Burandt turns it around
In just three years, Dowagiac coach Colin Burandt took a Chieftain wrestling program from one that could not fill all the weight classes to a spot in the Division 3 state quarterfinals.
Burandt and the Chieftains advanced to Kalamazoo the weekend of Feb. 23 with a dramatic 37-28 win over host Lake Odessa in the Division 3 regional championship match Wednesday night.
It was the first regional title for a Dowagiac program that used to make it a habit of competing on the final weekend of the team wrestling tournament.
The Chieftains reached the regional round of the state tournament for the fifth time since 2000.
Dowagiac won regional championships in 2000 with a 29-28 win over perennial powerhouse Allegan in 2000 and again in 2004 when it defeated Hamilton 36-28.
The Chieftains were district champions in 2015, but inclement weather kept Dowagiac from traveling to the regional site, which resulted in a forfeit.
Burandt, a former standout with the Niles wrestling program, who went to Michigan State to wrestle, was hired to turn the Chieftain program around.
And turn it around he has.
Dowagiac went 27-16 his first two years as he built the program and filled all the weight classes. Following wins over Coloma and Lake Odessa, the Chieftains are 26-8, which gives Burandt a 53-24 overall record.
I cannot tell you how much this program has changed in such a short period of time.
Wrestlers were leaving for other programs such as Decatur, leaving Dowagiac short-handed and quite frankly, short on talent as well.
Those who stayed worked harder and harder each season. They have improved each of the three years Burandt has been here and now the numbers are increasing, and instead of losing wrestlers, Dowagiac is actually starting to draw some into the district.
I would not be surprised if even more return to the fold before next wrestling season.
One of the things that impresses me the most about Colin is his desire to challenge his wrestlers.
After the first season, he knew that in order to accomplish the things he wanted to do, Dowagiac had to toughen up its non-conference schedule.
Wrestling in the Wolverine Conference provides the Chieftains with a solid base, but in order to compete at the highest levels, Burandt wanted to compete in better tournaments on the weekend, including one in Ohio.
Those decisions have paid huge dividends.
The Chieftains have been battle tested this season and proved that they were ready when it counted most Wednesday night.
I have no idea what the future is for this team when it reaches Kalamazoo.
The pairings for the quarterfinals will be released on Sunday night after the Michigan High School Athletic Association seeds the top teams. I am not sure if Dowagiac will receive a top seed, but no matter who the Chieftains have to wrestle in the quarterfinals, I can tell you they will not be afraid of their opponent and they will leave everything on the mat.
This is just the first step for Dowagiac toward its return to becoming one of the area’s top wrestling programs.
I cannot think of a better person to lead the Chieftains forward than Colin Burandt.
Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.