DETROIT — The emotions were real. There really wasn’t much time to process what had just happened on the mat. It ended in the blink of an eye.
And Kyan Fessenden wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Kingsley senior used a last-second takedown to pull out a 4-3 victory over Flint Powers Catholic’s Connor Owens in the Division 3 165-pound championship match at the MHSAA Individual Wrestling Finals at Ford Field in Detroit.
Officially the takedown took place with Fessenden trailing by a point and one second left on the clock. But Fessenden, his coaches and all the fans in the stands didn’t know for sure until the official signaled two points. Then the celebration began.
“There was a little bit of desperation but it was more like, ‘What do I have to lose?’” Fessenden said. “This was my last high school match ever. I’m down one point with 10 seconds left. I might as well go big or go home. Just go for it all. So that’s what I did.”
The senior led 1-0 entering the third period but found himself trailing 3-1 after Owens earned an early escape and an ensuing takedown with 1:27 remaining. That’s when the desperation began to sink in. Most in attendance were counting down the seconds for an Owens victory. But Kingsley head coach Corey Crew was not one of them.
“You just trust your wrestler there,” Crew said. “He’s been focused all year. He’s put in the time and he earned that. Of course, you have a little sense of urgency, but he’s a veteran. He’s been around. You just trust he’s going to do what he needs to do to win.”
Fessenden’s individual state championship was the first for Crew, who just completed his fourth year with the program. And it was the biggest win of the senior’s career.
“Not even close. This (win) was on a whole other level,” Fessenden said. “It’s like putting the cherry on top of my career. You work your whole life for this and now, here in my senior year, to end it like this, a state championship, I couldn’t ask for a better ending.”
The state championship was one of four won by area wrestlers on Saturday. Gaylord’s Brayden Gautreau won his second straight title, this one coming at 175 pounds in Division 2. The senior picked up a 3-1 sudden victory over Lowell’s Carson Crace to win the championship. The Central Michigan-bound Gautreau was happy with his title but was hoping to win in a more convincing fashion.
“It was nice to finish the match, but I was a little disappointed because I had already won a state title. This year, I was trying to distance myself from the competition,” Gautreau said. “It was obviously way too close. I was coming in thinking I was going to major him, put up points, but I just didn’t do that.
“He came in with a good game plan. He knew I came in tough, I came in hard. I’m coming in and hitting you in the mouth. He hit the edge well.”
Petoskey’s Trevor Swiss opened the day with a 10-4 win over Lake Fenton’s Jack Conley to capture the 150-pound title in Division 2. Swiss blew open a close match with a dominant third period, scoring on an escape, takedown and 3-point nearfall. The win capped off a perfect, 47-0 season for the senior.
Traverse City St. Francis’s Josiah Schaub also brought home a state championship, coming at 138 pounds in Division 4. The senior scored an early reversal in the third period and did not let up, winning his first individual title.
“This feels amazing, after seven years of wrestling, to win something this big feels incredible,” said Schaub, who finished the season 38-4. “My strategy today was to get an early takedown and try to get the head lever in and see if I could get any back points off of that. It worked, but I couldn’t turn him. He was tough on the bottom.”
Fessenden’s teammate, Gavyn Merchant, fell just short at 126 pounds. Merchant lost to Dundee’s Cameron Chinavare, 3-0, in the championship match.
Gaylord’s Louden Stradling, seeking his second straight championship, butted heads with Lowell’s C.J. Poole and had to retire due to injury at 144 pounds. The match was tied 1-1 with 1:44 left in the third period.
Blue Devils sophomore Sunni LaFond fell just short in her 110-pound championship match in the girls division. LaFond fell behind early and could not get the takedown she needed in a 5-3 loss to Algonac’s Sky Langewicz.
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