WRESTLING: Thornell Takes Regional Championship, 4 Hornets Advance to State Tournament
Regional champ Brett Thornell is going to the state wrestling meet with teammates Malik Eisemann, Blaise Bastos and Blake Wilson. The MHSAA Division 1 wrestling tournament takes place at the Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo Saturday.
Saline sent 10 wrestlers to Saturday's regional tournament at Saline High School.
Thornell, a 25-1 junior wrestling at 130 pounds, was the only Hornet to take his bracket in a tough regional. He opened the day with a 9-4 victory. His most dramatic win came in the semifinal against Livonia Franklin's Tyler Garrett. The two spent the third period trading takedowns, escapes and reverses. Tied at eight with seconds remaining Thornell chased Garrett to the edge of the circle, grabbed his legs and took to the matt. Thornell defeated Livonia Franklin's Nick Dziurgot in the championship round, 7-4.
"I feel great. It was a great win over a good guy," Thornell said.
Thornell earned his first trip to the state meet."I'm nervous, but I'm ready to compete with some good guys," Thornell said.
Head coach Chad O'Brien said Thornell's success is a product of his work.
"Brett has been working since his freshman year, but he's dedicated himself this year. Coach Palazollo has been working with him extensively and it's starting to pay off," O'Brien said. "He's physical. He's fast. He's just wrestling really well this year."
In fact, all four Hornets who advanced to the state meet are making their inaugural trip.
Freshman Malik Eisemann, 12-3, was runner-up in the 103-pound division. Eisemann opened the day by pinning Livonia Franklin's Gino DiPonio. In the semifinal, Eisemann bested Northville's Jonah Koipalli, 7-5. In the final, Eisemann lost 11-4 to Northville's Joshua Drake.
"He's really starting to come into his own," coach O'Brien said.
At 135 pounds, Blaise Blastos, a junior with a 16-10 record lost to the eventual regional champ in the opening round. Blastos got a bye in the next round and then earned a 6-5 decision over Northville's Noah Myung to advance to the consolation final, where he was pinned by Livonia Franklin's Jager Kwiatkowski.
"If you saw where Blaise came from to where Blaise is now, it's just a great story," O'Brien said.
At 160 pounds, junior Blake Wilson, 14-6, warned an 11-6 decision in his opening tilt. He was pinned in the semifinal. He defeated Livonia Franklin's Sebastian Sanches, 10-2, to advance to the consolation final, Belleville's Demond Harrison won, 10-2."Blake Wilson is just doing really good things," O'Brien said.
O'Brien said it was nice to see four members of the squad qualify for the first time.
"I guess the reality is, the bar's got to be not just getting there, but winning some medals," O'Brien said. "And that's what we're shooting for."