STATE CHAMPS! Brandywine’s Schoff, Ward claim titles

Published 10:56 am Monday, March 4, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

DETROIT —  It was quite a weekend for the Brandywine wrestling team at the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 4 State Finals at Ford Field in Detroit.

The Bobcats sent three wrestlers to the east side of the state and came home with two state championships and a fifth-place finish.

Brandywine senior Gavin Schoff became the first Bobcat since Dean Heath in 1992 to win a state title as he captured the 157-pound title with a 1-0 decision over Layne Kniskley, of Bronson.

Brandywine junior Maddison Ward made school history as she became the first-ever state champion as she won the 170-pound championship as she pinned her way through the two-day tournament.

Ward, who picked up her 100th career victory along the way, pinned Loy Norrix’s Heaven Cole in 5:448 of the championship match.

If that was not enough for Brandywine Coach Rex Pomranka and his staff, Kaiden Rieth placed fifth at 126 pounds as he pinned Martin’s Jayce Ritchie.

“This is my first state champ,” said veteran Brandywine Coach Rex Pomranka. “In all my years coaching we have had runners-ups and state placers, but next a state champion and we got two of them.”

Pomranka said he did not even know both Schoff and Ward had reached the finals because they were both wrestling in the semifinals at the same time.

“I was down coaching Maddy with her uncle, so I am watching that match, I thought we lost [the Schoff match]. They did not come and tell me anything. Another coach told me he had won in overtime.”

Schoff was wrestling Hudson’s Jacob Pickford in the semifinals, where he won 8-6 in overtime to move into Saturday’s championship match.

Ward defeated Grand Haven’s Isabelle Wisenbaugh with a time in 3:48 to advance.

Both wrestlers were involved in extremely tough championship matches.

In the 157-pound final, Knisley and Schoff were scoreless after the first two minutes. In the second period, Schoff earned an escape, which he took into the final two minutes of his high school career.

Knisley took the down position, but was unable to get free of Schoff, who rode him out to capture the title and complete a perfection 49-0 season.

“It feels good to accomplish something like that,” Schoff said of going undefeated.

Schoff said that time seem to be standing still as he was trying to ride out Knisley for the title.

“It felt like forever out there, especially when you are that tired,” he said. “The last 10 seconds felt like a minute.”

Schoff opened the tournament on Friday with a pin of Charlevoix’s Logan Wilks in 2:36. In the quarterfinals, he pinned Clayton Clark, of East Jackson, in just 22 seconds.

Ward also had to battle for three periods to earn the championship.

Late in the third period, she finally turned Cole as time was running out. Pomranka wanted her to just stay there and ride out Cole because she was already leading and was going to be awarded a three-point near fall.

But that was not enough for Ward, who was the driving force behind Brandywine beginning girls wrestling.

“It’s exciting to know that I won and how I had so many people supporting me along the way,” Ward said. “I’m truly grateful for everyone that has stood by my side. I hope this inspires more girls at Brandywine to wrestle and know that they can do it too. I want nothing more than the girls program to flourish.”

Ward opened the tournament with a pin of Portland’s Maddy Newberry in 20 seconds. In the quarterfinals, she pinned Brooklyn Columbia Central’s Brianna Boone in 1:08.

To advance to the championship match, Ward pinned Grand Haven’s Isabelle Wisenbach in 3:48.

Reith won his first two matches on Friday.

He won by major decision (12-2) over Hudson’s Owen Loop, and pinned Inland Lakes’ Wyatt Hanel in 44 seconds in the quarterfinals.

Rieth was knocked into the consolation bracket in the semifinals as Manchester’s Sammy Stewart won by decision, 7-2.

In the consolation semifinals, Rieth lost a 6-4 decision to Hanover-Horton’s David Fielder.

He rebounded to pin Martin to place fifth.