Pilots look to bring home team district

WARREN, Mich. — Falling by just two points in last year's team district championship match did not sit well with the De La Salle Collegiate wrestling team.

So the Pilots will be looking to do something about it when they take to the mat Wednesday as the postseason kicks off at Roseville High School. Coach Dennis Parks' team will take on the hosts at 5 p.m. The winner will then face the winner of the other semifinal match between Warren Cousino and Sterling Heights.

"The district title is always our goal," said Parks, whose team last won a district championship back in 2018. "We need everyone doing their job for us to have a chance."

When healthy, De La Salle has looked formidable this season. But the Pilots have had a tough time staying healthy. Injuries or illnesses to key contributors such as juniors Kenneth Ryder and Clayton Beleshi and freshman Gjon Nikollaj have stalled the team's chances at high tournament finishes. All three were missing from this past week's Catholic League tournament. The Pilots entered just eight wrestlers in the draw. However seven did earn medals (top four). 

"This year, injuries have hurt our young team," said Parks, who started the season with 12 freshmen on the roster. "Kenny and Gjon are back this week, so that should help us."

Ryder is unbeaten, but has missed a few weeks due to mono. He won the Macomb County title at 189 pounds back in December. He has missed the team's past few tournaments, including the league tournament on Friday.

Junior Brett Stanley is unbeaten since falling in the 171-pound championship match at the county tournament. He won the league title last week. He's part of a solid corps of wrestlers at the bottom half of the lineup - including Dominic Ragona, Ryder, Michael Kafoury and Nikollaj.

De La Salle finished 13th overall at the county tournament. Its first-round opponent, Roseville, was 19th. Cousino was 21st and Sterling Heights 33rd in the county. 

The Pilots fell to Warren-Mott, 36-34, in the district final a year ago. In 2018, they defeated Roseville, 49-21, in the final. De La Salle won three straight district championships from 2013-15.

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