February 29, 2012 - The mats are being unrolled and laid at the Palace of Auburn Hills - setting the stage for this week's MHSAA Wrestling Individual Finals.
Scott DeVos, Chris Calvano, Ethan Frick, Nick Vandermeer and Cameron Wilkie take a break from their practice Friday afternoon. Photo by Wendi Reardon (click for larger version)
Five grapplers from the Clarkston Varsity Wrestling team are counting down the hours until the first round begins at 2:15 p.m. on Thursday.
"I am excited," said junior Chris Calvano about his first visit to the finals. "I am definitely nervous. I think I will be ready with the way we are preparing."
Sophomore Cameron Wilkie shared the same sentiment, also making his first appearance.
"My main goal was to make it to the Palace," he added. "Now it is time for a new goal. I just want to place. It doesn't matter where it is."
Returners Ethan Frick, Nick Vandermeer and Scott DeVos admitted they have been thinking about it every day and were more than ready.
"Last year I underestimated," Frick admitted, after his season ended after his first two matches in the 215-weight class. "If you expect and easy match or even a wrestler that lost by a lot - it is a mistake. Everyone wrestles their best at the Palace."
All agreed going through districts and the regionals competitions helped in preparation for their finals this week.
"It was a little bit harder at regionals than I thought," said Vandermeer. "I wish I wrestled harder. I had a tough bracket. Each match was harder. It was fun though."
"It was a challenge," DeVos admitted adding unlike Vandermeer he didn't have a tough bracket. "For districts I had a bye to the semifinals. Through regionals it was the wrestlers I beat in districts. It was a good experience."
Last year Vandeermeer and DeVos finished at All-State, Vandermeer in eighth place and DeVos in fourth place. They look place again, but higher. While Calvano, Wilkie and Frick look to place in the top eight to be All-State finalists.
Frick (39-10) opens the state finals in the 189-pound weight class against Kevin Beazley from Detroit Catholic Central. Beazley finished last year with a loss to Clarkston in the championship round. Frick looks to continue the trend and add another loss to Beazley's 44-1 record.
"Some of us got matched up with tough guys," Frick added. "But we are going to go out there with no fear. It is training ourselves to focus. We know the moves. We know how to execute the moves."
DeVos (29-3) is next to wrestle for the Wolves in the 285-weight class. He takes on Fraser's Mike Fruelhich in his first match.
"I am going to go out there and wrestle the guy in front of me," he said. "I don't care about the bracket or I am at the Palace. I am going to wrestle the person."
Wilkie (36-14) will take on Gabe Martinez from Livonia Franklin to open up his first visit to the state finals in the 119-pound weight class.
Vandermeer also faces a Detroit Catholic Central opponent, Alec Mooradian, his first round. He wrestles in the 152-pound weight class and looks to improve his current 37-10 record.
Calvano (31-10) ends each round for Clarkston in the 171-pound weight class. He opens against Oxford's Liam Logan.
"It is about mental toughness," he added as he prepared.
Doors open at 1 p.m. on Thursday. Ticket prices are $45 for all-session reserved seats, $10 for single-session reserved seats and $9 for general admission. All tickets include parking and are available at the Palace Box Office.
The competition continues into Friday and Saturday with rounds beginning at 8:30 a.m. each day. The championship match begins at 4:45 p.m. on Saturday. Keep updated on the match at www.clarkstonnews.com.
Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.