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Dakota wrestling wins third straight regional; De La Salle and Lakeview fall in semis

By: Timothy Pontzer | Warren Weekly | Published February 16, 2018

 Warren De La Salle junior Jack O’Donnell grapples with an opponent from Macomb Dakota during a team regional semifinal match Feb. 14. The Pilots finished the season with a 24-5 dual meet record.

Warren De La Salle junior Jack O’Donnell grapples with an opponent from Macomb Dakota during a team regional semifinal match Feb. 14. The Pilots finished the season with a 24-5 dual meet record.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — The Macomb Dakota wrestling team flexed its muscles, winning its two regional matches by a combined 121-15 score Feb. 14.

The title marks a third straight trip to the state quarterfinals and the sixth in the past seven seasons. The Cougars defeated New Baltimore Anchor Bay 61-6 in the final. Dakota opened the bout with three straight pins and a 26-0 run through the first five bouts.

“Anytime you go against Anchor Bay, they’re going to be tough,” Dakota coach Ed Skowneski said. “When you play against your rival, they’re always going to come to play and you have to have your best. It’s just like Michigan and Michigan State in football — it’s always going to be a good game.”

The Valentine’s Day blitz started with a 61-9 decision over Warren De La Salle in the first round in a clash that saw the Cougars jump out to a 61-0 lead.

“All week we’ve been talking about what our goals were and what it would take to get it done, and we did that today,” Skowneski said. “We have a lot of great guys on our team, and it’s not just the starters. We were able to move guys around and get guys experience in this environment. We’ll be wrestling again as a team in a week, so it was important to get everyone a little bit of mat time.”

On the opposite end of the mat, De La Salle coach Bob Szukala kept a positive perspective despite seeing the season come to an end.

“We finished our dual meet season 24-5, which is pretty good. Every tournament that we went to, we got a trophy — except this one,” Szukala said with a laugh. “We knew we were going to run into a buzzsaw today. We just came out and tried to work as hard as we could. If we were going to go down hard, we were going to go down swinging.”

DLS will graduate 10 seniors from the program, with 12 current juniors set to fill that void.

“Most of our guys are upperclassmen, so we’ll look to build back,” Szukala said. “We have a couple freshmen in the program to build around and add for next year.”

On the other side of the bracket, Anchor Bay dispatched St. Clair Shores Lakeview 83-0 in the first round.

“We came into today a little beat up, and we had the flu run through,” said Lakeview coach Steve Nicholl. “It didn’t matter — we weren’t going to compete with either Dakota or Anchor Bay; they’re heads and tails better.”

Despite the large deficit, Nicholl was proud of his group and the way the year played out.

“The season was great, but it was like a roller coaster,” Nicholl said. “We started off really, really low, and by the end of the year we were starting to do some really nice things. Today was really not indicative of the potential we had.”

Nicholl took pride in seeing his club capture a third straight district crown, but he hopes to finally build on that consistency.

“We keep saying it every year that we’re really young, but retaining kids is a tough thing because this is a tough sport to have kids stick around,” Nicholl explained. “This is our third trip here in a row for a lot of these guys. Instead of maintaining, we’re looking to take that next step. Now, are you ever going to beat a team like Dakota? They’re loaded, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. It’d be nice to have a chance. If these guys start doing the right things in the offseason, like going to open mats and coming in when we ask them to lift, that can change. We’re not asking them to commit to only one sport, but maybe one day a week could absolutely make a difference.”

Dakota will head to Kalamazoo for the team finals, with the quarterfinal match taking place Feb. 23 at the Wings Event Center. Seedings and matchups were not available at press time.

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