SOUTHFIELD — Last season, neither Ezekiel Baker nor Keith Lee made it out of the individual wrestling district level.
This time around, as seniors, they find themselves in the Division 1 state final.
“I’m more excited than I can explain,” said Lee, who quailed at 130 pounds and said his appearance in the final was a career goal.
“He’s a two-time county placer, and I know this was a goal for him. We were real excited to see him get through,” coach Tim Conley said.
Lee is 40-12 overall and takes on senior Ben Caladrino (49-1) from Howell High.
According to www.michigangrappler.com, Caladrino is ranked No. 3 in the division and Lee is an honorable mention.
Lee said he counts on his toughness to be the difference in upcoming matches.
“I think I out-hustle guys a lot. The tenacity that I have, the grittiness that I have,” he said. “I feel like I’m more gritty than most people, and I use that to my advantage.”
Baker is 25-18 and takes on No. 1-ranked Grand Rapids Forest Hills senior Parker Tillman. He’s 42-0 at heavyweight.
Conley said this is Baker’s second year wrestling, and he knew there was potential with the grappler in the first week of practice.
“For him, you could tell right away that he’s a big, strong kid and would be good at this sport,” Conley said.
The coach added that in the two-week gap between the regional level and state final, the coaches and grapplers have been watching film on their opponents and refining their own skills.
“(Lee) is a real quick kid and strong rider. He also is real good fighting off (the bottom). He won’t give up takedowns,” Conley said. “He’s one style, then Zeke is a total heavyweight. He’s going to pummel you ... and throw a headlock. He’s pretty good at it, too.”
Baker and Lee agreed that they’re happy to be in the tournament, but as it draws closer, there is a bigger goal to accomplish.
“It doesn’t matter what place I take; I just want to be on the podium,” Lee said.