Archived Story

Niles, Brandywine grapplers set for title chase

Published 10:28pm Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Eleven area wrestlers will begin today’s Michigan High School Athletic Association Individual State Wrestling Finals at The Palace of Auburn Hills with one goal.

Winning a state championship.

Niles has five wrestlers in the hunt for a championship, while Brandywine and Buchanan each have a pair. Dowagiac, Cassopolis and Edwardsburg each had one state qualifier.

The Chieftains’ Jacob Worthington will be unable to compete this weekend.

Overall, southwest Michigan sent 62 wrestlers from 25 schools to Auburn Hills for the three-day tournament, which begins with the Grand March at 2 p.m. and wrestling at 2:30. You can watch the tournament live on

The tournament continues Friday morning at 8:30 and continues throughout the day, concluding with the championship semifinals at 7 p.m.

Wrestling resumes Saturday at 8:30 p.m. with the consolation finals scheduled for approximately 11:30 and the championship finals at 4:45 p.m.

Leader Publications will keep updating results throughout the tournament on its websites and on its Facebook page.

Veteran Niles coach Todd Hesson, who was honored as Regional Coach of the Year, believes all five of his wrestlers have a good chance at placing.

“Hopefully they will not be overwhelmed by the atmosphere,” Hesson said. “We need to focus on one match at a time and not get caught up in the ‘bright lights.’ Four of the five kids return next year and I do worry that they may settle for being at The Palace this year. I don’t want them to have that mentality that next will be ‘their year.’ They need to take advantage of this year’s opportunities.

“Being named Regional Coach of the Year is credit to our kids and our wrestling program as a whole. Hopefully our current wrestlers see and understand that our program is heading in the right direction and they understand that the work ethic, discipline and mental toughness is needed to create a complete team. As an overall program, credit goes to assistant coaches. They do an excellent job and each bring needed qualities to our team.

“Our MYWAY and junior high programs have done a great job in preparing kids for varsity competition, as well as our parents. They have given our program fantastic support. They handle transportation, the food tables and create a solid fan base that travels to all of our meets.”

Hesson also credited former Brandywine and Niles coach Bob Galvin, who he was an assistant under for many years.

“Any success I have had started with all that I learned from Bob Galvin,” he said. “He taught me so much more than wrestling. He taught me people skills, dealing with kids, parents, administrative duties and so many things beyond the actual wrestling.”

The Vikings are sending Brenden Meek (103), Casey Burandt (135), Donte Stevens (145), Fritzel Findeisen (152) and Ryan Casey (189) to Auburn Hills.

Chanc Ravish is making his third straight trip to the finals, while Victor Moranchel is headed to the finals for the first time.

“This is our fourth year of taking a freshman,” Brandywine coach Rex Pomranka said. “I would have been nice to have a few more, but we are happy to be taking two.

“The first match is crucial. We told the kids you have to take them one at a time. Don’t look at the next round or who your opponent might be. Just go out and treat each match as if it was your last match of the season. You want to go out and win that last match.”

Pomranka expects Ravish to play again this year. He was eighth last season.

“I’m hoping he will place higher than that,”Pomranka said. “Victor could be a darkhorse because know one knows who he is.”

Buchanan’s Gage Hutchison will be putting his 53-0 record and No. 1 ranking in the state at 215-pounds on the line when he opens up the tournament today. Hutchison is the only regional champion among the 11 area qualifiers as well.

State qualifiers

* Regional champion

Division 2

EDWARDSBURG (1) – Mike Kempton (130)

NILES (5) – Brenden Meek (103), Casey Burandt (135), Donte Stevens (145), Fritzel Findiesen (152), Ryan Casey (189)

Division 3

BUCHANAN (2) – Jeff Mucha (135), *Gage Hutchison (215)

DOWAGIAC (1) – Jacob Worthington (119)

Division 4

BRANDYWINE (2) – Victor Moranchel (103), Chanc Ravish (130)

CASSOPOLIS (1) – Dominic Forbes (189)

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