Two perennial powers–check
SMAC West on the line–check
The Division 2 #7 Lakeshore Lancers and the #10 Niles Vikings have met often over the last few years with the SMAC West title, and much more, on the line. The rivalry heated up in 2007 when Niles was the first team to dethrone the Lancers atop the then named Big 16 Conference. Although Lakeshore won the SMAC West in 2007 by just a few points, Niles had claimed the Berrien County Invite crown (ending a long string of Lakeshore victories), the Big 16 Team Dual Championship, and the District Championship–its first district crown since 1991. In the years following, the Vikings and Lancers have traded decisive victories, last second decisions, and created a rivalry that has made each program even better.
Wednesday night inside Lancer Gym, in what was the final SMAC West showdown for the foreseeable future as the Vikings transition to the BCS Conference this fall, the Lancers quickly took the wind out of the Viking’s sails as they built a 22-6 lead through seven matches. After Cameron Litaker’s pin of Camron Hamilton at 112, and Kyle Stampfly not giving any bonus points in his loss to Niles’ Carson Landon which made the score 34-15 in favor of Lakeshore, the Lancers had sealed the SMAC West with three matches left.
“We were happy to win the conference and county title last week. A great week for Lakeshore Wrestling,” stated Coach Bittenbender.
Lakeshore and Niles could potentially meet again this season if they each advance to the Regional round. Lakeshore faces the Bears next week in the District Championship while Niles hosts Sturgis, Edwardsburg, and Coldwater.
Against Niles, Lakeshore recorded four pins and won 9 of the 13 contested matches–Zeke Rohl won his 100th match as Niles had a void at 215. Earning pins for Lakeshore were Shane Williams (140), Taylor Lucas (103), Cameron Litaker (112), and Jonathan Gelesko (130).
The Lancers honored their senior class and longtime assistant coach, and former Lakeshore State Placer, Mike Smith.
“Mike contributed as much time as any dedicated assistant in the program,” said Coach Bittenbender. Bittenbender noted that Smith has, “contributed thousands of dollars for wrestling team uniforms, equipment, and mats. He enjoyed working with and supporting our wrestlers.”
The Lancers hope to add a SMAC Individual Championship this Saturday to their accomplishments this season in a deep field which includes Division 1 #10 Battle Creek Lakeview, Division 2 #10 Niles, and many ranked wrestlers.
The post season begins next Thursday for team districts at St. Joe, and individual districts start next Saturday at Lakeshore.
140: Shane Williams PINS Skylar Wagley (Niles), 3:24
145: James Harris MAJOR DECISIONS Kade Wagley (Niles), 12-3
152: Sammy Prince DECISIONS Connor Tibbitts (Niles), 4-3
160: Hunter Fazi (Niles) DECISIONS Connor Noonan, 7-0
171: Tafara Rukunda DECISIONS Jesus Magno-Garcia (Niles), 3-1
189: Darian Sosa (Niles) SUDDEN VICTORY OT Diego Avello, 3-1
215: Zeke Rohl VOID Niles
285: Caiden Smith (Niles) PINS Malachi Bell, 2:32
103: Taylor Lucas PINS Grace Wickler (Niles), 1:51
112: Cameron Litaker PINS Camron Hamilton (Niles), 0:32
119: Carson Landon (Niles) DECISIONS Kyle Stampfly, 5-1
125: Aaron Lucio MAJOR DECISIONS James Pegan (Niles), 15-6
130: Jonathan Gelesko PINS Blake Mann (Niles), 0:37
135: Micah Hanau TECH FALLS Taven Livingston (Niles), 15-0 @4:16