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Local wrestling squads battle in D-1 regional round

By: Zachary Manning | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published February 19, 2019

 Clinton Township Chippewa Valley’s Fernando Hernandez (right) goes to take down his opponent at team regionals Feb. 13. The Big Reds lost to Macomb Dakota in the regional semifinal.

Clinton Township Chippewa Valley’s Fernando Hernandez (right) goes to take down his opponent at team regionals Feb. 13. The Big Reds lost to Macomb Dakota in the regional semifinal.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — For most Macomb area teams, the path to a Division 1 regional wrestling title goes through Macomb Dakota. 

This year was no different, as the Cougars claimed their fourth straight D-1 regional championship Feb. 13 at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley. Dakota beat Warren Mott for the title. 

Dakota began the final with six straight pins before a void at 160 pounds put Mott on the board. Those first six pins came from Nick Alayan (125 pounds), Justin Tiburcio (130), Andrew Barrett (135), Brandon Alkazir (140), Joey Papas (145) and David McFadden (152). 

“It was a really good weight class to start for us. This is where our meat is, and that kind of just got things going. When you go pin, pin, pin, pin, the whole wrestling team, they feel confident. Even when they’re going out there and they haven’t wrestled yet, but they saw their teammates succeed over and over again, so they get confidence to go out there and do the same thing,” Dakota coach Ed Skowneski said. 

The Cougars would go on to win the match 53-24. Eli Andary collected a win at 171; Dustin Solomon added a 4-2 decision win at 189; Josh Stokes gave the team three points by winning his match 3-0 at 215; and Brendan Ferretti sealed the victory with a pin at 112. 

Skowneski said his team has a special group of seniors that have kept everyone focused on the expectations going forward. He added the Cougars have confidence heading to the state meet for the fourth straight season. 

“I think we have a pretty good reputation that our kids go out there and compete and work hard. You know when you got somebody from Dakota, you know that you’re going to be in a dog fight,” Skowneski said.

This is Mott’s fourth straight regional appearance and third regional final appearance in the last four years. Despite losing, the Marauders had three pins in the regional final. 

Andre Saffar got a pin at 119; Isiah Daniels pinned his opponent at 285; and Colin Gaddey earned a first-period pin at 103. Mott coach Paul Salyers was extremely proud of his team for what it was able to accomplish throughout the year. 

“They worked their butts off these last three to four weeks, and it showed. It showed. They’re a team. It’s going to be really hard to replace 12 seniors next year — I can tell you that much,” Salyers said.

Mott knocked off St. Clair Shores Lakeview in a semifinal matchup. Mott trailed 32-9 in the match, but ended up coming back to win the dual 45-32. The Marauders had five pins and a void after trailing by 23 to come out on top in the semifinal.

Salyers said the 145-pound match was key in determining the outcome of the meet. Steve Salyers earned a 6-4 decision victory over his opponent to stop a 15-point run by the Huskies. 

“Doing the numbers in my head, and I’m not as good as (Steve Nicholl), but I’m like, ‘Uh-oh. We’re in trouble.’ Then (Steve Salyers) turned that match around and actually got a win. … It was huge,” Paul Salyers said.

For Lakeview coach Steve Nicholl, he’s proud of the way his guys fought and is excited for the future of the program. The Huskies got wins from Tom Cacevic (119), Shamar Askin (130), Lewis Hoenicke (135), Shane Selby (140), Pierce Ratliff (152) and Kyle Cichowski (160). 

He noted that it will be hard to replace some of the grapplers leaving the program, but he has some returners that will by key for next year. 

“We’re focusing on next year, and it’s about building a wrestling IQ, and it’s about building experience on the mat and about getting stronger. But they’ve come together as a team, so I have a lot of confidence they’re going to build upon that,” Nicholl said. 

In its semifinal, Dakota downed Clinton Township Chippewa Valley 51-19. The Big Reds started the match off strong with a pin from Connor Dembeck at 119, but Dakota would then win four matches in a row before Kenny Snyder earned four points for the Big Reds at 145. 

Chippewa Valley would then get six points by void at 160 to cut the Dakota lead to eight, but that is the closest the match would get, as the Cougars pulled away. Big Reds coach Andrew Denryter was pleased with the progress his team made this season and was proud of the way his wrestlers fought against Dakota. 

“Our seniors did a great job keeping the team together. This is outstanding for where we started the season,” Denryter said. 

Quarterfinal matches begin Feb. 22 at the Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo. Matchups were not available at press time.