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Muskrats dethrone Blue Devils

Photo courtesy of Calli Newberry

By Calli Newberry

For the first time in 17 years, a wrestling team other than the Richmond Blue Devils can claim the BWAC team title.

That crown now belongs to the Algonac Muskrats. 

The two teams met on the mat in Algonac Friday night, accompanied by the weight and tension of what a Muskrat victory would mean. Both were undefeated in the conference and both were determined to keep it that way. But only one would achieve that goal. 

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And it came down to the very last match. 

“I thought, ‘just don’t get pinned,’” Algonac freshman Alex Bright (130-lbs) said. 

The Muskrats held a 31-26 advantage over their opponent heading into the final match at 130-lbs. A pin would’ve given Richmond the six points it needed to snatch a one-point victory, and Richmond sophomore Brian Nichol came very close many times.

But Bright squirmed and fought to stay off his back for the entire six-minute period to evade a pin. And although he lost by a 7-3 decision, his efforts still helped his team to a historic win. 

“Mainly when I walked into it, I just wanted to pin him, get a lot of takedowns, turns,” Bright said, “and even if I was unmatched, I knew not to go on my back.”

Photo courtesy of Calli Newberry

As the buzzer sounded and Bright walked off the mat, hundreds of Muskrat fans wearing matching white shirts stood on their feet with loud cheers as his team leaped up and down with fists pumping in the air. The scoreboard glowed 31-29, in favor of Algonac.

“I’m going to enjoy it for tonight, but they’re definitely going to want a rematch and it could very well happen at team regionals again,” Algonac head coach Brian Ranger said. “We’re 20-0 on the season, but I know they’re coming back for us hard at team regionals, so we’ve got to be ready. We’ll watch the video, get better, and hopefully, we’ll wrestle even better next time because that was a little too close for comfort for my liking.”

The entire meet was close. The heavyweight match was a ninth of the night, and at that point, Richmond led 20-14 after winning four consecutive matches. The Muskrats needed a win to swing the momentum.

Junior Derik Maciag managed to do just that – in sudden victory. 

After three periods Maciag and Richmond sophomore Matthew Misch were tied 1-1. The officials put one more minute on the clock and Maciag came out full speed to take down his opponent and put his team back in the driver’s seat. 

“It felt great,” Maciag said. “I just knew my team really needed the points. I knew it was a huge match, so I held him off for the last 45 seconds there and I went through with it.”

Next, a scrappy and quick freshman Chris Campbell (103-lbs) won with a 15-0 tech fall after two periods, followed by a last-second pin from freshman Lucky Gartin (112-lbs). 

Richmond won at 119-lbs as junior Noah Harris pinned sophomore Gavin Bennett, putting the Blue Devils only two points behind, 28-26, with two matches to go. 

That’s when Algonac freshman Steven Shannon (125-lbs) stepped onto the mat against sophomore Conner Bergeon. 

Photo courtesy of Calli Newberry

“It was crazy. I was crying before the match,” Shannon said. “It was the biggest match of my high school career. I had to do it for my team, for the seniors, for the seniors before me.”

The score was tied 3-3 with one minute left in the match, but Shannon dug deep and fought back to win by a 5-4 decision to give his team three more points. 

“It was an unbelievable moment. I’m just so happy right now,” Shannon said after the meet. “It feels amazing. It’s been 20 years since we’ve beaten them. They’ve been at the top of the podium all this time, it just feels great to finally beat them.” 

That’s when Ranger had to walk by his athletes, telling them to calm down as their excitement could’ve cost them the meet. 

“I knew it was going to come down to a very close score and if my guys ran onto the mat out of excitement, the referee could take away a team point, so I was worried about that because I’ve seen matches actually decided on something like that,” Ranger said. “It’s not their fault, they’re just super excited, but I just try to keep them grounded and realize there are still matches to wrestle.”

After the final match was over, however, the Muskrats could celebrate all they wanted, and they sure did. 

Ranger said this year’s team has been a special group that’s always eager to learn more and be better. 

“This year we’ve found a way to win a few tight matches, and in years past we’ve found a way to lose those matches, so it’s just something about this group. They’re young, they’re hungry, just so willing to learn and get better all the time,” he said. “They’ll be mad at me if I don’t have the videos uploaded in a certain time because they just want to learn and get better. I’ve had some good groups, but this group just seems a little bit different, in a good way.” 


103-lbs: Chris Campbell (Algonac)  over Cooper Honold (Richmond); Tech Fall 15-0 at 4:00. 

112-lbs: Lucky Gartin (Algonac) over Jacob Fink (Richmond); Fall at 5:59.

119-lbs: Noah Harris (Richmond) over Gavin Bennett (Algonac); Fall at 1:14. 

125-lbs: Steven Shannon (Algonac) over Conner Bergeon (Richmond); Dec. 5-4. 

130-lbs: Brian Nichol (Richmond) over Alex Bright (Algonac); Dec. 7-3.

135-lbs: David Clemons (Algonac) over Aiden Bergeon (Richmond); Dec. 5-1.

140-lbs: Wyatt Peters (Richmond) over Mark Romanowski (Algonac); Dec. 6-4.

145-lbs: Evan Hiltunen (Algonac) over Zack Pickering (Richmond); Fall at 1:25.

152-lbs: Jake Kasner (Algonac) over Jackson Lacek (Richmond); Tech Fall 22-7 at 4:00.

160-lbs: Matt Dwyer (Richmond) over Reid Hiltunen (Algonac); Dec. 6-3.

171-lbs: Kevin McKiernan (Richmond) over Josh Kasner (Algonac); Dec. 1-0.

189-lbs: Wesley Peters (Richmond) over Chase Helzer (Algonac); Tech Fall 18-1 at 4:41.

215-lbs: Eddie Olson (Richmond) over Chris Brooks (Algonac); Fall at 3:30.

285-lbs: Derik Maciag (Algonac) over Matthew Misch (Richmond); SV-1, 3-1. 

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