Braves take crown at Escanaba Elks Invite
By John Vrancic
ESCANABA – The Gladstone wrestlers continued their winning ways Saturday, earning the top prize in the Escanaba Elks Invitational with 252 1/2 points.
Defending champ Esky scored 198, with St. Ignace third at 154 in the 40th annual tournament.
“This was an awesome performance by our guys,” said Gladstone coach Jesse DeBacker. “Everybody wrestled real well. We couldn’t be happier with the results.”
Gladstone, which was crowned Elks champion for the first time in at least a decade, was fresh from dominating Thursday’s quadrangular meet at home.
“We had a great start,” said DeBacker. “The first couple rounds set the tone. We got a lot of pins. This was a great tournament for us, especially with the U.P. Finals coming up (Jan. 19 in Marquette).”
The Braves sent eight to the title round, of which four were crowned champions.
Gladstone freshman Jackson Simison opened the finals by pinning Norway’s Zach DeCremer in five minutes, 17 seconds into the 103-pound bout.
“He seemed to be tiring and I was able to take advantage of that,” said Simison, who squeezed past DeCremer 20-19 on Thursday. “I think Thursday’s match helped prepare me for today. I was ready for anything. I knew this was going to be a hard tournament.”
Gladstone sophomore Jack Cronick (189) gained his second Elks title by pinning Westwood senior Cole Schultz in 2:36.
“It was a lot more challenging in this class because people tend to be in better shape,” said Cronick, who won at 215 a year ago. “I definitely wanted to take first so I could be a two-time champion in this tournament. It’s always a challenge when we come over here because we’re going up against Esky.”
Gladstone’s Jeremy Kadish, a 6-foot-1 sophomore, made a takedown early in the second period stand up for a 4-2 victory over Esky freshman Hunter Sadler.
“Once I got the lead, I started wrestling more cautiously,” said Kadish. “Many of the kids I wrestle are shorter and stronger than I am. I just go out and try to do my best. I took fourth over here last year, so I’m pretty happy to come over here and take first.”
Senior Josh Kadish added the 152-pound title for Gladstone by topping Esky sophomore Alec Slaga 4-0.
“I just came in here real focused and got my points where I needed to get them,” said Kadish. “When Gladstone and Esky wrestlers face each other, it’s always good competition.”
Esky’s champions were juniors Zach Priebe (125) and Travis Heller (160).
Heller reached the finals for the third consecutive time, earning his second straight title with a 6-4 triumph over Gladstone junior Brandon Gagnon. His lead stood at 6-2 following a reversal at the end of the second period.
“That was critical,” said Heller, who won at 140 last year. “That gave me some momentum going in the third period. This is a faster pace than at 140, although there’s really not that much difference overall. There are tough wrestlers in every division. Although, I think winning it last year gave me confidence I could do it again.”
Priebe gained his first Elks championship with an 11-4 victory over Gladstone junior Jared Syverson.
“I focused on my shots and going deep,” said Priebe, who led 11-1 after four minutes. “That got me a higher level of points. Although, I need to work on my endurance. I let my guard down. He got a shot and I had to defend it. I’m looking to strengthen my third period.”
Esky sophomore Kaleb Rahoi (135) also reached the finals where he dropped a 3-2 decision to Menominee senior Chris Briar.
“Kaleb is a great wrestler,” said Esky coach Jamie Segorski. “He just ran into a very tough wrestler in the finals. We’re real happy with the way Travis and Zach wrestled. We’re making noticeable improvement, but we have a ways to go. We had four weight classes where we scored zero points, which will cost you in a tournament like this.”
Gladstone had two additional runners-up. Freshman Bobby Beauchamp (130) dropped a 9-6 decision to Negaunee junior Brody Rosten and junior heavyweight Tom Bailey was pinned in 48 seconds by two-time state champion Joe Ostman of St. Ignace.
“Gladstone has a nice team,” said Segorski. “They have everything going right now. I thought we wrestled pretty well. We were on the short end of a couple tight matches, but nothing that would have swayed the outcome of the tournament.”
Placing third for Gladstone were James Bruce (112) and Bradley Gagnon (171), with Sam Taylor (135) and Jake Cronick (171) taking fourth. The Braves resume in Saturday’s Kingsford Invitational.
Esky got thirds from Sergei LaMarche (103), Tyler Adams (130) and Devin Olsen (215) and fourths from Brittinie Larson (103), Kevin Priebe (140). The Eskymos host Marquette in a dual meet Thursday.
Bark River-Harris brought just two wrestlers, including Curtis Labadie (215) who placed fourth.
“What an improvement from last year,” said BR-H coach Mike Labadie. “None of our guys got that far last year. Curtis went down from heavyweight to 215 and Kyle Mathias went up from 160 to 171 and it went real well. Curtis made a couple mistakes, but he’ll learn from those. Kyle wanted to see what it was like at 171, and we were thrilled about how he did (sixth place).”
The Broncos resume Wednesday in a quadrangular at Munising.