Anthony Odoardi-Livingston Daily
BRIGHTON — There were a number of things expected to happen Wednesday night when the Brighton and Hartland wrestling teams met for the first time since the Bulldogs knocked off the Eagles in the last match of last year’s Division 1 team state finals. Luke Ready losing was not amongst those things.
The undefeated Brighton senior and reigning D1 individual state champion at 215 pounds, who entered the night essentially unchallenged versus any opponent he had faced this season, was beaten. Not only beaten, but pinned, in the first period, by Milford transfer and new Hartland hero Brandon Krol.
It was a mammoth upset. A result that pretty much overshadowed the entire event, that even overshadowed the fact that Hartland got its revenge it sought against Brighton for ending its season a year ago in devastating fashion with a convincing, 46-16, victory at Brighton High School to win the KLAA West title.
After it was done and the Eagles had won, Krol’s win and Ready’s loss was all anyone could talk about.
“Huge,” Hartland coach Todd Cheney said of Krol’s victory. “Ready’s a state champ and hadn’t lost to this point and we got an opportunity to get an upper body hold on him and throw him to his back, and there’s a little weight difference between Brandon being 260 (pounds) and Ready being 215. And we’re lucky to get the fall there.”
Krol didn’t believe any luck was involved.
The eighth-ranked wrestler at heavyweight in Division 1 knew he had a significant size advantage over Ready, the No. 1 wrestler at 215, according to MichiganGrappler.com. Assuming Cheney’s weights are correct, it was a 45-pound advantage to be exact.
Krol also had confidence that stemmed from his matchup at heavyweight with Lake Fenton’s Trent Hillger on Saturday. Krol lost to the top-ranked heavyweight in Division 3 and reigning D3 state champion, but it was a close 6-1 matchup. And it came in one of Krol’s first matches of the season, as the senior from Milford had to sit out until Martin Luther King Day due to the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s transfer rules.
He knew — or at very least believed — he could contend with Ready.
“You know, I thought I had a pretty good chance coming in,” said Krol, who was bombarded with congratulations and pats on the back from Hartland fans for his upset. “I was talking to my coach on Monday, and he was talking to me that it can be done, ‘We can beat him.’
For most opponents of Ready, that’s the fatal mistake.
Brighton coach Tony Greathouse said it earlier in the season, that if Ready’s opponents get confident enough to go at him, he usually responds with a quick pin. This time, however, things didn’t go in his favor. This time, and perhaps for the only time the rest of this season, Ready took the loss. He fell victim to the quick pin.
Krol said it was a matter of seeing an opening and going for it.
Within seconds, he was on top of Ready, using his weight to put Ready’s shoulders against the mat.
“I saw a throw and I committed to it and it was there,” Krol said.
“Huge,” added Cheney a third time as someone walking behind him shouted, ‘Yeah Krol!’
“You get a fall like that and it inspires the entire team.”
And it’s not like the Hartland team needed any more inspiration. The Eagles entered the night about as inspired as they could ever be for a regular-season contest. The 31-25 score in the state championship in 2015 remained fresh in their minds. The wrestlers and coaches harped on it all week as motivation.
They got a favorable draw to begin the dual at 152 pounds, which meant they got to start with the strength of their lineup. River Shettler (152), Sage Castillo (160), Logan Vish (171) and Lucas Laforge (189) all did their jobs to give Hartland a 21-0 lead entering matchups against two of Brighton’s toughest wrestlers: Eric Conquest and Ready.
Andrew Spisz was rewarded with the chance to face Conquest, which is hardly a reward. But Spisz performed as admirably as one could against Brighton’s 215 pounder that’s ranked third, two spots behind Ready, in D1. He not only avoided the pin, but took Conquest to overtime and had a chance to win, although he’d lose.
At that point it was 21-3 and up came Ready vs. Krol.
Krol went up 2-0 before the maneuver that would award him the pin and six points for a 27-3 Hartland lead.
“I mean, he just went out there and things didn’t go his way,” said Brighton’s Jackson Renicker, who didn’t wrestle due to an injury. “It’s a high school wrestling match. Stuff happens. Krol’s a good kid, but it doesn’t take anything away from Luke. Luke’s still a good wrestler. I mean, that’s just wrestling. That’s the beauty of it.
“Luke was giving up a lot of weight. He’s a 215-pounder and Krol’s a big heavyweight. But it doesn’t take anything away from Krol and it doesn’t take anything away from Luke. Both are still good wrestlers.”
Once it turned to the lightweights, things were slightly more even. But the damage had been done.
A gym that was expected to be rowdy had died down quickly, aside from when Brighton’s Lee Grabowski earned his 100th career win at 135 pounds against Hartland’s Nick DiNoble.
In fact, after briefly commending the team, Cheney said there’s work to be done given the team’s lack of energy in the back half of the meet and it’s inability to win a few close “swing” matches, or would-have-been swing matches if the score had been close.
“Actually, yeah,” said Cheney when asked if he could picture the night going any better. “We lost a couple matches later on and those are big matches that we’ll have to win. Granted, we won 46-16, but still when we look back at the film it’s not exactly what we wanted. So we have work to do to win a state title.
“It’s great to win a West title because last year we didn’t have it, and we wrestled well for the first half of the dual. But after that, we didn’t have that same sense or urgency that we need in every match to win state titles.”
And that’s all it’s about for Hartland this year. As bad as the Eagles wanted to beat Brighton and avenge their loss, it means nothing to them if they’re not holding up the trophy in late February at Central Michigan University’s McGuirk Arena, the site of this year’s state finals.
Brighton, meanwhile, still believes that hoisting that trophy again is a legitimate goal.
Greathouse wasn’t calling Ready’s match a fluke — he said he actually didn’t see it until Ready was on his back — but he knows that, most times, Ready is good for six points. He knows that Conquest and Renicker are usually good for the same. With Renicker out and Ready losing, that trio only tallied three points thanks to Conquest.
Aside from that, Greathouse thought his team wrestled, “pretty well.”
“It was a tough starting weight. We started where we’re inexperienced and they got seniors, kind of the best part of their lineup,” Greathouse said. “Conquest did a good job of fighting through. Our (103) and (112) pounders wrestled well and (Ben) Manly almost won a match that I don’t think he thought he could win. We won matches at (119) and (145) that those guys have been struggling this year, so for them those are two really good wins.
“And I thought that Lee (Grabowski) and Grant (Morrison) dominated two ranked guys. We get Renicker down in the lineup (and) Ready doesn’t get pinned — probably wins — if that happens, we’re right kind of in the mix where we should be.”
Greathouse went on to say there were a lot of positives, but with so many young guys in the lineup it will take a “perfect dual” to beat a team like Hartland this year. On Wednesday night, the Bulldogs wrestled well, but with Ready’s loss, it was clear that it was not the perfect dual.
It wasn’t for Hartland, either. But the Eagles are getting a whole lot closer.