Grand Haven posted an early 15-3 lead, only to see second-seeded Brighton storm back with 42 consecutive points for a 45-15 win over the Bucs in the Division 1 state quarterfinals at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek.
Coach James Richardson’s frustration nearly boiled over following his team’s showing.
“Our kids were a little overwhelmed and way too conservative,” Richardson said. “That’s not our style of wrestling. We just didn’t get aggressive enough. Our style is physical, aggressive. Without a doubt, this was a letdown.”
Richardson said the Bucs did their best to prepare adequately for their first appearance in the state finals, but weren’t able to get into a flow on Friday evening.
“There was a lot of uncertainty,” he said. “The kids were completely out of their normal routine. That’s what this stage does to you. Hopefully it’s a learning experience.”
The evening began with a Grand Parade, where each team marched around Kellogg Arena bearing its team banner. From there, teams immediately headed to their area behind the mat and the match quickly began.
The quarterfinal round started at 171 pounds, where Buccaneer junior Connor Moynihan opened with a wild 23-10 major decision over Chris Raby. Moynihan quickly threw Raby onto his back and nearly recorded a pin in the opening seconds of the bout.
Raby escaped, then scored a slick reversal and Moynihan found himself on his back.
The Buccaneer junior quickly got out of trouble and led 14-7 after the first period, then cruised to victory.
“It’s a different environment, way different than what I thought,” said Moynihan, the No. 2-ranked wrestler in his weight class in the state, according to Michigan Grappler. “I wish I had more time to get ready. I wanted to go out there and send a statement and get a pin so quickly.
“We’ll know what to expect next year.”
The Bucs’ Dakota Smith wasn’t able to get anything going in his bout at 189 pounds as he fell to Brighton’s Andy White, 7-1.
Grand Haven then went on a run, with Garrett Kelly winning a tough 3-2 decision against Tim Stanisz at 215 pounds and Ian Radde holding on for a 4-2 win over Max Collins at heavyweight.
The match then jumped back up to 103 pounds, where Buccaneer freshman Camden Bertucci — one of the top 103-pounders in the state — had his way with Brighton’s Kyle Bohnsack. Bertucci nearly pinned Bohnsack several times and eventually settled for a 19-2 technical fall, giving the Buccaneers a 15-3 lead.
Grand Haven then voided at 112 pounds, and Brighton had all the momentum from that point on. The Bulldogs’ Jackson Pizzo pinned Eric VanHorssen at 119 pounds, then Jordan Amine scored a 17-3 major decision of the Bucs’ Josh Juchartz at 125.
The Bucs’ Garret Young was pinned by C.J. Brish at 130 pounds, setting up a key matchup of state-ranked 135 pounders. Brighton’s Evan Hoshaw quickly turned the much-anticipated showdown with Grand Haven’s Allen Torres into a one-sided affair. Hoshaw threw Torres onto his back just moments into the match, and the Bucs’ outstanding junior never recovered, suffering a 15-9 loss.
Brighton’s Ryan Foley pinned Luke Averill at 140 pounds, then Nick Brish edged the Bucs’ Abraham Westerman at 145 pounds, 5-3.
Another matchup of top-ranked wrestlers at 152 pounds went the way of Brighton’s Aaron Calderon, who handed Grand Haven’s Dakota Juarez a 9-3 loss.
Jordan Maschke finished off the match by pinning the Bucs’ Drew Ellingboe.
Richardson felt his team lacked the killer instinct it needed to beat a team that entered Friday’s quarterfinal round with a 39-0 record.
“We didn’t want to make mistakes, and that’s what cost us the dual meet,” Richardson said. “This just wasn’t a normal day for us. Our best guys, on the big stage, struggled. We didn’t perform like we should have.”
“We were the underdogs,” he said. “We should have gone for it. We definitely didn’t wrestle our best.”
Brighton, the No. 2 seed in Division 1, moves on to face Oxford in today’s semifinals. Oxford scored a thrilling 28-27 win over third-seeded Davidson on Friday in a match that came down to the final weight class.
An even more exciting showdown took place between fifth-seeded Hartland and fourth-seeded Temperance Bedford. Hartland’s Chad Maks won a tiebreaker in the final bout to salvage a 27-27 tie, and his team then won on the eighth tiebreaker criteria — the total number of first match points scored.
Hartland gets the honor of facing No. 1 Detroit Catholic Central, which demolished Roseville on Friday, 73-3.