St. Johns’ seven senior wrestlers hung onto some of the pain that stemmed from a 34-26 Division 2 semifinal loss to Lowell in 2009.
Fast forward four years to Saturday, at the Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek, where the Redwings served up a little revenge as it dismissed Lowell in the Division 2 title match 41-18 and with it celebrated its third consecutive state title.
“The seniors leave with a tremendous legacy, three in a row,” said St. Johns coach Zane Ballard after its 41-18 win over Lowell (26-2). “You know, these guys came in as freshmen and, ironically, Lowell beat our team out in the semis four years ago. Now these guys are leaving their senior year getting a little revenge.”
The Redwings won nine of the 14 matches and it appeared as though at every critical point in a match, it was St. Johns who scored the crucial point. None were bigger than Ben Whitford’s 11-8 decision over Gabe Morse. Both wrestlers entered the match undefeated.
“Morse is a tremendous wrestler and very, very dangerous,” Ballard said. “And Ben is one in a million. He came out there and got the job done. I’m sure they’re going to see each other again in the individual finals.”
Lowell (25-2) won just two of the first seven matches. Nate Limmex (135) defeated Rory Bender 13-6 and Andrew Morse (152) battled for a 3-2 win over Travis Curley.
“We made some adjustments hoping to swing some matches our way. It just wasn’t in the cards,” said Morse. “It’s d been a great four years – been in the state tournament three times and in the finals twice.”
Trailing 25-6 midway through, the Red Arrows strung together consecutive wins at 189 and 215, cutting the deficit to 25-12. Gabe Dean defeated Payne Hayden 12-5 and Josh Colgrove followed with a 16-7 decision over Alex Dominquez.
Lowell’s only other victory and only pin came at 103 pounds where Derek Krajewski pinned Joey Horrell in 1:06 of the first period, cutting the deficit to 10 at 28-18.
The three-time state champions closed out the match with wins at 112, 119 and a void at 125. Zac Hall (112) earned a 26-14 major decision over Bailey Jack. Logan Massa (119) posted a decision against Jordan Hall, 10-9. Redwing Jacob Schmitt tallied six points via a Lowell void at 125
Undefeated and three-time St John state champion, Michigan bound, Taylor Massa pinned Lowell’s Jake Stehley in 1:17 of the first period.
“That is a hell of a wrestling team. I’m not sure if we’d wrestled a perfect match if that would have been enough,” said Lowell wrestling coach Dave Dean. “St Johns has set the bar pretty high.”
The Redwings (25-1) jumped out to a quick start and never looked following Brant Schafer pin against Lowell’s Kalvin Meyer in 1:03 for a 6-0 lead.
“I’m proud of these guys, they came here to wrestle and gave a great effort,” Ballard said. “They did great all the way through. We were prepared for anything, we were ready to go. We knew Lowell was going to be tough, they made some adjustments to us, but our kids came out and they wrestled unbelievable.”
Lowell, which started eight underclassman, was not short on effort either.
“I feel for these guys. They have worked very hard to be in a dual with chance to beat some of the best wrestlers in the country,” said Dean. ” You need to win all the close ones in a match like this, and we didn’t do that. They put a lot of pressure on you at every weight class. Our kids gave everything they had, but St. Johns is a very good wrestling team. They have set the bar very high for the rest of us.”
St Johns advanced to the title match with a 59-6 semifinal win over Tecumseh, wile Lowell dispatched of Allegan 46-21.
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