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Posted on Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

Washtenaw County wrestlers face tough path to medal stand at MHSAA finals

By Pete Cunningham


Dexter's Drew Barnes, top, and Lincoln's Ed Nuttal are among Washtenaw County's medalist favorites at this weekend's MHSAA individual wrestling state finals.

Angela J. Cesere |

Eighteen wrestlers from Washtenaw County will compete at the MHSAA individual state finals Thursday through Saturday at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

The path to the medal stand won't be easy for any of them, but the road is more arduous for some. Like Chelsea's Mike Hovater, who is in the unfortunate position of being in the same weight class as St. John's Taylor Massa, the nation's top-rated high school wrestler across all classes.

Following is a breakdown of the path that lies ahead for all 18 local wrestlers.


Weight class: 119 pounds (Bracket)
Washtenaw County wrestler: Jordan Markey, soph., Lincoln (45-9).
Favorites and breakdown: An undefeated state champion at 112 as a freshman, Davison sophomore Justin Oliver (40-2), is a favorite. Markey's mettle will be tested right away with a first-round matchup with Oliver.

Weight class: 130 pounds (Bracket)
Washtenaw County wrestler: Nate O'Sullivan, jr., Saline (40-9).
Favorites and breakdown: After finishing third in his regional tournament, O'Sullivan has a favorable draw in the state tournament bracket. The world beaters, particularly defending state champion Ken Bade (46-1) of Detroit Catholic Central, are on the opposite side.

Weight class: 145 pounds (Bracket)
Washtenaw County wrestler: Ed Nuttall, sr., Lincoln (51-3).
Favorites and breakdown: Detroit Catholic Central sophomore and defending state champion Logan Marcicki seemed destined to be a four-time state champion. Nuttall prevented that from happening by knocking Marcicki out in regionals with an overtime win in the blood round. Does he who slays the king assume his crown? Nuttall, who placed eighth last year, will first have to get past Flint Carman-Ainsworth's Jake Weissend (54-0) in the second round to have a shot.


Weight class: 103 pounds (Bracket)
Washtenaw County wrestler: Zeke Breuninger, soph., Dexter (32-12).
Favorites and breakdown: Two returning state runners-up, Adrian's Joe Garcia (46-1) and Goodrich's Isaac Jewell (41-5), are the clear-cut favorites here. Jewell, the rarely seen senior at 103, competed in Division 3 last year but Goodrich changed classification sizes. Good news for Breuninger: they'll meet in the quarterfinals and one of them will knock the other off. Bad news: at least one will be in the consolation rounds and could stand in the way of working back up to place if he should suffer a loss before the semifinals.

Weight class: 112 pounds (Bracket)
Washtenaw County wrestlers: Kyle Abdellatif, soph., Ypsilanti (42-9); Ben Doll, sr., Chelsea (28-10).
Favorites and breakdown: The SEC White is well represented in this weight class, with three of the 16 wrestlers, including Tecumseh senior Chase Lewis (Abdellatif's first round matchup), competing. Having wrestled each other all season, that could help for all three of them. Unfortunately for Doll, a fourth-place regional finish means he'll get top seed Andrew Gorman, ranked No. 3 by, right out of the gate. A wrestler of note is Dewitt senior Rachel McFarland, a world-class female wrestler who will wrestle for Oklahoma State's women's team next year and has Olympic potential. A female wrestler being competitive in the state tournament isn't as rare as it once was, but being competitive above the 103-pound weight class is.

Weight class: 119 pounds (Bracket)
Washtenaw County wrestler: Steve Bleise, soph., Chelsea (26-4).
Favorites and breakdown: Bleise placed fifth at 103 pounds as a freshman for Dexter, so he has experience on the big stage. The 119-pound weight class is a different animal than underclassmen-dominated 103, though. Undefeated and nationally ranked Tim Lambert (54-0) of Grand Rapids Forest Hills Eastern is the favorite with a matchup with fellow undefeated senior Tyler Daniel (34-0) of St. Joseph likely in the semis. The dark horse with the pure bread pedigree is St. Johns freshman Logan Massa, the younger brother of University of Michigan-bound Taylor Massa, who barring an act of God will wrap up his prep career with his fourth straight state title and undefeated season this weekend (see 171 below).

Weight class: 135 pounds (Bracket)
Washtenaw County wrestler: Anthony Simmons, sr., Ypsilanti (41-6).
Favorites and breakdown: As is the case in the majority of the weight classes, a St. Johns wrestler is expected to win, this one being junior Brant Schafer (31-1). If Simmons wins his first round match, he'll face Schafer, who was runner-up at 125 pounds last year.

Weight Class: 160 pounds (Bracket)
Washtenaw County wrestlers: Drew Barnes, sr., Dexter (39-3); Chris Gaskill, sr., Milan (34-10).
Favorites and breakdown: Barnes took fourth at 152 last year, is the highest returning placer in the area and, along with Nuttall, is probably the best chance Washtenaw County has for a state champion this year. Barnes will have to get past last year's 152 state champion Jordan Wohlfert (42-1) of St. John's in the semifinals if he wants to get to the championship match, though.

Weight class: 171 pounds (Bracket)
Washtenaw County wrestler: Mike Hovater, jr., Chelsea (41-12).
Favorites and breakdown: If Hovater gets past Tecumseh's Cole Amstutz in the first round, he'll have a date with St. Johns senior Taylor Massa (40-0). The good news is Hovater might be able to tell his kids one day that he wrestled against an Olympian. This weekend, Massa will likely become the 16th four-time champion in state history. The nation's top ranked wrestler across all classes, Massa will likely finish his career with 223 wins and not a single loss. Get used to reading Massa's name Michigan fans, he's heading to Ann Arbor in the fall.

Weight class: 285 pounds (Bracket)
Washtenaw County wrestler: Shawn Chamberlain, sr., Dexter (36-5).
Favorites and breakdown: This tournament is all but a a formality for Fowlerville junior Adam Coon (46-0) who is 153-3 in his career without a loss since his freshman year. Coon is working on his third straight state championship, the first two at 215. If Chamberlain loses to Coon, he'll already have a medal secured since the brackets have them on a semifinal collision. Chamberlain's up-tempo style is suited well for the state tournament, where many heavyweights with stellar records have fallen in the first round when they are in an actual six-minute match for a change.


Weight class: 103 pounds (Bracket)
Washtenaw County wrestler: Brock Vlcek, Fr., Manchester (36-13).
Favorites and breakdown: After finishing fourth in his region, Vlcek has an uphill battle with defending state champion Kenneth Dittenber (50-2) of Carson City Crystal's as a first-round matchup. He'll likely have to battle his way through the consolation brackets if he hopes to bring home a medal in his first year on varsity.

Weight class: 130 pounds (Bracket)
Washtenaw County wrestlers: Tom Conway, sr., Manchester (29-10); Case Kittel, sr., Manchester (31-16).
Favorites and breakdown: Few have the luxury of facing a fellow state qualifier in the same weight class every day in practice like Conway and Kittel do. Conway was a state qualifier last year, so he has that experience going for him. New Lothrop senior Jacob Perrin (48-3) is a favorite despite jumping up three weight classes from 112, where he placed fourth last year.

Weight class: 135 pounds (Bracket)
Washtenaw County wrestler: Eric Coval, soph., Manchester (38-13).
Favorites and breakdown: As a fourth seed, Coval has an uphill battle. The clear favorite in the weight class is Traverse City St. Francis senior Isaiah Schaub (47-1), who is going for his second straight state title. Schaub is a three-time medalist and has never finished lower than third. White Pigeon senior John Tullos (47-1) is an interesting first-round matchup for Coval. Tullos was a state qualifier last year at 145 and dropped two weight classes for his final year.

Weight class: 171 pounds (Bracket)
Washtenaw County wrestler: Cody Render, sr., Manchester (36-5).
Favorites and breakdown: Render will attempt to improve on last year's performance at 152 pounds where, despite only being outscored by a combined six points he went two-and-out as a junior. It won't be easy as Render faces Shelby senior Mason Courtwright (55-4) in the first round. Courtwright placed third last year at 171 in Division 3. New Lothrop senior Wade Erhardt (51-1) is the top-ranked wrestler in the class according to despite jumping all the way up from 145, where h placed fifth last year.

Weight class: 215 pounds (Bracket)
Washtenaw County wrestler: Austin Hamltion, sr., Manchester (46-4).
Favorites and breakdown: Hamilton is Manchester's only returning state placer, having taken sixth at 215 as a junior and ranked No. 4 according to To keep his state championships alive, Hamilton will have to hand St. Ignace junior Joe Ostman (40-0), a state champion at 189 last year, his first loss of the season in the quarterfinal round. Springport senior Joe Ericson (43-1), second last year at 215, is another favorite in the weight class but is on the opposite side of the bracket as Hamilton.

Check for regular updates from all three days of the tournament.

Contact Pete Cunningham at or by phone at 734-623-2561. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.



Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 2:54 p.m.

Pete, Good info! Looking back at the teams that are covered, I guess I was generalizing "local" a little bit and including all of the SEC. Checking out the brackets, if some of these kids don't pull off upsets in their respected weights, the wrestle backs look favorable for coming home with a good amount of medals. I'd be interested in knowing which year had the most amount of state placers for local wrestlers. Thanks Pete!

Pete Cunningham

Thu, Mar 1, 2012 : 12:21 a.m.

Good catch on Bleise Josh. I reminded myself multiple time to makes sure I had that straight, but it somehow slipped through the cracks. It has been corrected. As for the number of local competitors, perception is not reality. Last year there were only 16 Washtenaw County wrestlers competing compared to 18 this year and the year before it was 19. I think it just seems like there are less because the local guys aren't as "high profile" as the last two years. Last year, Milan's Tim Sims and Manchester's Ryan Abrigo were undefeated and Manchester's Austin Deacons and Dylan Neff were both coming back after making it all the way to their respective championship matches. The year before there was undefeated Dakota Cooley of Chelsea, Dexter's Dan Flowers looking to make it back to the finals and a handful of Milan and Manchester wrestlers with crazy win totals. This year's group isn't as highly touted, but we'll see if they can make a name for themselves this weekend.


Wed, Feb 29, 2012 : 8:35 p.m.

Pete, Been waiting for the write up, very nice! Doesn't seem like there are as many local competitors as in the past. The only change...Bleise wrestled for Dexter last year when he placed at 103! The write up about Massa is great, and will be nice to see him in Ann Arbor for the next couple of years. Hope to see you up at the Palace.