Gagnon gets milestone as Braves capture title

GLADSTONE – Senior Brandon Gagnon reached a milestone while helping the Gladstone wrestlers capture their 16th straight district title Wednesday night.

The Braves dispatched Kingsford (66-17) and Negaunee (64-9) in the Division 3 event and Gagnon recorded his 100th career victory by pinning Kingsford junior Drake Griggs 92 seconds into a 171-pound bout.

“After the Escanaba Elks Invitational (on Jan. 4), I didn’t know if I’d be wrestling again (due to a shoulder injury),” said Gagnon, who later pinned Negaunee junior Nick Sharon 2:39 in a 160 match. “At practice, I did a lot of special things the coaches had planned for me and it worked out. It’s definitely special to get it (100th win) in my last tournament at home. I’m looking forward to the individual districts this weekend, although it’s going to be tough. I’m just going to take it one match at a time, do my best and see how everything works out.”

The victories send the Braves to the team regional at Roscommon where they’ll face Mason County Central Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.

Gladstone, however, must first turn its attention to Saturday’s individual district, set for 9 a.m. at Manistee.

The most competitive match took place in the nightcap when Negaunee senior Brody Rosten (140) used three takedowns to gain a 6-3 triumph over Gladstone senior Jared Syverson.

Gladstone, which led 6-3 after that bout, added four points to its cushion (10-3) in the next match which sophomore Kevin Priebe (145) took a 12-0 decision from sophomore Austin Schmeltz.

The Braves then won the next six bouts by pin, gaining an insurmountable 46-3 advantage.

“I thought we wrestled good,” said Braves’ coach Jesse DeBacker. “Although, we have a few things to clean up before regionals. The kids knew what was on the line and they were ready. They knew what our goals were and this is the first step toward those. Brandon getting his 100th victory was a big accomplishment. He worked hard for that.”

Freshman Elek Kallioinen was the lone Negaunee wrestler to record a pin, stopping senior Brianna Davis with just 12 seconds left in the 112 match.

Negaunee coach Brad Saatio is pleased with the team’s progress despite the outcome.

“We’ve worked hard,” he said. “We’re not as afraid going into matches as we were earlier in the season. This has become a tougher team physically and mentally. I think we can make some noise in the individual district.

“Gladstone has a great program. I think they’ll have some success in the regional. They have the senior leadership, which I think will help them a lot.”

In the opener, Syverson gave the Braves an 18-0 cushion, pinning Kingsford senior Aaron Scheetz in 1:49.

The Flivvers, however, got on the board in the next bout in which sophomore Seth Collins pinned Priebe at 5:09.

Gladstone took off from there, winning three bouts by pin and three by forfeit. Its lead ballooned to 54-6 in the 285 bout when senior Tom Bailey needed just 12 seconds to pin freshman Nick Ouradnik.

“I’d be lying if were to say this season hasn’t been a bit rocky,” said Kingsford coach Torey Adams. “We had a lot of different challenges. Our numbers were down and we had some injuries. Yet, we did some good things. I thought we wrestled real well at Negaunee where we won on a tie-breaker before the Christmas Break. We also went 3-2 in the Menominee Super Duals. I thought the guys wrestled good there.

“Gladstone has a very good team. They’re solid all the way through their lineup.”