Shamrock wrestlers impress with team, individual state championships

Detroit Catholic Central junior Manuel Rojas prepares to shoot against his opponent, Temperance Bedford’s Colin Jagielski. Rojas won the match, and the state title at 189 pounds. (Photos by Wright Wilson | Special to Detroit Catholic)

DETROIT — It was billed as the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s individual wrestling championship tournament last weekend, but since Novi Detroit Catholic Central had so many athletes qualify, it may as well have been another team event.

One week after defeating Davison to win their fourth straight Division 1 team title, the Shamrocks added six individual championships (out of 14 weight classes) Saturday night at Ford Field. Catholic Central also had three runners-up, so the nine finalists were the most ever for any Division 1 program. Watching a Shamrock battle on the mat was the reoccurring theme of the final session.

“It’s just amazing,” said senior Josh Edmond, the 140-pound state champion. “Last year it was seven (reaching the championship round), that was the record. This year it’s nine; we broke a record from last year. It just shows how hard we work in the room. If you trust the process and trust in your coaches, you’ll reach your goal.”

“It is remarkable, obviously,” head coach Mitch Hancock said. “I’m just very proud of the guys who wrestled and had the courage to get out there and compete hard.”

The official raises the arm of Detroit Catholic Central senior Derek Gilcher, signifying a victory. Gilcher earned his seventh state title, the most ever in Shamrock history, with 3-2 decision over Jay Nivison of Davison in the 160-pound final.

In addition to Edmond — who won his third consecutive title — the Shamrocks had champions in freshman Dylan Gilcher (112 pounds), his senior brother Derek Gilcher (160), sophomore Manuel Rojas (189), senior Brendin Yatooma (215) and senior Stephen Kolcfheff (285).

“They all bring a different energy and a different level of excitement to the mat, and that’s why it’s so enjoyable as a coach,” Hancock said. “A young guy down low, Dylan Gilcher, wrestled an absolutely remarkable tournament, and I’m really proud of Rojas for coming back and winning it at 189; I think those guys really did a great job. (Derek) Gilcher’s pace is incredibly high; he wrestled well at 160, Josh’s ability to score points is unbelieveable, then the big guys did a really nice job. Yatooma got scored on first, and then he battled back from that and settled down a little bit, and then Kolcheff found a way to win at the end.”

Dylan Gilcher (44-3) started the parade of champions when he prevailed over Brighton’s Aiden Smith in a technical fall, 18-3, in a match ended early in the third round. 

Edmond finished his season undefeated, winning all 46 of his matches. He also prevailed in a technical fall, 23-7, over Brighton’s Zach Johnson, as the match was ended with 10 seconds remaining. 

At 215 pounds, Brendin Yatooma rides his opponent, Brighton’s Luke Stanton, midway through the match. Yatooma won the match, 4-2, defending his individual state championship.

“Getting a tech (fall) in the finals, not a lot of people do that,” said the Missouri-bound Gilcher. “Most people win by one or two points, try to keep the match close and wrestle conservative, but I just wrestled hard. When I’m wrestling aggressive, I’m having fun. When I wrestle conservative, it’s not fun.”

Derek Gilcher’s match went down to the wire, a 3-2 decision over Davison’s Jay Nivison.

“The score was close, but personally I don’t think it was as close as the score showed,” said Gilcher (49-2), who plans to wrestle for Indiana University next season.

With four team titles and three individual crowns, Gilcher is the first seven-time state champ for the Shamrocks.

“It’s the first time in CC history anybody’s ever done that,” he said. “It adds to the legacy of the program, the accomplishments; it shows all the hard work we’ve put in and that we have excellent coaches and fans.” 

At 189, Rojas won his 50th match of the season (50-1) and first state title, in a come-from-behind 7-3 decision over Colin Jagielski of Temperance Bedford. 

Yatooma (49-1) defended his title at 215 pounds, with a 4-2 decision over Brighton’s Luke Stanton.

“I just needed to focus on wrestling hard,” said Yatooma, who has not decided whether he will play football or wrestle in college. “Having all of us down here is basically to keep the brotherhood, that’s the main thing. Stay strong, stay close together, support one another through everything no matter what happens. Work together as a team. I know how hard my teammates work.”

On the top rung of the podium, freshman Dylan Gilcher receives his 112-pound weight class state championship medal from coach Mitch Hancock.

In the final match of the evening, Kolcheff (49-2) defeated the top seed, Livonia Franklin’s Jake Swirple, 2-1 in overtime, to take home his second straight championship — the sixth for the Shamrocks. 

Although Catholic Central fell just shy of matching last year’s seven championships — a record shared with the 2013 St. Johns squad and matched this year in Division 3 by Dundee — Hancock said it was still a strong showing against top-flight competition.

“In Division 1 you had the Davisons, the Brightons, the CCs, so you saw a lot of those matchups. I mean, three national powerhouses there, so our guys did a really nice job of keeping their composure and continuing to score, and staying aggressive,” Hancock said. “I’m really proud of the guys; they wrestled fantastic and put it in His hands.”

Three other Shamrocks wrestled Saturday night but were defeated in the final round: Camden Trupp (135), Marc Shaeffer (145) and Logan Sanom (152). Although they did not compete in the final round, three additional Shamrocks reached the podium: freshman Drew Heethuis finished third at 103 pounds, freshman T.J. Bunn was fifth at 125 and junior Philip Burney placed sixth at 135.

“Our guys were well-prepared and I’m really pleased and honored to be a wrestling coach at Catholic Central,” Hancock said. “To have a legacy of over 10 years of maintaining excellence has meant a lot to me, but I couldn’t have done this without the whole program.”