In his 50th season on the Lakeshore sidelines, Coach Bruce Bittenbender earned his state leading 940th victory.
Tomorrow afternoon at the Kalamazoo Wings Event Center, he’s hoping to earn two more.
The Lancers and Mason Bulldogs traded pins throughout the dual. Mason opened up to a 12-0 lead as they earned pins at 285 and 103. Lakeshore’s Cameron Litaker and Aaron Lucio both tied the match following pins of their own. Mason jumped out again to a 12 point lead following two more pins at 125 and 130. After six matches, the Bulldogs led 24-12.
That would be their final lead of the night as Lakeshore took over and sealed their fate after Tafara Rukunda held on late for the 4-3 decision in his 171 match. With two matches left, the Lancers knew they’d be in the Final 4 as the Bulldogs would not be able to close the gap.
Arriving to that point required momentum and key victories. Lucio’s closing seconds pin provided the Lancers momentum at 119. Although Mason had two quick pins at 125 and 130, Micah Hanau (135), Shane Williams (140), and James Harris (145) added a string of three straight Lancer pins to take a 30-24 lead. One of two intense matches kept the crowd on the edge of their seat with a trip to Saturday afternoon on the line.
Wrestling at 152, Daniel Vaughn fought off several takedown attempts in the final minute to add some crucial points to the Lancers lead, 33-24 with his 7-6 decision. After Vaughn was able to battle off each attempt to the final tick, Case Rohl (160) won his match 18-4 to setup Tafara Rukunda’s triumph.
Lakeshore led 37-24 with three matches left, so Mason was mathematically well within the dual after taking a sigh of relief that Case Rohl did not score a pin fall as he came so close to doing a few times. Rukunda led 3-0 entering the final frame, but Nick Vasquez tied the match 3-3. A late escape gave Rukunda a 4-3 lead, and he held on as the Lancer sideline began their celebration. Needing to win just one of the final three matches, Rukunda’s win sealed the deal in the Bulldogs first chance to make the comeback. As added insurance, Zeke Rohl finished the dual with a major decision at 215 for the final 44-30 score.
After winning four of the first six matches by pin fall, Mason did not win another match until the second to last contest of the dual.
”Great effort by our kids tonight. We won two key matches at 152 and 171,” noted Coach Bittenbender.
Now onto the Final 4, the Lancers will stand across from Gaylord. The Blue Devils finished as the 2019 MHSAA Division 2 Runner-Up, and they have not lost a dual since then. Gaylord is a perfect 31-0 and boasts seven ranked wrestlers including #1 John Henry Sosa (125), #1 Rico Brown (130), #2 Chayse LaJoie (145), #4 Jacob McKnight (160), #4 Brendan Smith (103), #16 Gabe Thompson (112), and #8 Will Sides (125). The Blue Devils have seven Individual State Qualifiers, and Lakeshore will be sending six qualifiers to Ford Field.
If the Lancers beat Gaylord tomorrow at noon, they will advance to the State Championship round at 3:45PM against six time defending champion Lowell or Muskegon Reeths Puffer. Reeths Puffer has just one loss on the season—to Lakeshore.
”We can win tomorrow,” stated Bittenbender.
Complete dual results against Mason can be found below the MHSAA Semifinal information.
Who: #3 Seed Lakeshore Lancer Wrestling
What: 2020 MHSAA Team Wrestling Team Semi Finals vs #2 Seed Gaylord High School
Where: Wings Event Center / 3600 Vanrick Dr, Kalamazoo, MI 49001
When: State Semi-Finals – Noon on Saturday 2/29/20
State Championship (If we advance) – 3:45pm on Saturday 2/29/20
Tickets: SemiFinals $10 per person
State Championship $12 per person
The arena will be cleared after the semi finals
LISTEN Live: Listen Live on the Lakeshore Lancers Network (Search “Lakeshore Lancers Network” on Facebook) or follow this link (https://www.meridix.com/event/165566) to listen online to the Semi-Final Match Live.
WATCH Live Online: Watch live on MHSAA.tv ($10.99 subscription fee) Search Lakeshore Lancers and choose the MHSAA Wrestling Quarterfinals, then choose Lakeshore High School as your school for the subscription (if you already have an NFHSnetwork.com login – you can watch live using that account)
Seating: Lancers will wrestle their Semi-final match on Mat #1 (At the time of this writing it is unknown whether the Lancer Seating will be in sections 4/5 or 25/26)
Lakeshore v. Mason Results
285 #2 Jack Gilchrist (Mason) PINS Malachi Bell, 0:49
103 #5 Tayden Miller (Mason) PINS Taylor Lucas, 0:27
112 #8 Cameron Litaker PINS Justin Pressley (Mason), 1:34
119 #3 Aaron Lucio PINS Dylan Kanouse (Mason), 5:42
125 Logan Trimmer (Mason) PINS Jonathan Gelesko, 1:04
130 #4 Tanner Miller (Mason) PINS Kent Heppler, 0:54
135 #3/130 Micah Hanau PINS Anthony Grace (Mason), 0:55
140 #2/135 Shane Williams PINS Brandon Singletary (Mason), 1:54
145 James Harris PINS Kyle Fanson (Mason), 1:24
152 Daniel Vaughn DECISIONS Richard Mayes (Mason), 7-6
160 #16 Case Rohl MAJOR DECISIONS Joseph Arnold (Mason), 18-4
171 Tafara Rukunda DECISIONS Nick Vasquez (Mason), 4-3
189 Brice Isenhath (Mason) PINS Diego Avello, 2:36
215 #8 Zeke Rohl MAJOR DECISIONS Devin Vasquez (Mason), 12-2