Michigan Center High School senior Josh Ranking, right, earned the state title at 130 pounds on Saturday. Photos by Jeff Steers, JTV Sports.
By Jeff Steers
For a school that has struggled to put wrestlers at the top step of the podium, Saturday at the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 3 state wrestling finals was a banner day.
Two wrestlers from Michigan Center High School earned state titles on Saturday at Ford Field in Detroit and another came within 20 seconds of forcing his match into overtime in another championship match.
Corey Gamet and Josh Rankin claimed state titles in Division 3 at 125 and 130 pounds respectively. Head Coach Mark Ward Jr. said it was the first state wrestling titles for the Cardinals since the early 1990s.
Senior Brock Kuhn tied his title match at 285 pounds in the final period, but was taken down by Mike Nykoriak of Algonac High School in the last 20 seconds of the match. Kuhn finished with a 4-2 loss – with his only two losses of his 46-win season coming to state champions.
“I am not trying to sound cocky, but we expected all three wrestlers to be in the finals,” Ward said. “They were all ranked in the top two in their weight classes all year and worked hard to get here.”
Gamet finished 47-0 for the season, winning his third state title in four years. He won a pair of titles at Western High School, but missed the MHSAA state tournament last year due to injuries.
“This one was sweet because I had a chance to wrestle in the finals with two of my friends,” Gamet said. “This one feels better than the last one.”
Ward said having Gamet in the wrestling room this season was a blessing.
“He would talk to the other wrestlers all day about the sport he loves,” Ward said. “He believes in himself and that rubbed off on others in the room.
“His confidence helped a lot of the other wrestlers.”
Gamet coasted to the finals with a pair of pins and a 5-1 win in the championship bracket at 125 pounds. He took a 2-0 lead in the championship match against Macintyre Breece of Birch Run. Breece earned a two-point reversal before another Gamet takedown. The Michigan Center senior scored six points in the final period for a 10-4 win.
“I was a little nervous after the reversal,” Gamet said. “I knew after the second takedown that I had it.”
Gamet had the honor of carrying the flag for the grand march prior to the championship matches. It was a total surprise for the senior.
“A coach came up and told me congratulations on being one of the wrestlers to carry the flag,” Gamet said. “I was eating a peanut butter sandwich after weigh-in, but had no idea I was chosen.
“The coach said he read it in the program.”
Gamet trained with Rankin all season at Michigan Center practices. The fierce battles between the two helped both wrestlers.
“Having someone like Corey in the room made you want to work harder,” Rankin said. “Whether he was taking me down or I was taking him down, we were learning and getting better.”
Rankin faced Luke Mahaney of Williamston in the championship match at 130 pounds. The two had an epic triple-overtime battle earlier in the season at the Jackson Area Wrestling Showdown – one of only four losses for Rankin during his 40-win season.
“I lost to him 3-2 in three overtimes so that added fuel to the fire,” Rankin said. “He had an injury at regionals so there still was not that payback.
“This was my chance to prove myself.”
A takedown and an escape gave Ranking a 3-0 lead heading into the final period. A takedown by Mahaney cut the lead to one point, but Rankin escaped for the final point of the match.
Rankin’s brother Jake and friend Corey Decker were coaches in Josh’s corner during the final.
“It meant a lot to have those two in my corner,” Rankin said. “We hang out every weekend.”
The senior is not sure what his plans are in the future as far as wrestling goes
“I am going to get away from wrestling for a minute and see what is the next step,” Rankin said.
Kuhn, also a senior, said he is going to miss wrestling next year.
“It is a sport I love … but hate losing,” Kuhn said. “A sport like wrestling helps you with life lessons.”