L’Anse Creuse wrestlers expecting success at state finals
February 26, 2014
HARRISON TOWNSHIP — For Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse junior 112-pound wrestler Brendan Hazelton, simply qualifying for last year’s Michigan High School Athletic Association state finals wasn’t good enough.
“Going last year as a sophomore was a cool experience, but I left with an empty feeling,” said Hazelton, who with a 48-4 record is one of three Lancers grapplers who will compete in this year’s individual state finals. “I won my first match, but that was it. Now, I need to place. That’s what I need to do.”
The 2014 MHSAA state finals take place Feb. 27-March 1 at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Hazelton and teammate Devan Richter (53-1), who placed fifth in Division 1 at 171 pounds in 2013, are veterans of the event. L’Anse Creuse senior heavyweight Donald Strong (24-12) will make his first appearance at the state finals this weekend. He missed his junior year due to injury and is relishing the success he’s having in his last go-around.
“I didn’t really enjoy missing last season at all,” said Strong, a three-year varsity wrestler. “The districts and regionals were tough. I don’t think I’d be where I am without (Richter and Hazelton). They definitely gave me an extra push during my matches. It was tough, though. There are a lot of great wrestlers out there.”
Richter, a four-year varsity wrestler, said getting a good night’s rest is important to your success at the state finals. He said his team’s regular-season schedule helped prepare the athletes, as well. In preparation for the postseason, L’Anse Creuse battled in tournaments as far as Rockford, Saginaw and Marysville.
“You see wrestlers from different divisions and you wrestle some good, quality opponents who help you get ready for this point,” Richter said.
Strong said seeing different styles during the regular season has benefited him. He said wrestling various opponents has allowed him to pick up different things to add to his repertoire.
The coaches who made that schedule — David Prince and Brian Lorenzo — also have done a solid job of preparing Strong, Richter and Hazelton for the state finals. Strong said Lancers coaches are persistent, hard-nosed and teach a wealth of technique. He also said Prince and Lorenzo push the grapplers to the limit.
“(Our coaches) definitely make sure we keep our eyes on the prize, but they let us have a little fun, too,” Richter said, “because that keeps us loose and you don’t want to go into a match too tight.”
The top eight wrestlers in each weight class in Division 1-4 earn All-State honors. Richter said placing fifth last year was a highlight, but that won’t be good enough this time around.
“You go in wanting to place,” Richter said, “then you want to jump up a level. You don’t want to be in the same spot.”
For Strong, after missing last season, earning All-State honors would be a great accomplishment.
“To come back and make it this far has been great,” Strong said, “and it’d be even better to come out as an All-State wrestler.”
For state finals pairings and match times, check www.mhsaa.com.