Leaving it on the mat

RJ Centala’s gamble paid off in a big way on Saturday.

Centala was one of three Alpena wrestlers to earn a spot in regionals after finishing third in the 140-pound bracket during a Division 1 individual district at Alpena High School.

Felix Suszek (215) and Austin Hawks (285) also earned regional spots for the Wildcats after finishing fourth in their respective weight classes.

The trio advances to a regional Saturday at Oxford.

Centala has wrestled primarily at 145 pounds for Alpena this season and did so on Wednesday when the Wildcats won their first ever-team district title.

With a stacked field at 145 though, Centala decided to drop down to better his chances at qualifying for the state finals. He qualified for regionals for the third straight season, overcoming some midday struggles to win his final two matches.

“At 45 it was stacked. There was four or five kids at 45 who are ranked in the state for the regional and only the top four go to states,” Centala said. “There’s only two at 40, so I decided to drop down and make it a little easier for me to get to states.”

After a bye, Centala cruised in his first match, pinning Saginaw Heritage’s Draven Kuhn in 1:57. He struggled in his next match though and a lost 7-4 decision to Port Huron’s Ivan Nedeljkovic in a match that left his gassed.

“I was just not feeling well, I was up 3-0 early in the second (period), but I just ran out of gas,” Centala said. “That’s one of the difficulties with going down weight classes is you just run out of gas sometimes.”

He rebounded in his final two matches though. He defeated Midland Dow’s Jeff Searle 13-4 by major decision after earning a quick takedown in each of the first two rounds and capping the match with a near fall in the closing seconds.

In the third place match against Grand Blanc’s Jacob Foster, Centala established control quickly and went on to win the bout 11-6. He earned a pair of quick takedowns and earned points for a near fall at the end of the second period.

Davison, a perennial powerhouse in Division 1, ruled the day with 14 regional qualifiers and nine district titles won. In three finals matches, 112, 152 and171, Davison wrestlers were pitted against each other, guaranteeing at least two regional qualifiers in those weight classes.

Suszek won his opening match against Swartz Creek’s Alex May with a pin in 1:31. He dropped his next bout against Heritage’s Anthony Whyte by pin in 1:59. Needing to win at least two matches to earn a return to trip to regionals, Suszek rose to the occasion, pinning Port Huron’s Aaron Swift in 2:24 and beating Bay City Central’s DeVonte Myslewski in an 11-4 decision.

The third-place match pitted Suszek in a rematch with Whyte and Whyte got the better of him again, scoring two takedowns before earning a pin in 1:28.

Hawks won his first match in a 5-0 decision, but lost his second match, setting up a showdown with teammate Josh LeFebvre for a spot in the third place match.

The bout proved to be a very even matchup and Hawks came out on the winning end after a late takedown gave him a 3-1 advantage of LeFebvre.

Grand Blanc’s Eveon Deloney got the better of Hawks in the third-place match however, winning an 11-2 decision.

LeFebvre won two bouts for Alpena on Saturday, scoring a pin in 1:23 in his first match and a pin in 2:13 in his second bout.

For Alpena successes on Saturday, there were a few tougher moments too.

Dakota Patterson (152), one of Alpena’s four regional qualifiers last season, breezed through his first match, an 18-3 win by technical fall, but lost his second match in a 3-1 decision. He came out on the short end again in his next match, losing a 1-0 decision while battling a bloody nose through most of the bout.

Daron Mathia (130), another regional hopeful for the Wildcats lost his first match in a 17-5 major decision.

“I was disappointed in some of our results, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying,” Alpena coach Jake Stenz said. “Overall I thought our team wrestled pretty well.”

Alpena will wrestle at a team district in Davison beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

James Andersen can be reached via email at sports@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.