Wrestling Individual finals: Hilger of Lake Fenton, Freeman of W.L. Central shine on big stage
Auburn Hills - Another chapter is complete for Lake Fenton’s Trent Hillger.
The heavyweight is bowing out as a three-time state champion. Hillger, who will attend Wisconsin next season, is a Mr. Wrestling finalist.
Hillger capped the final weekend of the wrestling season with three pins and a technical fall in just 3:15 over Luke Tromp of Lake Odessa Lakewood in the Division 3 285-pound finals at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
He finished the season 57-0 and has not lost a match since the state tournament his freshman year when he was wrestling at 171.
“I lost here as a freshman, but I still finished fourth,” recalled Hillger. “I learned from that.”
Hillger was Division 3 state champion at 215 back in 2015 and captured the Division 3 285-pound crown as a junior. He is 238-5 for his stellar career.
“It doesn't matter who is out there on the mat. I just go out there and try to win,” Hillger said. “Sure, it’s nice to get pins. But on this stage, you are not going for team points. You just go out there and try to win a state title.”
Hillger is currently ranked in the top 10 in the nation by two different publications — coming in at No. 3 by intermat.com and No. 4 by FloWrestling.com. He has been selected to compete for Team USA at the Dapper Dan / Pittsburgh Classic March 25 in Pennsylvania.
“It’s sad that this is coming to an end. I’m happy to finish up a three-time state champion and look forward to wrestling at Wisconsin,” said Hillger. “This has been (a great experience).”
Freeman is a four-time champion
The only time Ben Freeman lost a match during his four-year career at Walled Lake Central came midway through his freshman year when he had to forfeit a match due to injury at the Holt Tournament.
He was near-perfect ever since that moment and capped it all off with a fourth state championship in Division 1 with a 24-7, technical fall victory over Birmingham Groves’ Colin Takata in the 140-pound weight class. Fittingly, it was the final match of the competition.
“I just kept doing the things I've been doing all along and not worry about (the pressure),” said Freeman, who will wrestle at Michigan next year. “I’m almost glad it’s all done, a lot of (high) expectations.”
Freeman was given a standing ovation following his win, which took 3:55 to complete. The Mr. Wrestling finalist finished his stellar career with a 163-1 record, including 34-0 this season.
He is just the 23rd wrestler in tournament history to win four state titles, fourth in Division 1.
“It’s kind of surreal. It hasn't sunk in just yet,” said Freeman, one of three Central wrestlers to claim state titles. “I’ve always looked up to those guys. I don’t feel like I should be in that group.”
Modesty aside, Freeman is one of the state’s all-time best with four titles and .994 career winning percentage.
“I just go out there and try to win. You can't think about all of what you have done (in the past). When that happens, you can get beat or give up points where you shouldn’t,” said Freeman. “You just have to go out and wrestle the way you have wrestled and try to get it done.”
Freshman teammate TJ Daugherty and Freeman’s brother Nick, a junior, gave Central three champions on the day. Daugherty (103) edged Macomb Dakota’s Nick Alayan, 4-3, while Nick prevailed at 135.
Shamrocks Shine Again
A year after the school had five individual state champions, Detroit Catholic Central landed 14 at the Individual Finals, five more claiming individual titles.
Cameron Amine (145), Tyler Moreland (171), Nicholas Jenkins (285), Benjamin Kamali (112) and Kevon Davenport (130) all repeated as state champs.
Amine posted a 9-3 win over Fraser’s Danny Pfeffer; Tyler Moreland posted a 17-2 technical fall win in 4:40 over Portage Northern’s Matthew Heaps; Jenkins edged out a 3-2 overtime victory over Temperance Bedford’s Austin Emerson; Kamali pinned Battle Creek Lakeview’s Bryce Trust in 3:31; and Davenport topped it off with 4-3 win over Woodhaven’s Xavier Graham.
“We are a family here and everyone can see that,” noted Kamali. “We push each other, root for each other, feed off each other. It’s great to be a part of something greater than yourself.”
Moreland said that wrestlers come to C.C. to try to enjoy something special.
“It’s incredible to win the team title and then come in here and win a title as an individual,” said Moreland, who will wrestle next season at Northwestern. “We’ve all talked about this ever since we lost at team states (in the semifinals) last season. This was what we have worked for. This is why we came to C.C.”
In all of the success that C.C. has enjoyed over the past several decades, perhaps this group was its best. A team state champion, no losses against Michigan schools and five individual state champs amongst all of the accolades for the Shamrocks.
“They are all hammers, every last one of them,” coach Mitch Hancock said. “They always come to compete and carry on our tradition. This tops an incredible season for us. They all put in the time in the offseason to be able to experience something like this.”
Cameron Amine comes from a long bloodline of successful wrestlers and coaches in Michigan, coming from Detroit Catholic Central, Brighton and Warren Lincoln.
A sophomore from Catholic Central, Amine opened the finals with a 9-3 decision over Fraser’s Danny Pfeffer to win his second straight state crown and carry on his family tree’s legacy of successful mat men.
“My family, we always talk wrestling and we push each other,” said Amine, the youngest in his generation. “There’s always someone to push you. The goal is for to me to get here and do what it takes to (succeed). You have high expectations and I want to carry that tradition on for my family.”
Shoop will head to six-time NAIA national champion Grand View College in Des Moines, Iowa, next season.
Roehl Returns To The Too
Jared Roehl is back on top after finishing second as a junior and first as a sophomore.
The Millington senior toppled Tyler Marino of Richmond in the Division 3 215-pound title bout, 6-1, to claim his second state title.
Roehl lost in the 215 finals last season to Dundee’s Brandon Whitman, who dropped down to 189 this season.
“There was no way I was going to lose this time,” said Roehl. “If (Whitman) would have stayed up, it would have been a great match. He beat me by a point last year. But you can't control who your opponent is. I just went out there and wrestled my way and ended up beating him (Marino),” said Roehl, who will wrestle at Central Michigan next season.
Embree Adds To Legacy
Jelani Embree made sure he lived out his dream Saturday at The Palace. The Warren Lincoln senior capped an undefeated season at 36-0 in the 189-pound division with a 7-2 victory over Dexter’s Will Feldkamp.
“This is what you work for your entire career, being here at the Palace and winning a state championship,” smiled Embree.
Hailing from Lincoln, a school with a lot of history and legacy, served as plenty of motivation for part of Embree.
“There’s so many great wrestlers her at Lincoln that came before me. You have a lot to live up to,” smiled Embree. “I’m just glad to be a part of that.”
Clawson’s Katlyn Pizzo’s finished eighth in the D-3 103-pound division, becoming just the third female wrestler to place at the state finals.