Ryder takes Pilots' first county title since 2012

WARREN, Mich. - To Kenny Ryder, it was the first of what he hopes is the achievement of several big goals this season on the mat. 

But when he had his arm raised after defeating Algonac's Chase Helzer in the 189-pound championship match Saturday at the Macomb County Invitational Classic, it was something much, much bigger.

The De La Salle Collegiate junior used a third-period reversal and subsequent three-point nearfall to pick up a 7-3 victory over his longtime rival. In the process, he became the first Pilot since Joe Schudt in 2012 to capture an individual county championship. 

"I feel pretty good. This was one of my big goals for the year," said Ryder, who finished 4-0 in the two-day tournament. "Coming in here and winning this, I think, can lead to a very good seed at districts, then hopefully on to states. I'm hoping what I accomplished today is just a taste of what I'm going to see over the next two years."

Ryder, who finished fourth at last year's county tournament, looked dominant in his four matches this weekend. The No. 1 seed received a bye, then defeated Anchor Bay's Jacob Moceri, 15-0, on Friday. He pinned Wyatt Hudson of Cousino in Saturday's quarterfinal and followed that up with a 9-0 major decision over Utica's Chad Goodwine in the semifinal.

"Kenny wrestled good, he's definitely a funky wrestler," Pilots head coach Dennis Parks said. "He's a little unorthodoxed, so he does some things that a lot of guys haven't experienced before. He does it every day in the room."

The win over Helzer was somewhat special to Ryder. The two have faced each other many, many times in club wrestling over the years.

"I've been wrestling him my entire life," Ryder said. "I think my record (against him) right now is about 32-2, with me on the two side. The last time I wrestled him as a youth, I won by a point. But this is just the second time I've beat him. Today we were both gassed, it was just a matter of who could work through it better."

De La Salle junior Brett Stanley made it all the way to the championship match at 171 pounds before dropping a tough, 5-3 decision to Utica Ford's Noah Bright. Surrendering a takedown late in the first period, Stanley found himself wrestling from behind throughout the match. He did score a takedown midway through the third period to cut the lead to 4-3, but Bright, a good defensive wrestler, fended Stanley off in the last 45 seconds of the match.

"(Bright) is pretty tough," Parks said. "Those two guys have seen each other a couple times. They had split their first two matches. But Brett is still not in wrestling shape. This is usually how it is, coming off of football. This tournament, it's a nice benchmark for him, but when we get down to districts, he'll be ready."

Stanley's highlight moment came in the semifinal round, where he defeated Warren Woods-Tower's Ryan Radvansky, 3-2, in an ultimate tiebreaker. With the match tied 2-2 after the sudden victory and two 30-second overtimes, Stanley escaped Radvansky in the final seconds of the match to secure a spot in the finals.

As a team, De La Salle finished 13th overall with 92 points. Warren Woods-Tower repeated as champion, collecting 272.5 points. Dakota once again was runner-up with 256.5, followed by Ford (188), Anchor Bay (187.5) and Algonac (154.5) among the top five. 

Junior Clayton Beleshi (215 pounds) won a pair of matches Saturday and was one win away from placing at the tournament for the Pilots. Jeremy Schelosky (135) finished with a pair of wins, while Michael Kafoury (189), Nathan O'Donnell (112), Fischer Schluessler (145), Javon Williams (152) and Dominic Ragona (152) each won a match.

Though team scores were not kept on the junior varsity level, the Pilots fared very well. Junior Thomas Marsh finished 4-0 and won the 189-pound division. Freshman Dean Oakie was 4-1, falling in the championship match at 125 pounds. And both freshman Vinny Lertola and sophomore Gavin Urban reached the semifinal round and ended up with third place finishes for their team.

"We wanted to get those guys matches, and not only did they get matches, but they picked up a lot of wins," Parks said. "We have 12 freshmen on the team, so this is only going to make us better in the future."

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