BRIGHTON — There was no shortage of emotion, effort or drama in Wednesday night’s KLAA Gold wrestling match between No. 4-ranked Brighton and No. 6 Hartland.
A raucous crowd endured a 20-minute delay due to electrical problems at Brighton High School’s auxiliary gym, then saw Hartland pull off an upset to start the match.
But Brighton, after losing the first three matches, won nine of the next 10 to take a 40-21 victory.
(Editor’s note: Due to technical problems, the first match of the evening was not recorded, resulting in close to 10 minutes of no audio. The rest of the matches were recorded.)
“It puts us in a position to win the (division) on Saturday and we’ll cross over and wrestle John Glenn, which is ranked fifth,” Brighton coach Tony Greathouse said. “So it’s a big win for us as a team and for positioning at the end of the year.”
Hartland coach Todd Cheney was all smiles after the match was over.
“You guys get your money’s worth tonight?” he asked reporters. “You have fun?”
When the second question was put back to him, he smiled again.
“I can say that not many dual meets I’ve been in where I’ve lost and I thought it was pretty fun,” Cheney said. “It was a great wrestling environment. We wrestled pretty well, but we’re outmanned right now. They’re a good wrestling team.”
Cheney even smiled when Brighton’s student section chanted for him to go home while he was arguing a point during the match. School officials stopped the chant the second time it went up.
It was Hartland that celebrated early. In the first match, at 112 pounds, Hartland’s Wyatt Nault pulled off a surprise pin of Ben Manly with 38 seconds left in the match. Manly had been leading 7-1 when Nault pulled a surprise reversal and got the fall.
“Manly is just so big,” Cheney said. “He’s got Wyatt by six or seven inches (in height), and that body style gives Wyatt a hard time. They’ve wrestled a few times and Manly got the better of him. This time, (Nault) kept battling and that’s the thing I’m proud of with our team. Not one of my kids quit.”
The same could be said for the Bulldogs, and Greathouse singled out Logan Kehres for praise despite his 3-0 loss in the next match, at 119 pounds.
“Logan went out and wrestled great against Corey Cavanaugh,” Greathouse said. “Last year, that kid pinned him in, like, a minute. So that was a huge swing, because it stopped their momentum and it helped us start building our way back.”
Hartland took a 14-0 lead when Kyle Kantola got a pin at 125, but Brighton took the next five matches.
A key Brighton win came at 152, where Nick Bleise moved up a weight class to take on Hartland’s Tanner Culver, who came into the match unbeaten.
“it was one of the things where we needed to step up at 52,” Bleise said. “It was best for the team and best to get the win.”
Bleise won 5-2, the last of five consecutive Brighton wins. Hartland’s River Shettler got a pin at 160, but Brighton won the rest of the matches to take the victory.
Emotions ran high throughout the match; the Bulldogs were penalized a team point for unsportsmanlike conduct after Harley Berne’s win at 171 pounds. But Bleise said the crowd in the smaller auxiliary gym gave his team a boost.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “I love competing in front of the crowd. They add a lot of energy, and I think it’s super fun to compete in front of them.”
The match also has implications beyond Wednesday’s result. Brighton will get the edge in seeding for the state tournament that Hartland got in last year’s win.