BY WENDI REARDON PRICE
Clarkston News Sports Writer
Seven Clarkston grapplers met their goal of making the MHSAA Wrestling Individual Division 1 State Finals, heading to Ford Field this Friday and Saturday.
“My dad (ex-Lion Marc Spindler) took me about 10 years ago to watch the state meet at the Palace of Auburn Hills,” said freshman Rocco Spindler, who qualified in the 285-pound weight class. “He told me one day I was going to be on that mat when they did the champion walk and singing ‘We are the Champions.’ The mindset stuck with me. I never really forgot about that. I am going to go back there. I am going to do the best I can. I ended up qualifying. It’s very rare for a freshman, even a heavyweight freshman, to make it to states.”
Also, making their first visits to the state finals is senior Houston Hemingsen (140), juniors Jake Billette (140), Ethan Polick (135) Cole Wiegers (119), and sophomore Jacob Jones (215).
“It’s pretty nice; you finally realize all your hard work has paid off,” said Hemingsen. “I am excited to get my name out there.”
“It feels good to know after wrestling most of my life, I finally got a big achievement,” Polick added. “I am excited to have the chance to prove I am one of the best kids in the state in my weight class.”
For Jones, qualifying showed him how much heart matters.
“Heart can overcome a lot. It can overcome things like age, size,” he said, adding he is also excited to see the caliber of wrestlers at the tournament. “It will give me an idea what I am working for in the next couple of years.”
Wiegers and Billette added it shows all the hard work they put into practice with Clarkston Wrestling.
“We work harder than anyone else,” Wiegers said. “I am excited not only to make my way to the podium, but for the off season all the coaches coming out and looking at you for future college opportunities.”
“The proof is in the pudding,” Billette said. “We come in here and work really hard. I am anxious to get back to Ford Field for the second time this year. Not only for football but wrestling too and show what I’ve got.”
Junior Mac Hanselman (125) qualified for his third trip to the tournament.
“This year I want to get myself onto the podium because last year I fell short in the blood rounds,” said Hanselman. “I am confident in myself getting those wins and getting on the podium. It’s going to be exciting to get on there. I am excited just to wrestle.”
The Wolves shared the biggest challenges they have faced this season which will help them this week which includes their training.
“Our coaches – how hard they push us,” Houston added. “We can definitely fall back on being more in shape than our opponents. Not once have we felt winded in a match where we were overpowered or out strengthened.”
“The conditioning, the grind matches, the sprints really pushed us to our limit,” Wiegers added. “We needed to break that boundary so we had the upper hand.”
The boys also had to figure out and overcome their weaknesses.
“Every week after tournament we come back to practice, look at the things we can improve. I think that’s really important,” Billette shared.
“Facing the gray zone where, in our head, we just want to quit,” Hanselman added. “We want to take a break, but knowing this is for the better we have to keep working. We have made it this far.”
For Jones, his challenge has been overcoming is weight.
“I am wrestling 25 pounds up,” he said. “I have learned to overcome that and not be disheartened by the size.”
Spindler shared for him it is getting into shape and wrestling older guys.
“The way I got into shape was I had to work hard in practice that’s how I beat my guys in the third period. When they are down and they want to be over. I turn it into a different gear, keep the engine roaring, and finish the match strong.”
The starting weight class is 103-pound. Wiegers (34-16) opens the tournament against Hartland’s Corey Cavannaugh; Hanselman (36-11) opens against Detroit Catholic Central’s Dominick Lomanzo; Polick (35-15) opens against Southfield’s Isiah Berry; Billette (39-9) opens against Grosse Pointe Northern’s Raymond Hamilton; Hemingsen (36-14) opens against Chippewa Valley’s Brandon Badour; Jones (25-17) opens against Port Huron’s Dominick Wilson; and Spindler (24-11) against Temperance’s Austin Emerson, a senior.
“I don’t use my freshman level as an excuse because I can hang with these guys,” Spindler said, adding Emerson is ranked No. 1 in the state. “Like my dad says, it’s not the size of the fight. It’s the size of the dog. You have to dig down deep to keep going to be able to pull it out in the end. I am going to give him everything I have. He is 40-3 and you can’t judge by what’s on the paper. The match starts at 0-0. You have to block the nervous energy out.”
Individual sessions tickets are $15 each and are sold the day of the event. All-session tickets are available for $40 each. It is cash only. All tickets are general admission. For more information, please visit www.mhsaa.com/sports/wrestling.
“We are a family,” said Hanselman. “We are going to walk out there all together wearing Clarkston Wrestling, support our community during the grand march, and we are going to wrestle with a C on our chests.”
“It’s a special moment us teammates share,” Billette added. “I am excited to show people what Clarkston Wrestling is about.”