Braves strongarm Eskymos

ESCANABA – The Gladstone Braves have waited years for this. Wrestling dominance now firmly in hand after making it through a season going undefeated in dual-meets, the Braves can concentrate on bigger things.

“We’ve never won the Mariucci Trophy,” said Gladstone coach Jesse DeBacker. “We’ve always lost somewhere along the line. To go undefeated in dual meets…I’m speechless. It’s something I always wanted to do as a wrestler, but it’s better as a coach.”

The Braves wrapped up the regular season Thursday night with a 41-19 victory over Escanaba. It was a match that was closer than the score indicates, but the Braves were simply far superior in a handful of matches.

During one stretch from 171-HWT, Gladstone won by four consecutive pins. Also among the Braves’ highlights was Sam Taylor winning 17-2 by technical fall over Brian Kwarciany.

At 152, Josh Kadish gave an outstanding performance for the Braves, edging Escanaba’s Alec Slaga 4-2.

“He’s probably the strongest kid I’ve wrestled all year,” said Kadish of Slaga.

For Kadish, being one of the lone seniors on the team, to sweep Escanaba after years of close defeats was especially sweet.

“it feels great – all our hard work in practice has finally paid off,” he said. “We have a great team this year.”

Gladstone also picked up a win in the heavyweight class, a class that in this rivalry, had been dominated the past few years by Escanaba’s Dalton Perron-Spear, who has since graduated.

Tom Bailey notched a pin on the Eskymos’ William Soper.

“Tommy is finally coming into his own and he wrestled tough,” said DeBacker. “He had his hips in place and for him to clinch it for us was great.”

The Eskymos had some success against their Delta County counterparts as well.

Zach Priebe gutted out a tough 12-8 win over Gladstone’s Jared Syverson in the opening match at 125 pounds. It may have been a costly victory as Priebe popped his knee during the match.

“It’s not the first time I’ve wrestled him. He slowed me down a bit but I finished the match,” Priebe said.

One of the two juniors on the team along with Travis Heller, Priebe attempted to energize his team before the match.”

“I tried to get everyone pumped up,” he said. “We just didn’t have everything go our way this time.”

Kaleb Rahoi picked up a 15-2 major decision victory over Gladstone’s Keenan Barron at 145 pounds and Heller dominated Bradley Gagnon 12-4 at 160. In the final match of the night at 119, Nick King edged Gladstone’s Jake Kujala 5-4, though the Eskymos were only awarded two points for the victory, as one point was subtracted due to calls being argued.

“We were on the short end of some tight matches tonight,” said Escanaba coach Jamie Segorski. “It’s not for a lack of effort. Gladstone is just real good and we’re missing guys.”

The Eskymos were without their usual starters at 119, 130, 189 and 215. Segorski doesn’t expect them back for the Great Northern Conference tournament at Escanaba’s Upper Elementary on Saturday.

“We’ll be short at the GNC’s. It is what it is,” said Segorski. “Even with our whole team, it would be pretty far fetched to beat Gladstone. They put in the work and they earned it tonight.

After dominating in Delta County and even the Upper Peninsula for a number of years, this has been an adjustment season for the rebuilding Eskymos, but Segorski has taken it in stride.

“The kids are alright, they’re all new,” he said. “We had a great run – We won everything for quite a few years. Now, it’s a combination of rebuilding and Gladstone being real solid. It doesn’t bode well for us.

“There’s been a lot of coachable moments and you take advantage of those opportunities. Our focus now is on the tournament season, both individuals and team regionals. We’ll see how many kids we can get in the state tournament.”