West Bloomfield High wrestlers gear up for state finals

By: Zachary Manning | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published February 28, 2020

 West Bloomfield High’s Devon Isaac looks to pin his opponent in a match earlier this season. Isaac qualified for states at 171 pounds.

West Bloomfield High’s Devon Isaac looks to pin his opponent in a match earlier this season. Isaac qualified for states at 171 pounds.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — When the individual wrestling state finals commence March 6 at Ford Field, West Bloomfield High will have its eye on three grapplers.

Junior Kareem Al Hariri, and seniors Jeremy Sarter and Devon Isaac each punched their ticket to the state finals for the first time.

The goal now is to have all three make the podium, and Lakers coach Greg Alessi believes they have the ability to do so.

Al Hariri collected a record of 34-6 throughout the season and will open the state tournament against Romeo High’s Matthew Cali at 112 pounds.

“He’s having a special year,” Alessi said. “I think as a freshman, he might have won six or seven matches; he had a pretty good year last year as a sophomore; and now as a junior (he) is having a real strong year. He placed in county, he won our league, he won his district. He’s worked real hard.”

A big influence on both Al Hariri and Sarter has been former teammate Austin Bashi, who was a state placer last season as a senior. Bashi and Al Hariri were training partners.

“Austin still comes in the room and wrestles Jeremy and Kareem, because they’re in the same weight category,” Alessi said. “Having Austin as his training partner last year was huge, and Jeremy benefited from Austin last year too, so it’s a big deal having him around.”

Sarter will begin his path to a state title against Oxford High’s Jack Thompson at 125 pounds. Sarter is 20-5 overall.

Some shoulder problems have forced him to miss time, but he’s getting healthier and ready to make a run. Alessi noted that his biggest strength is the way he grapples on his feet.

“Really, really strong on his feet. His double-leg takedowns are phenomenal. He just gets so much push and so much drive from his lower body when he connects and penetrates. When he’s on, he’s pretty much unstoppable,” Alessi said.

For any first-time wrestler at Ford Field, the nerves will be there, but Alessi noted that his group has earned their spots.

“They’ve worked hard for it. It’s been their dream,” Alessi said. “Devon and Jeremy are four-year kids, Kareem’s a three-year kid, so they’ve been with us since (they were) freshmen. It’s kind of nice to see their development, their growth and their maturity.”

Like his teammates, Isaac has also put together a strong year, posting a 31-7 overall mark. Alessi noted that of Isaac’s 31 wins, 25 have come by way of pin.

He will open the state finals with a match against Brighton High’s Dane Donabedian at 171 pounds.

“He’s very long and strong, athletic, which is great for a wrestler, because he has a lot of leverage with his legs and his arms,” Alessi said. “He’s deceivingly strong too. You look at him, you see this tall drink of water, and he’s actually very, very strong for his size.”

Alessi has been around the sport for a while and has seen multiple wrestlers make runs at the state tournament. With that, he knows what it will take for his grapplers to find success when they hit the mat.

“You got to be confident, because if you’re not confident, you’re not going to wrestle well,” Alessi said. “You got to wrestle all six minutes; you can’t let up; you can’t get discouraged if you get behind early. You got to wrestle through it and you got to want it. You have to really want to win and let that take over and put everything else aside.”

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