Dakota wrestling outduels Fraser to win regional title

Pin in final bout of match the difference

By: Jason Carmel Davis | C&G Newspapers | Published February 17, 2016

 The Macomb Dakota wrestling team outlasted Fraser High 34-28 in a thrilling regional final Feb. 17. Pictured is Dakota 119-pounder Kelton Burch battled Fraser's Josh Brady during the regional final.

The Macomb Dakota wrestling team outlasted Fraser High 34-28 in a thrilling regional final Feb. 17. Pictured is Dakota 119-pounder Kelton Burch battled Fraser's Josh Brady during the regional final.

Photo by Sean Work

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FRASER — The Macomb Dakota wrestling team this postseason could be garnering a reputation as a team that lives for high drama.

That was no more evident than in the Cougars 34-28 win over Fraser High in a Division 1 regional Final Feb. 17 at Fraser.

The match was tied at 28 heading to the final bout. Dakota 125-pounder Nick Barrett scored a pin early in the third period to give his team a win and a trip to Mount Pleasant for the state quarterfinals. The Cougars (17-4) will face Hartland High in a D-1 quarterfinal at 2 p.m. Feb. 26 at Central Michigan University.

"It was my teammates who put me in the position to win the match," Barrett said. "I just know how to wrestle smart — nothing too complicated. It's so good to be in the position I'm in. I like having that weight on my shoulders. It feels good."

The regional final was tight throughout.

Dakota, which won its third regional title in four years, jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead on a pin by 130-pounder Tyler Sanders. Fraser cut the lead to 6-3 after a 3-2 decision won by 135-pounder Jalen Smith. Cougars 135-pounder Layne Malczewski scored a pin to put his team up 12-3.

The teams then traded decisions over the next two matches, with Dakota up 15-6 through five bouts. The score after seven bouts stood at 19-12 in favor of Dakota, with Fraser 160-pounder Justin Roberts scoring a pin and Cougars 171-pounder Jack Morris getting four points for his team.

Fraser pulled to within one at 19-18 after a Dakota void in the 189-pound match. The Ramblers (31-6) scored decisions in the next two matches to go ahead 25-19 with four matches left.

Dakota's Cameron Raybon got a pin in the 103-pound match to tie the regional final at 25 in the late stages. Fraser 112-pounder Nate Hollifield won a 13-9 decision to put his team up 28-25 with two matches left.

Dakota's Kelton Burch earned a 3-2 decision in the 119-pound bout to tie the match at 28. A one-point escape late in the final period helped Burch get the win, setting the stage for Barrett's heroics.

"That's the second time a regional title has come down to Barrett," Dakota coach Ed Skowneski said. "He's got ice water in his veins. He'll go out there with the pressure on him, and he'll wrestle better than normal. I'm really proud of him."

Skowneski said he expected the bout to be tight. He gave credit to Dakota wrestlers who suffered defeats, but didn't lose major decisions or by pinfall.

"Our guys fought off their backs really well," Skowneski said. "We have a young team but these guys have had years of work. The kids come in ready to wrestle."

Dakota beat Fraser in a regional final in 2014. Fraser coach Rick Julien praised his team for its effort.

"It was a good fight. We gave it everything we had. We needed a pin here or there, and we didn't get it," Julien said. "(Dakota) is good. That's the bottom line. They're tough. We just came up short today."

To get to regional final, Dakota knocked off Sterling Heights Stevenson 68-12 and Fraser bested St. Clair Shores Lakeview 71-4.

For continuous coverage of the state wrestling postseason, check www.candgnews.com.

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