Division 3 Team Preview

By Steve Widzinski
MI Grappler High School Analyst

1. Richmond
Ranked Wrestlers: Stephen Ireland (#1 119), Dustin Pitcel (#3 125), Nate Henke (#10 140), Garrett Edwards (#2 140), Alex Morang (#5 160), Adrian Morang (#3 171), John Gaffney (#6 171), Eric Boyd (#4 189), Greg Sebastian (#2 215), Josh Younk (#6 285)
Key Losses: Casey Martin (125), Pat Baruth (135), Justin Russo (140), Robert Clancy (215)
Impact Newcomers: Austin Vannatter 112 (Freshman), Devin Skatzka 140/145 (Freshman)

Outlook: If there is one thing history has taught the state of Michigan, it is to never doubt the Richmond wrestling program. Since the dawn of the new millennium in 2000, no team across the state of has been more impressive as the Blue Devils.   In an era dominated by all-star teams, Richmond has been a continuous testament to the essence of the word “team”.  Last year many counted the Blue Devils out of the state title race when they dismissed their best wrestler from the squad.  Once again, Richmond proved all naysayers wrong, winning a state title in convincing fashion for the second consecutive year and fifth time in the past twelve seasons.
This year’s team will fit the typical mold for success that has made
Richmond a wrestling dynasty in Michigan.  They have tremendous balance
across the lineup, without the presence of any major superstars.  A total of
ten Blue Devils are ranked in the preseason, and they have no apparent
weak spots. The team will look fairly similar to last year, with most guys
moving up a weight class or two.  At 119lbs Stephen Ireland is probably the
team’s best wrestler.  He was a state champion at 103 in 2010, and is
currently ranked first in Division 3.  At 125 Dustin Pitcel returns after making
a run to the state finals as a junior last spring. 
The middle of lineup will be lead some proven guys as well as a talented
freshman.  All-stater Garret Edwards and qualifier Nate Henke could both
see time anywhere from 135-145.  Freshman Devin Skatzka also is in the
mix here, likely to wrestle at 140 or 145.  Moving up the roster, the Morang
brothers will be back for their third year in the starting lineup.  Both are
returning state qualifiers who will likely fill the 160 and 171 spots.  The depth
in the upperweights is truly outstanding, with a total of six ranked between
160-285.  The others included in the rankings are John Gaffney at 171, Eric
Boyd at 189, Greg Sebastian at 215 and Josh Younk at 285.
Over the years Richmond has made a reputation of winning dual meets
where they were not necessarily the better team on paper.  The scary thing
about this year’s group is that they are the clear-cut number one team in
Division 3 based on the talent and experience they return to the lineup. 
Combine that with their excellent coaching staff and winning culture, and
the Blue Devils appear to be well poised for their third consecutive state title.

2. Dundee
Ranked Wrestlers: Nate Wade (#2 119), Brandon Atchley (#8 125), Travis Sproles (#5 130), Doug Rojem (#3 130), Brody Whitman (#4 140), Liam Grantham (#6 145), Todd Boyd-Olson (#3 160), Zach Newhouse (#7 171), Teddy Warren (#5 171), Brad Viers (#5 189), Jay Sroufe (#8 215), Jon Marogen (#2 285)
Key Losses: Joey White (125), Joe Rendina (130), Brandon Treharne (135), Chris Rau (140), Travis Reinhart (145), Justin Heiserman (189)

Outlook: You will be hard pressed to find a team that loses more star power to graduation than Dundee.  Four All-Americans will be departing from the Viking lineup who accounted for a total of seven individual state titles.  The fact that they are still ranked as high as they are after these losses is a true testament to the depth of the Dundee program.  Many with the potential to be regional or state qualifiers did not get to wrestle in the postseason last year, and they should be chomping at the bit to make some noise in the upcoming season.
This year’s team will not feature the firepower that many Viking fans have become accustomed to.  However, this is a really solid group and nearly every weight class will be filled by a proven wrestler.  The only area of question at this point is 103 and 112, where they will rely on new starters.  The rest of the lower weights will be filled with established and talented wrestlers.  Returning state runner-up Nate Wade is back at 119, and is the team’s highest ranked wrestler at #2.  Brandon Atchley should be back in the lineup at 125 after missing most of last season.  If he can regain his form of 2010 where he was a state placer it will be a big boost.  In the 130 and 135 spots they will have the option of using Travis Sproles on Rojem.  Both are ranked in the top five at 130 and were key pieces of last year’s team.
Brody Whitman, a new face in the lineup, has the potential to have a big year at 140.  Relatively unknown until recently, he had a great showing at the Grappler Fall Classic earning him a top five ranking.  At 145 Liam Grantham is another guy who will hope for better fortune in 2011-2012 after battling through injuries last season.  He qualified for the state meet as a freshman in 2010 and is ranked sixth at 145.  At 160 they have returning state placer Todd Olson, while qualifier Zach Newhouse and ranked sophomore Teddy Warren should share time at 171.  Filling the 189 and 215 spots will likely be Brad Viers and Jay Sroufe who are both ranked in D3.  Rounding out the lineup is big man Jon Marogen, who had a stellar sophomore campaign in 2010-2011.  He is currently ranked second and has the potential to be the team’s top wrestler.

3. Remus Chippewa Hills
Ranked Wrestlers: Nathan Weckesser (#1 103), Zach Cooper (#1 112), James Leiter (#6 125), Brett Jackson (#5 135), John Wernette (#9 140), Jason Peacock (#8 171), Damien Curtice (#2 189)
Key Losses: Devane Dodgens (112), Elvis Peacock (145), Will Sherman (152), Tyler Vogel (189)

Outlook: Division 3 is more open than usual this year, and Chippewa Hills may have an opportunity to be a bit of a sleeper and advance very deep into the postseason.  There really is not a lot separating the #3-8 teams in the rankings, and the Warriors have more ranked than anyone outside of the top two.  They lose some big guns to graduation, but their losses will outweighed by the experience their young guys gained last year.  After narrowly missing the state meet last year they should be hungry, and their regional draw is much more manageable.
Powered by a pair of top ranked guys, their lower weights may very well be the best in D3.  At 112 Zack Cooper returns for his junior year with a state title under his belt.  Joining him with a #1 ranking is Nathan Weckesser who is the division’s top returning 103lbr.  Others to watch out for down low are state qualifiers James Leiter at 125 and Brett Jackson at 135.  Additionally, John Wernette is back at 140 after coming within a match of the state meet. 
The upperweights don’t have quite the same firepower, but have a few solid guys to hold down the fort.  Returning qualifier Damien Curtice is slotted second at 189, and he is joined in the rankings by #8 Jason Peacock at 171.  They will have more new faces in the lineup than Dundee in Richmond, but their firepower makes them a threat to reach the finals if they can get some production from the new guys.  

4. Birch Run
Ranked Wrestlers: Kyle Kelsey (#3 103), Adam Bishop (#6 112), Josh Hobson (#6 119), Lake Bennett (#2 130), Damien Johnson (#3 135), Caleb Slavik (#1 152)
Key Losses: Trevor Timmreck (285)
Impact Newcomers: Jerry Fenner (103)

Outlook: In 2011 the Panthers were one of the best teams in Michigan not to appear at team finals in Battle Creek.  They battled their way up in the rankings all year, but fell in a close dual to eventual runner up Lake Fenton in the regional final.  Graduation losses are minimal, and Birch Run will have their eye on Kellogg Arena in 2011-2012.  Lake Fenton has been depleted by graduation, so the Panthers start the season as heavy favorites to win a regional title. 
They are stacked down low, with five ranked wrestlers between 103-135.  Adam Bishop, Lake Bennett and Damien Johnson a trio of all-state juniors who will be critical to their success this year.  Others ranked in the lowerweights include Kyle Kelsey at 103 and Josh Hobson at 112.  Additionally, Jerry Fenner is a talented freshman capable of making some noise at 103.  All of these guys have the potential to reach the podium at the Palace and make the team lethal in the lowerweights.
In the upper half of the lineup there are more question marks.  Caleb Slavik may be the team’s top wrestler, ranked first at 152 after a third place finish in 2011.  Regional qualifier Hunter Emery at 215 is another the Panthers will rely on in the upperweights.  They need to fill in the holes around their ranked guys, but Birch Run has the talent to be a serious threat this year.

5. Midland Bullock Creek
Ranked Wrestlers: Brad Noykos (#4 103), James Torres (#10 112), Chris March (#7 125), Johnny Finney (#5 140), Scott Flowers (#1 145)
Key Losses: Derek Camilleri (135), Jordan Munro (145), David Kobel (171)

Outlook: Last year Bullock Creek showed they were unfazed by the loss of three-time state champion Ryen Nieman.  The team upset Chippewa Hills to win a regional title, and had respectable showing against Dundee in the state quarterfinals.  Some key wrestlers have left the lineup due to graduation, but enough talent returns to make winning another regional title a definite possibility.  However it will not be an easy path for the Lancers, who share a regional with a significantly improved Swan Valley team.
Once again the lighter portion of the team will be the strongest part of Bullock Creeks lineup.  At 145 they have a top-ranked wrestler in Scott Flowers, who placed third in 2011.  The other returning all-stater on the Lancer’s roster is Johnny Finney, who is ranked fifth at 140.  At 125 or 130lbs Chris March was a match away from all-state status and is another to watch out for.  Additional ranked wrestlers on the roster are Brad Noykos at 103 and James Torres at 112.  The biggest determining factor in Bullock Creek’s quest to return to Kellogg Arena will be the productivity of their big men from 152-285.

6. Swan Valley
Ranked Wrestlers: Dylan Ewald (#4 112), Josh Flores (#6 130), Jered Flores (#4 135), Leontay White (#3 140), Matt Somer (#7 145), Mitch Mallot (#3 152)
Key Losses: Josh Flores (160)
Impact Newcomers: Leontay White 140 (Transfer), Matt Somer 145 (Transfer)

Outlook: There is no question who the wildcard team in Division 3 this year.  After injuries and graduation depleted last year’s team, this year’s Swan Valley group should be vastly improved.  A few return to the lineup after battling injuries in 2011, and the Vikings have some key transfers that make them a threat to do some damage at the state meet.  They will be tested early in the postseason at a likely regional matchup against fifth ranked Birch Run.
After a breakout performance at the Disney Duals this summer, Mitch Mallot starts the year ranked third at 152 and could be the team’s top wrestler.  Joining Mallot in the middle of the lineup are transfers Leontay White at 140 and Matt Somer at 145.  White was all-state in D2 a year ago, while Somer was a state qualifier in 2010.  Down low they will have the services of returning state qualifiers Dylan Ewald at 112 and Josh Flores at 130.  Additionally, form state placer Jered Flores is back at 135 after missing last season.  As has been the case with many Swan Valley teams in the past, it will be critical that the Vikings fill the upper weights with solid wrestlers to balance out their talent down low.

7. Whitehall
Ranked Wrestlers: Logan Irey (#2 103), Dillon McCarthy (#5 145), Steven Sika (#6 160), Joe Sika (#9 171), Logan Potter (#1 189), Logan Morningstar (#9 215)
Key Losses: Nate Zack (119), Dre Lewis (140), Ryan Friend (160)

Outlook: With Shelby now in Division 4, the path to Battle Creek has been opened up a bit for Whitehall.  However, a regional title will still be no easy task for the Vikings, who will have to get through #9 Fremont and returning state semifinalist Allendale among others.  The loss of three state placers to graduation hurts, but the team returns enough talent to manage without them.  Balance will be a strongpoint for the Vikings, whose ranked guys range from 103 to 215.
The top ranked wrestler for Whitehall will be Logan Potter, their lone returning all-stater who is currently pegged as D3’s top 189lbr.  Other Vikings ranked in the top five of their weight class are Logan Irey at 103 and Dillon McCarthy at 145 who both reached the blood round at individual states last march.  Regional qualifiers Steven Sika at 160, Joe Sika 171 and Logan Morningstar at 215 round out the team nicely and help to make them favorites for a regional championship.

8. Otsego
Ranked Wrestlers: Holden Dunklee (#8 112), Kody Hukill (#3 119), Alberto Lopez (#1 130), Devin Barker (#10 135), Eric Dennis (#8 140)
Key Losses: Terner Gott (145), Andrew Miller (171)

Outlook: There are some holes to fill, but the talent is in place for Otsego to return to the team state finals.  Losing Terner Gott to graduation hurts, but five returning state qualifiers should help to ease the pain.  They will be favorites to emerge from their regional where their top competition will come from Lakewood, another team who reached the quarterfinals last year.  With Gott no longer around, Alberto Lopez will fill his spot as the team’s top wrestler.  Lopez is ranked first at 130 after placing fourth last year.  The Bulldog’s other returning all-stater is Kody Hukill, slotted third at 119.  State Qualifiers Holden Dunklee at 103, Devin Barker at 135 and Eric Dennis at 140 round out a great group of lowerweights.

9. Fremont
Ranked Wrestlers: Luke Spotts (#3 112), Theron Blake (#7 130), John Wiggers (#1 140)
Key Losses: None

Outlook: With nearly all of last year’s team returning, Fremont will aspire for a regional title in 2011-2012.  They have a few big guns, and should be far more experienced across the board.  It will not be an easy path to Battle Creek however, as the team will be competing against teams such as Whitehall, Allendale and Comstock Park.  They have a top-ranked wrestler in John Wiggers who sits atop the rankings at 140lbs after a runner-up performance last year.  Luke Spotts is ranked third at 112 and is another they will rely on for bonus points.  The final ranked wrestler in their lineup is Theron Blake, slotted seventh after qualifying for states last spring.

10. Lake Fenton
Ranked Wrestlers: James Demember (119) Todd Melick (125)
Key Losses: Bryce Hopkins (119), Buddy Poyner (125), Zach Corcoran (135), Chris O’Guinn (145), Justin Melick (145), Conor Brancheau (160), Drew Morris (171), Nathan Franks (285)

Outlook: The Blue Devils are the state’s only team that can compare to Dundee as far as graduation losses.  They lose a star studded senior class that included three state champions, and a runner-up as well as multiple other starters.  They will also be without the services of two-time state placer Chris O’Guinn who has transferred back to Grand Blanc.  The top wrestler remaining in the lineup is three-time placer Todd Melick who is ranked second at 125.  Also in the rankings is state qualifier James Demember, currently number nine at 119.  It will be interesting to see how the team rebounds with so many key members gone from a year ago.

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Eric Boyd