Pilots' duo head to Ford Field on a mission

WARREN, Mich. — Confidence can be an athlete's best friend. 

If that's the case, De La Salle Collegiate junior Brett Stanley is planning on bringing that best friend with him to Ford Field this weekend for the state individual wrestling finals.

After finishing seventh at last year's finals, wrestling at 152 pounds, he's expecting big things this year in the 160-pound bracket. He wants to win it all.

"That's what you have to do," said Stanley, who is making his third straight trip to the finals. 

He was 0-2 at the 2018 finals, as a freshman, losing a pair of decisions. Last year, he was 3-2, capping off his appearance with a win over Oxford's Trent Myre in the 7th/8th place consolation final. He enters this year's tournament with a 37-2 record. His only two losses came at the Macomb County Invitational and at the individual regional two weeks ago. 

His first-round opponent is Ty Wyka of Dearborn Edsel Ford, who is 50-3 on the season. 

"We want him in the finals," coach Dennis Parks said. "We think that's where he belongs. He had a terrible (regional) finals match, so hopefully having that week off has helped him get healthy again. I think (the finals) aren't really a goal, it's an expectation."

Stanley won't be heading to Ford Field alone. Fellow junior Kenneth Ryder (189 pounds) will be making his second straight trip to Detroit. 

"This year I'm a lot more excited than I was last year. Last year, was a lot more nerve-racking. We're going to go into it like it's just any other tournament," said Ryder, while admitting it's not just any other tournament. "But that's how you've got to treat it."

Ryder, who was 0-2 at last year's finals, will face Detroit Catholic Central sophomore Manuel Rojas (42-1) in his first match. Just two weeks removed from being cleared to wrestle after dealing with mono, Ryader said he's feeling better and better every day.

"Kenny needs to win a match," Parks said. "He needs to put together a six-minute match. Being there for the second time there's no excuse for those jitters. Being a returning guy, he knows the process, knows the routine. It's just a matter of putting those six minutes together."

Parks said Ryder (25-3) is a tough matchup for anyone he faces. 

"He's a unique wrestler," the coach said. "Guys who have never seen him before, he's a difficult matchup. He does things backward. You get in positions, as his opponent, and you feel comfortable. But he's comfortable there, too. 

"He's not a guy who's going to walk out there and pin someone quick. He's going to have to wrestle the full six minutes and put guys in an uncomfortable situation."

Ryder will have his hands full in his first match. He'll face either Isaac Kinne (29-3) of Lake Orion or Bryce Briggs (40-5) of Caledonia in his second match — depending on whether he wins or loses. Either way, he knows the task at hand.

"I'm looking at Rojas, and then whoever it is after him," he said. "It's win two before you lose two."

Stanley said there are some nerves inside, but he's certainly ready for the tournament to get started Friday at 11:30 a.m.

"I've already been there so I'm not overly nervous. I'm nervous in a good way," Stanley said. "I know what to expect. I've already been there a couple of times. All the fans, it's pretty cool."

Parks said a group of their teammates is expected to head down to support Stanley and Ryder. He admitted it's great for the program to have the pair achieving so much success in their first few years with the program.

"For so long — in our program — the guys that qualified for states were seniors," Parks explained. "So the guys never really got to see them come back. Now that they're making second, third trips to Ford Field and coming back for another season, it just elevates all the guys, not only those around them but everyone on the team because that's where they want to get to. 

"You see it in a lot of programs. It's hard to see where you're going if you don't have anyone who's been there."

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