouts. The scamper was punctuated by a technical fall from junior Justin Tiburcio at 119.

Brighton swung the tide with back-to-back pins at 125 and 130, followed by wins in four straight bouts. The 26-0 run cemented the outcome, as the Bulldogs led 33-14 with two bouts left.

"The back-to-back pins there was really tough," Skowneski admitted. "It got their team up. We responded well and were hoping to win some of the next matches but we couldn't get it done. It is what it is."

The Cougars closed out the morning with a decision at 160 by junior Dustin Solomon and a pin from senior Layne Malczewski at 171. 

The loss marked a second straight defeat in the state semifinals, ending a three-year run that started with a quarterfinal appearance in 2016.

"It's great, but it's tough at the same time," Skowneski said. "Our goal wasn't to get to the semis again, we've been here before. It was get to the finals and have a chance at the state title. It's good for our program, but we're still not satisfied."

Skowneski did take pride in his senior class, a group of nine.

"This is a huge senior class, and I'm proud of every single one of these kids," Skowneski remarked. "They worked hard for four straight years. They adopted that team mentality and what was best for the team. The strongest survive, and they did that and got to enjoy being here. They got to states three times and the semis twice, and that's never happened in school history. A lot of that is because of them. A good portion of them are not only the starters but also leaders."

Malczewski agreed, calling it a tough loss but the ending to what has been a great ride.

"A lot of kids came in freshman year but got out because they weren't tough enough for the sport," Malczewski said. "Obviously the kids that stuck it out are tough enough."

The Michigan State commit said he would fondly remember the deep postseason pushes.

"We showed what we were made of by making it to the semis the past two years," Malczewski said. "We made it to states our sophomore year when we weren't supposed to. It's been astonishing these last four years. I'm ecstatic because these are all my best friends. It's not just a wrestling bond, we're a family. I hope we've been a big help for our program, especially for the future with all these kids coming up."

While the team season is over, Malczewski said he has unfinished business. He is one of 12 Cougars that will be competing in the individual state championships March 2-3 at Ford Field in downtown Detroit.

"This will definitely be a motivation," Malczewski said. "This will push us. It hurts, so hopefully we can push through and have a couple state champions for the first time."

Skowneski echoed that message.

"This is going to leave a bad taste in their mouth, and they're going to work hard all week," Skowneski said. "Hopefully we get some state titles on Saturday."

Dakota ends the year with a 30-3 overall record. The only two teams to defeat the Cougars during the season were Brighton (twice) and Detroit Novi Catholic Central.