Niles’ Franco adds state title to his impressive resume

DETROIT — At last, a state championship.

Niles senior Austin Franco has quite a wrestle resume. The only thing the four-time all-state wrestler was missing was a state championship.

Franco (44-0) finally added that line as he defeated Goodrich’s Caleb Teague 10-8 to win the 119-pound Division 2 championship at Ford Field Saturday.

Franco reached the championship match by pinning Nick May of Kenowa Hills in 1:06 in the opening round, decisioned John Sosa of Gaylord 8-2 in the quarterfinals and pinned Eric Pawlaczyk of Imlay City in 1:06 in the semifinals.

He ends his career with a 163-5 overall record.

“There are times where you cannot tell whether it is the first match of the season or the last match of the season,” Niles coach Todd Hesson said. “He is steady. He has got a plan, whether it is what he is eating, his warm-up or his rest. He was focused and ready to go. He has been working for it all season and he finally got the opportunity.”

Franco, who wrestled at Lakeshore his freshman, sophomore and part of his junior season, transferred to Niles over Christmas break of 2016. He wrestled the second half of the 2016-17 season for the Vikings and helped lead them to the Division 2 state championship weekend.

He was a state runner-up at 112 his freshman year and was a third-place finisher as a sophomore.

Last year, Franco lost a 6-3 decision to Gilbraltar Carlson’s Brandon Proudlock. Proudlock defeated Franco in the second round of the state tournament his sophomore season as he would go on to be a two-time state champion.

Hesson said when Franco finally won the championship, it was a combination of excitement and relief.

“I think it was a little of both,” he said. “When you first do it, it is just so exciting. He was excited immediately after the match and energized. And then, I think as we walked off and we talked, that is when the relief came through.”

Hesson was equally happy for Zimmerman.

“Jamison did a great job,” he said. “Jamison has bought into what we do. There are no questions. We put out a plan. It is a simple plan, but it is not easy and he followed it and it worked out great for him this weekend.”

It was the second state champion for the Vikings under Hesson. Kenyon Ellison won the 285-pound championship in 2007.

Division 2

Niles’ Jamison Zimmerman (36-13) also earned all-state for the Vikings as he finished fifth at 103-pounds.

Zimmerman defeated Carter Hinson of Zeeland East 9-2 in the fifth-place match.

Zimmerman won 2-0 over Corbin Hallberg of Ortonville-Brandon in the opening round and won by major decision over Trevor Marsman of Cedar Springs 15-5 in the quarterfinals.

He was defeated by Lakeshore’s Riley Bettich in the semifinals.

Robert Glover (32-9) went 1-2 at 145, Davin Simpson (28-11) went 1-2 at 171, Dayton Smith (36-11) went 1-2 at 171, Dawson Bruckner (33-13) went 1-2 at 189 and Brian Sota (29-13) went 0-2 at 285.

Edwardsburg’s Nick Bradley (32-5) also finished fifth in the state as he defeated Carsen Cuthbert of Holly 2-1.

Bradley won his first two matches at 145 pounds before falling in the championship semifinals in sudden victory 3-1 to Austin Boone of Lowell.

The Eddies’ Noah Tinkham (27-11) was 1-2 at 112, Jacob Reece (30-12) 1-2 at 119 and Jackson Hoover (37-8) was 1-2 at 130.

Division 4

Brandywine’s Hunter Heath won his opening round match at 112 with a pin of Gabe Fielder of Durand Area in 2:37, but dropped his next two matches and was eliminated.

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