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Trio of Saxons capture I-8 championships

Hastings senior Tyler Dull holds down Jackson Northwest's Dominick Louagie during his 3-0 win in the 160-pound championship match on the Saxons' home mats Saturday at the I-8 Tournament.

Brett Bremer

Sports Editor

A pair of senior captains pulled off upsets on their way to conference championships and a freshman finished off an undefeated Interstate-8 Athletic Conference season to capture three titles for the Hastings varsity wrestling team Saturday.

Freshman Robby Slaughter capped a perfect first Interstate-8 Athletic Conference campaign by scoring a 10-4 win over Harper Creek's Brian Castellanos in the 135-pound championship match at the I-8 Tournament hosted by the Saxons at Hastings High School.

Hastings head coach Darrell Slaughter was “super proud” of the way all of his grapplers wrestled Saturday, but there was a little extra dad pride behind the joy of seeing his son win a conference championship.

By the time a long varsity wrestling career is over, grapplers can feel like sons to a coach. Seniors Tyler Dull and Gabe Trick won conference championships as well. Trick pinned Harper Creek's Trevor Brooks half a minute into the second period of their 145-pound title bout and Dull edged Jackson Northwest's Dominick Louagie 3-0 in the 160-pound championship match.

“Gabe was telling coach (Jeff) Wilbur that he was going to have a hard time with the Harper Creek kid in the finals, but he was seeded third behind a kid that had already pinned him and wasn't even expected to see the Harper Creek kid – according to the seeding,” coach Slaughter said.

Trick scored a shutout in his semifinal victory at 145 pounds, besting Northwest's Zachary Jacobs 4-0. Jacobs pinned Trick early in the second period during their team's Interstate-8 Athletic Conference dual this winter. From there, it was on to the finals where Track was set to face Brooks who'd pinned Trick's teammate Matt Thompson in the first period when the Beavers and Saxons had their head-to-head dual last month.

“Gabe knew in his mind that he would be there in the finals against a kid who had zero blemishes (on his conference) record, and ranked seventh (in the state). Of course, in most cases we don't want kids to think like this. Me, as a coach, I'm always looking at the next match. But Gabe had it all mapped out in his mind that he was going to win an I-8 Conference title in the toughest weight class of the tournament.”

Even the fourth place medalist at 145 pounds, Zeke Nowicki from Coldwater, is a wrestler who is over 100 varsity victories for his career. Brooks' loss to Trick was just his fourth defeat of the season, stacked up against 33 wins.

Dull's championship was just as surprising to those not wearing blue and gold.

“In the coaches' seeding room, this wasn't supposed to be,” Slaughter said of Dull's title. “But, Tyler has the mindset that he will go get what he wants. All of us coaches talked about this being one of the greatest wrestling matches he has had. He beat a kid they said he shouldn't – which is what we do.”

Hastings had six medalists in all on the day. Senior Carter Smith was fourth at 171 pounds, and sophomore 215-pounder Jackson Dubois and sophomore 130-pounder Mason Denton both placed third.

Smith returned to the mat this winter to help the Hastings team and to win a conference medal in his lone varsity season after stepping away from the sport for a few years after seventh grade.

Jackson Northwest put eight wrestlers in the finals, had three champions and 12 top four finishes overall to finish off a conference tournament championship. The Mounties closed the day with 205 points. Parma Western had four champions, and placed second with 184.5 points, ahead of Harper Creek 128.5, Coldwater 103, Hastings 100, Marshall 44.5, Lumen Christi 37 and Pennfield 33.

Hastings also got victories on the day from Shane Dillon at 112 pounds and Griffin Seeber at 140 pounds.

“I know the day didn't end exactly how these guys wanted, these two have been named captains midway through the season,” coach Slaughter said of Dillon and Seeber. “They took the losses hard yesterday, but quickly manned up to help lead their team and cheer for those guys still in it.”

There will be many more chances for the Saxons to cheer on their teammates in the days ahead. Hastings will host its Division 2 Team District Tournament tonight (Feb. 13), taking on Wayland in a semifinal match beginning at 6 p.m. Thornapple Kellogg awaits the winner in the district final. Those teams, and more, will gather in Lowell Saturday for their Division 2 Individual District Tournament.

Jackson Northwest got championships from Cameron Beach at 103 pounds, Gage Race at 119 and Payne Boulter at 125. Parma Western was led to its runner-up finish with titles from Landon Raczkowski at 215 pounds, Bode Brown at 189, Lincoln Raczkowski at 112 and Gage Parker at 140.

Other individual conference champions included Harper Creek's Chandler Froehlich (130) and Easton Kolassa (152), Coldwater's Nick Buchanan (171) and Lumen Christi's Wally Gilbert (285).

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