Gladstone prevents Kingsley revenge

Feb. 14—KINGSLEY — This one came down to a coin flip. Better than a tiebreaker.

Gladstone escaped with a 42-28 win in Wednesday's Division 3 wrestling team regional at Kingsley.

Stags wrestlers wore warm-ups all season with "Redemption" printed on the back, eager for another shot at Gladstone in regionals.

The Stags targeted this match all season, looking to avenge last year's controversial regional final loss in which Gladstone coaches pleaded officials for a penalty after Kingsley won 39-38 in the final match. The penalty was awarded, reversing the score to end up with a 39-38 win of its own after Gladstone won a tiebreaker.

"I got over that right away," Gladstone co-head coach Jeff Brazeau said when asked if he received any blowback from last year's controversial ending. "I'm not going to sit here and dwell on that."

Kingsley's Sam Goethals won the last year's final match to put the Stags up a point, but Gladstone asked for a penalty point for unsportsmanlike conduct after Goethals tossed his headgear to coaches at the edge of the mat before having his hand raised in victory.

The referee conceded the penalty, which tied the match, and Gladstone was awarded the win 39-38 via tiebreaker, going on to lose in the next round at the state finals.

"At least we know we lost this time," Kingsley undefeated senior Gavyn Merchant said. "It's not like last year when it was robbed from us. This year it was just a coin flip. They're a great team and all, but it just came down to the coin flip."

The flip determines which team has to declare its wrestler first at every other weight class, either the odd or even of the 14 weight classes.

The coin flip win gave Gladstone the choice of odd or even-numbered matches, and it took even. That forced Kingsley to declare first at 132 pounds, putting 27-8 Jon Pearson on the mat. Gladstone countered with 39-1 Drew Hansen, avoiding a possible matchup between Hansen and Merchant at 138.

If Gladstone had to choose first at 132, Kingsley could have matched up the undefeated Merchant with Hansen, giving Pearson a better matchup at 138.

"We wanted to certain matchups, and that coin flip is everything," Kingsley head coach Corey Crew said. "That worked out for them because they did exactly what we didn't want them to do. We wanted that matchup (between Hansen and Merchant)."

Pearson held his own with Hansen, the No. 1-ranked wrestler at 132, with Hansen getting a 4-1 minor decision.

"Jon did a great job wrestling Hansen," Crew said. "You're hoping for more bonus points. But it didn't happen because of the coin flip."

Merchant won by pin in 27 seconds at 138 to improve to 17-0 after missing the first two months of the season recovering from football injuries.

"I'm done wrestling here for the rest of my life," Merchant said following his last home match. "Sad, sad day. But at least I went out with a bang and pinned my kid."

Gladstone went out to a 27-0 lead, including two wins by forfeit at 106 and 113 to start.

"They're a great team," Merchant said. "They're well-coached. It came down to a coin flip. They got the coin flip; they got the lineup. But they're a phenomenal team, have phenomenal captains, phenomenal coaches, so a bunch of props to them. I wish them the best of luck at the (state) tournament."

Cameron Dundas won by major decision at 144 to put the Stags within a 10-27 deficit. Gladstone's Mason Wells won 5-3 at 150, with Kingsley's Colton Goethals (24-12) almost landing a takedown just before the match ended, but going out of bounds.

An Austin Solis pin at 157 put Gladstone firmly in control, with Kingsley needing to win every remaining match to have a shot.

Tyler Unterbrink did his part, getting a fall with 46.3 seconds left in the second period at 165 before Gladstone 175-pounder Trevor Thorbahn (37-4) won by fall to clinch the win. The Stags added wins by Caleb Bott and Max Goethals for a 42-28 final.

"We knew it was going to be a good one," Brazeau said. "They have a bunch of great wrestlers. We do, too. It's always tight. It's been tight the last two years with them."

Kingsley goes to Kalkaska for individual regionals Saturday, with Gladstone there as well. The Stags qualified eight wrestlers, including district champs in Dundas, Merchant and Max Goethals. Kingsley has four girls wrestlers in Sunday's girls regionals at Cadillac.

"That's the main thing now," Merchant said. "All the dudes that qualified for regionals need to make states. It's all in the back of our minds."

Max Goethals started off Kingsley's 38-31 regional semifinal win over Ogemaw Heights with a 20-second pin, with the Falcons eventually leading 18-9 because of Stags voids at 106 and 113.

With Ogemaw beating Kingsley in football to prevent a Stags conference championship on the way to a Division 6 state title, the Stags did get a bit of revenge Wednesday, just not as much as they wanted.

Merchant won by technical fall at 132 to pull Kingsley within four points, and Jon Pearson gave the Stags their first lead with a 48-second fall at 138. Dundas followed with a pin of his own, with 11.6 ticks left in the first period.

Colton Goethals won a 1-0 decision at 150, all while wrestling with a wrap of gauze and tape around his head to keep cotton plugs in place after several stoppages because of a bloody nose.

Unterbrink (20-8) won a close 6-5 decision, getting an early third-period reversal to take the lead and riding out the rest of the match for a 32-18 Stags lead.

Three consecutive Ogemaw wins made the match 32-31, with the Falcons surprisingly forfeiting the deciding match to Caleb Bott, despite having a heavyweight weigh in.

Gladstone won its regional semi 57-17 over Kingsford.

Last year's regional featured the same four teams in the exact same matchups. Kingsley beat Ogemaw Heights 53-24. Gladstone won 46-34 in 2022, with the Stags getting to the final once again by beating Ogemaw Heights, that time 58-12.

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