Second time sweeter for Hesson, VikingsPublished 8:01am Friday, February 14, 2014
There was no panic in veteran Niles wrestling coach Todd Hesson when his team dropped the first three bouts of the Division 2 Regional semifinal Wednesday night.
He had the confidence that his team would pull through.
And that’s exactly what the No. 4-ranked Vikings did, winning 19 of the next 25 bouts to earn its second consecutive regional championship and a trip back to Battle Creek for the state finals.
“I was actually happy,” Hesson said of being down 9-0 to start the semifinal match against Three Rivers. “Those were their best wrestlers. I told all three of our kids ‘no back points.’ We were down 9-0, but it potentially could have been 18-0, so I was happy with their effort.
“I thought we were doing pretty well point-wise. I knew once we got to into our lighter weights we would be alright.”
That was an understatement.
After dropping 189-, 215- and 285-pounds, Niles won nine consecutive matches, including a pair of forfeits, to seal the victory and move the Vikings into the regional final against Edwardsburg, which got past Battle Creek Central 44-30.
“It was a little bit easier than I thought it was going to be,” Hesson said. “That’s nothing against Three Rivers because they have a real solid program. I think we are starting to peak, Every year I try to get them to peak at the right time and I kind of think I am getting the hang of it. We looked fresh and our conditioning was fantastic.”
The Eddies never had a chance.
Niles won the first two matches, got pinned — one of only two given up all night — at 103 and then won the next seven matches to put the match out of reach.
“We got into the Edwardsburg match and kind of snowballed from there,” Hesson said. “But you never know for sure. We’re a young team, so I don’t know how they are going to react at this level. But we really wrestled well. Mitchell (Findeisen) had the match of the night. He beat a kid that he lost to on Saturday (individual districts) and that kind of got us going.”
Hesson said that this regional title is more satisfying than last year.
“Last year we kind of expected to get to Battle Creek,” he said. “This was supposed to be a transition year because we lost all those kids — seven lettermen and two state placers and two others who were state qualifiers. They really have done a good job of listening and getting better each day. They have a solid work ethic.
“We were 7-4 coming out of December because we wrestle such a tough schedule. Now we are 21-4 and it’s because of the work we put in against those good teams and in practice. Doing it twice is nice. I have gotten a lot of satisfaction out of this year.”
Hesson and the Vikings now turn their attention to Saturday at the individual regional tournament at Mason High School.
“It shifts to how bad do you want it?,” he said. “We set a goal at the beginning of the year to get eight kids to state.”
Hesson said that the seven wrestlers who reached the finals last weekend — Andrew Flick, Brendon Meek, Josh Dayhuff, Noah Hall, Darek Bullock-Mills, Warren Smith and Wyatt Thornton — have favorable first-round draws.
“Things set up nicely for them,” he said. “We keep it simple. You have to win two before you lose two. If you do that you are going to state.”
Hesson added that the four kids who were not in the finals have a tougher road to the state finals at The Palace of Auburn Hills Feb. 27 through March 1.
“They are going to have to beat some tough kids,” he said. “But even if you lose your first match, you are still capable of coming back and making it.”