By Robert Tomlinson
THREE RIVERS — Thursday’s MHSAA Team Wrestling district finals matchup between Constantine and Three Rivers was billed as one of the biggest in the area on the week.
And it lived up to the hype.
In a match in front of a packed Purple Palace that came down to the final two wrestlers of the evening, Constantine hoisted the trophy at the end of the night, defeating the host Wildcats by a final score of 32-28.
Constantine, who got a bye to the finals in the three-team bracket, was up 29-28 going into the final match of the evening at 150 pounds. In the decisive match, it was the Falcons’ Brody Jones taking home a 7-1 win over Three Rivers’ Landon Moreland, highlighted by four key points in the first period.
With the win, the Falcons notch their fifth consecutive team district title, and the seventh in nine years for head coach Dale Davidhizar. However, after his team lost to Three Rivers in the Wildcat Super Duals 40-39 back in January, he said this title may be the best one yet.
“It feels better than last year,” Davidhizar said. “Last year, we really came in to the dual thinking we really didn’t have a shot and we snuck out a couple of wins last year, but this year, there’s been a lot of back and forth between us and them, and they got us earlier in the year. The kids battled hard, and this team, they love each other.”
Three Rivers took the early 7-0 advantage in the match, with the Wildcats’ Louis Smith defeating Constantine’s Carter Godfrey in a major decision at 157 pounds and Jeremiah Detwiler defeating the Falcon’s Dalton Smith in a regular decision at 165.
However, Constantine would turn the tide quickly with four straight wins to take a 16-7 lead, including a major decision by Julien Hawthorn at 175 over Jaxon Smith, a decision by Troy Demas at 190 over Lloyd Ruesink, a decision by Bennett Vandenberg at 285 over Jake Reynolds, and a key pin at 215 by Gregg Reed over Landon Grubbs that broke the then 7-7 tie.
TR would retake the lead, 19-16, with two straight pins from Clinton Kaiser over Cohen Osborne at 106 and Jak Monroe over Jace Vavul at 113. However, the Falcons would quickly retake the lead with a third-period pin by Preston Like over Larry Joe Hensley at 120, but Three Rivers won by void at 126 to take a 25-22 lead.
Constantine would win three of the final four matches on the night, including the final win at 150, a 7-4 decision by Bear Geibe over Carter Hensley at 132, and an 11-1 major decision by Michael Featherstone over Drew McClain at 138 that Davidhizar said was they key tide-turner in the match.
“At 138, we had that on paper as we were going to get pinned,” Davidhizar said. “Michael Featherstone goes out and majors, and that was huge.”
Three Rivers got a key win to make it close at 29-28 with Ayden Keller sneaking in a decision with two points in the final 45 seconds of the third period at 144 pounds over Koltin Gross, setting the stage for the 150-pound bout.
Davidhizar chalked up their victory, their second straight win over Three Rivers in a district final, to “a lot of heart and drive.”
“I’ve never had a team that loves each other and does everything together, and they deserve it,” Davidhizar said. “We bumped a couple kids around to try and get matchups after we fell behind for a bit, and they came up big.”
Constantine’s coach gave props to Three Rivers for a well-played match the whole way.
“I take my hat off to Three Rivers, they came out and battled and got after it,” Davidhizar said. “We pinned them in a few weight classes last time we wrestled them, and they came out and did not. They didn’t go over, they fought hard, and I give them lots of props. They got after it.”
Constantine will face Hopkins in the team regional round in Dowagiac next week, while individual wrestlers will compete this Saturday in individual districts at Constantine, where Three Rivers will also compete.
In the semifinal matchup, Three Rivers shut out Parchment 84-0. The ‘Cats got void victories from Monroe at 113, Talan Flowers at 120, Carter Hensley at 126, Drew McClain at 132, Moreland at 144, Louis Smith at 150, Jaxson Smith at 175, Grubbs at 215, and Reynolds at 285. Pinfall victories were earned by Detwiler at 157 over Hayden Host, Brisen Penny at 165 over Isaac Gostlin, Ruesink over Richard Dolnik at 190, Kaiser over Eli Sapp at 106, and Keller over Caythen Verburs at 138.
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or firstname.lastname@example.org.