What makes a high school career a success? Is it winning four consecutive state titles like Ben Freeman of Walled Lake Central, or is it putting yourself in the conversation like Milford’s Kameron Carter? Either way, a success comes down to two things: did you have fun and did you learn something in the process?
Nolan Klapec and Michael Jacobs of Lakeland, and Kameron Carter of Milford represented Huron Valley Schools at the 2017 MHSAA State Wrestling Championships March 3-5. They joined hundreds of wrestlers from around the state vying for a shot at calling themselves state champions.
The seniors from Lakeland did not have easy opening bouts, both drawing the eventual state champions in their respective weight classes. Jacobs lost to Holt senior Kolin Leyrer, and Klapec dropped a 13-8 bout against returning state champion AJ Facundo of Davison. Klapec rallied back with a pin over Jared Riggins of Jackson and then won a 6-4 nail-biter over Matthew Duffy of Anchor Bay, solidifying himself as one of the best wrestlers in the state. He would end the tournament, and his high school career, by earning the eighth-place spot at 125 pounds.
“He’s a top-notch kid and I don’t think I wanted a match for anyone more, not even my own. I wanted that kid on that podium. He’s been wrestling since he was five years old. His parents have been dragging him around. This is a culmination of all their efforts. I’m very happy for the Klapec family,” said James Tippin, Lakeland’s head wrestling coach.
Milford and Walled Lake Northern each had one state qualifier. Milford made it to The Palace with sophomore Kameron Carter. Kam opened the tournament with the eventual state champion, Flushing’s Ben Cushman. In the 215-pound division, Carter was the only sophomore in a field of juniors and seniors. Mario Flores, head coach of Milford, said, “Kameron is a tough kid who does all the right things. He works his tail off and is constantly looking to improve. He will be with us for two more years and I have high hopes for his development. He’s got a bright future ahead.” Carter’s tournament came to a close after losing a consolation bout to Dominik Wilson of Portage Central.
Nick Welch represented Walled Lake Northern. The 135-pound senior opened the tournament with a fall over Karson Kost of Grand Ledge. He would end his season with a consolation bout against Jacob Emery of Brownstown-Woodhaven.
The tournament this year was like a Walled Lake Central and Freeman family party. In the 135-pound division, Nick Freeman won his first state title with a 5-2 decision over Anthony Gibson of Westland-John Glenn. After congratulating his middle son, dad and coach, Al Freeman, quietly shifted his focus to his eldest son, Ben. The senior put on a technical display of attacks and wrestling dominance that elicited oohs and ahhs from the crowd. When the match was over, Freeman held up four fingers as to represent his fourth consecutive MHSAA state title. Freeman not only tech-falled his way through the tournament this year (winning by 15 points or more in each of his four bouts), but it was the second time in his career he has teched the field en route to a state title. He also did it as a freshman.
Walled Lake Central had a very strong showing by TJ Daugherty, who was able to hold off Nick Alayan of Macomb Dakota in the 103-pound state finals. Other Walled Lake Central All- State finishers were Nick Onwenu who finished in sixth, and Warren Stanfield who placed third. Central had state qualifiers in Tanner Bryan, Josh Jernagin and Connor Merchant.
With the completion of this year’s wrestling season, The Palace of Auburn Hills will no longer host the MHSAA state wrestling tournament. In addition to this change, Huron Valley and Walled Lake schools will be moving into a newly created athletic conference starting next school year.