The Alpena High School wrestling team made program history on Wednesday when it defeated Midland Dow to win its first ever team-district title.
As big as that win was though, the Wildcats aren't resting on their laurels and they've got bigger goals in mind; namely winning some individual district titles.
Alpena will host a Division 1 individual district beginning at 9:30 a.m. today. Along with Alpena, the district includes Bay City Central, Flint Carman-Ainsworth, Davison, Flushing, Grand Blanc, Midland, Midland Dow, Port Huron, Port Huron Northern, Saginaw, Saginaw Heritage and Swartz Creek.
The opportunity to wrestle on their home floor could give the Wildcats some extra motivation, but coach Jake Stenz knows his kids are in for a tough day.
"Our guys are really pumped. They've been pumped all along about having districts at home and having this big tournament; sleeping in their own beds, wrestling in their own gym, using their own lockers," Stenz said. "Obviously we celebrated (Wednesday), we laughed a little today (Thursday), but we've got to get back to work. There's no easy matches this Saturday either and we can't take for granted the matches we won the other night."
Alpena has three returning regional qualifers from last year in RJ Centala (140), Dakota Patterson (152) and Felix Suszek (215) and all three hope to return to regionals again to do so they'll have to be among the top four finshers in their respective brackets. Patterson and Suzsek earned pins in Alpena's win on Wednesday and Centala won by decision.
What: Division 1 individual wrestling district
Where: Alpena High School
When: today beginning at 9:30 a.m.
Notes: Alpena has three regional qualifers on its team from last season: RJ Centala, Dakota Patterson and Felix Suszek
The Wildcats could have their hands full with Davison a periennal powerhouse and last year's runner-up in Division 1. The Cardinals are the No. 1 team in Divison 1 this season and have a powerful lineup that includes the top-ranked wrestlers at 125 pounds (Lincoln Olson) and 189 pounds (Jordan Crooks).
"There's some good teams. Davison's ranked No. 1 in the state and they come here and most of their lineup is ranked in the state too, they've got a lot of firepower," Stenz said. "Everybody in our district is coming up with some firepower. Everybody's coming up here with one, two or three guys that will do well for them."
Alpena has its three returning regional qualfiers, but Stenz is also hoping for some surprises from his team. Daron Mathia (130) has been one of Alpena's best wrestlers in the second half of the season and earned the clinching win over Dow on Wednesday with a win by major decision. Stenz is also looking for good things from Austin Hawks (285).
A tough schedule may have left the Wildcats lacking in overall wins, but it pays off this time of the year when the stakes are high and wrestlers are fighting to extend their seasons. It's paid off for Alpena as of late. Along with the team district title, the Wildcats earned a pair of wins in a tri-meet last week.
"Everybody's working together, pushing each other to keep getting better. Near the end of the season, everyone's starting to peak and getting wins when it counts," Patterson said. "It's a big deal to get kids out of districts and regionals and on to states, especially at a school like Alpena."
James Andersen can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.