Alma Scots: Having brought back wrestling in 2011, the Proud Plaid has quickly gained the lofty status that the program held during the early 1980s. In its last four years as a program (1981-84), Alma won three MIAA championships. In doing so, the Scots interrupted an Olivet streak of nine straight league titles. In 1984 it appeared the Comets were raising the stakes in a growing rivalry by taking back the league crown. But, during the off-season wrestling was eliminated at Alma and several other MIAA schools. Thus the teams wouldn’t renew their rivalry until a new era of Alma Wrestling. Still, in that new era it didn’t take long for the rivalry to gain fire. After a 49-0 drubbing on Olivet’s campus in their inaugural season, the Scots bounced back to “shock the nation” and defeat the #9 Comets 16-15 in their second year returned. Currently, the Scots are ranked #14 in the nation.
Olivet Comets: Just this past October during the school’s homecoming festivities, Olivet College honored the Comets’ storied program on its 50th Anniversary of Olivet Wrestling. The entire wrestling community of Michigan owes this program a giant thank you for continuing to offer this great sport across a half century when others had abandoned it. Indeed, going back across the years coached by Brissette, Hibbs and Klein – the Comets made a home at times for as many as 60 or more wrestlers on the roster. During this era, even to the chagrin of some administrators, the program became affectionately known as Olivet Wrestling College – or in recent years the OWC. A brotherhood that stretches across generations has planted dozens upon dozens of coaches in the MHSAA wrestling community. The Comets are currently ranked #24 in the nation.
Todd Hibbs, Alma: The resume for Hibbs traces his roots to the great wrestling state of Ohio, where he was a two-time NCAA D3 All-American and Scholar All-American before becoming a high school coach. Michigan has been his home for nearly 20 years and Hibbs began his career here as an assistant at Michigan State University. During nearly a decade away from coaching in the late 90s and early 2000s, Hibbs became known as a national wrestling announcer and administrative contributor to the sport. He served locally on the microphone for the Spartans, but also announced more than 30 national events for the NCAA. He also authored papers on coaching and program administration for the National Wrestling Coaches Association. After a five-year stint coaching Olivet College from 2004-09, Hibbs became Vice President for Advancement at the school. Then in early 2011 he accepted the position to start a new wrestling program at Alma. His record is 88-47-2 as a head coach at the college level, and he was a finalist for National Coach of the Year in 2006 when his team was 16-1-1 and undefeated in D3.
Olivet’s Brandon Brissette on Hibbs: "Coach Hibbs is a developer: of programs, character, wrestlers, coaches, and colleagues. I have worked with and witnessed him nurture many different kinds of programs and people. So, when he left Olivet administration to restart the Alma wrestling program, I told him there was no better person for the job. He understands how to instill pride into a program. Without self pride and program pride, there is little respect for a program, and without respect there can be no rivalry. THIS RIVALRY is built on mutual respect of the coaches, die hard pride of those in the programs, and the will to uphold wrestling and tradition."
Brandon Brissette, Olivet: A native of Bay City, Brissette grew up in a wrestling household with his father serving as coach at Essexville Garber for 25 years. After an all-state high school career, Brissette wrestled at the University of Michigan for one year before transferring to NCAA D3 powerhouse Wartburg College. While at Wartburg, he was a four-year letterwinner and three-time Scholar All-American. He also was a part of two national runner-up teams and a national championship. His coaching career began at Heidelberg College (Ohio), where he served as head assistant coach of a program that won four consecutive conference titles, qualified 17 wrestlers to the NCAAs and crowned an individual NCAA champion. Brissette is in his sixth year as the head coach at Olivet and holds a record of 49-37. His teams have consistently been ranked top 25 in the nation, while often inside the top 10. His program also is the reigning two-time NWCA National Champions academically. And, in 2010 Brissette was named NCAA Rookie Coach of the Year.
Alma’s Todd Hibbs on Brissette: "First off, Coach Brissette is a friend. Our friendship will outlast our coaching days against one another. Still, I’m going to enjoy these moments while they last. When you coach against Brandon Brissette you are never comfortable going to sleep. That’s because you know he is still in his office working. Brandon is tireless. Food, sleep, social time – all secondary to his commitment to his team, and to his pride in producing a product that respects all the history of Olivet Wrestling. These things matter deeply to him. People matter deeply to him. Wrestling matters deeply to him. When you compete against somebody like that it makes winning have enormous value – because you know how hard both sides are working to win. That helps drive this rivlary. For both us, I believe the best days are ahead. We push each other.”
Jeremiah Tobias and Fletcher Roberts, Alma: The entirety of the Alma staff is possibly one of the most balanced coaching compliments in D3. Tobias offers extraordinary technical expertise and toughness, while Roberts provides uncommon nutritional and strength training components. Tobias was a four-time MHSAA state champion and the all-time pins leader at the University of Michigan. He brings coaching experience from the club level as well as all three NCAA divisions. Roberts has experience as a high school head coach, as well as a life and career dedicated to perfecting daily life for maximum athletic performance. He proved himself years ahead of the curve by employing Charles Poliquin training strategies during Alma’s first days as a program several years ago – a move eventually made by USA Wrestling in 2014. His focus on diet, nutrition, sleep, recovery and overall lifestyle with athletes has led to gains that have clearly propelled Alma’s progress.
Jeff Therrian and Caleb Grummet, Olivet: While he may be the “Dean of Coaches” in this rivalry, Jeff Therrian still commands enormous respect in the weight room and on the mats. A life committed to living and teaching fitness, toughness and high-level wrestling technique Therrian has enjoyed success at all levels. An All-Big Ten performer for Michigan State during his competitor days, he also coached Williamston to a state championship and has served as lead assistant to the Comets for nine years now. He has twice been named Mid-States assistant coach of the year. And, as if Therrian didn’t bring enough toughness to the Comet personality already – enter Caleb Grummet. A decorated wrestler from storied Lake Odessa, Grummet is also a Marine, a professional boxer and a MMA fighter who carries the nickname “True-Grit” Grummet. It’s no secret that Olivet is always known to be a program of the utmost toughness and these two have a lot to do with that.
Thursday’s match will begin at 184 pounds ...
184 Pounds, Caleb Huff, Jr (AC/Sturgis) vs. d3wrestle Honorable Mention Rodney Harvey, Jr (OC/Battle Creek Lakeview): A common theme in AC/OC #4 is that most of these bouts could be considered a toss-up, and this is the first of those. In December Harvey defeated Huff at the Ohio Northern Invitational 5-3 as he finished in 3rd place and Huff in 5th. An extra factor in this match-up is also its personal nature. There is a lot of respect between these two old friends who both grew up wrestling in Southwest Michigan. They have trained together and cheered one another on through high school and college. And now they are building a rivalry within The Rivalry.
197 Pounds, # 11 Jared Groeneveld, Sr (AC/Allendale) vs. d3wrestle Honorable Mention Tom Hall, Jr (OC/Fife Lake Forest Area): In last year’s dual the underdog Scots tried to make up some points by bumping Groeneveld from 184 to challenge Hall at 197. The match proved to be the most entertaining of the evening, with multiple counter-filled exchanges that thrilled the crowd. Ultimately Hall prevailed in OT by winning one of the crazier takedown scrambles in the history of this team rivalry. At matches end both big men had spent it all. This year’s rematch will see them make the same weight this time and it could once again prove to be a pivotal moment in the dual.
285 Pounds, #16 Trevor Maresh, Jr (AC/Northville) vs. Ryan Steverson, Sr (OC/Lake Odessa Lakewood) or Jesse Judge, So (OC/Central Montcalm): Maresh bumped up from 197 to 285 to get a win for the Scots in the dual last year. This year Maresh has beefed up to 245 as a legitimate heavyweight and has appeared in the rankings as high as #11. New to the division, Maresh has never faced either of the two possible Comets, though he was runner-up at the North Central Invitational this year when Steverson finished 3rd and Judge 5th. Should the Comets go with Judge, it would be one of your more unique heavyweight match-ups as both wrestlers stand 6’4” or taller.
125 Pounds, d3wrestle Honorable Mention Tyler Foley, Sr (AC/South Lyon East) vs. Michael Schmidt, So (OC/Greenville): Foley, along with fellow Scot senior Collin Lesko (Tecumseh), has provided the Scots with a wrestler to put in the national rankings at the lightest collegiate weight for four straight years. And two years ago when Alma pulled the “shock the nation” upset over the Comets, it was Foley and Lesko’s (at 133) extra match points that provided the tiebreaker for Alma to win 16-15. This will be the final home dual for the Alma senior and this time Foley will face an unfamiliar Comet opponent in Greenville’s Michael Schmidt. Schmidt has been putting together a fine sophomore season and this will be his first venture into the big rivalry dual.
133 Pounds, Zac Case, Sr (AC/Battle Creek Pennfield) vs. Matt Darling, Sr (OC/Ovid-Elsie): The 133-pound weight class will provide one of three (also 149 and 165) battles on the evening between program seniors. It’s interesting that these two have only faced off one other time in their career, and it came way back when they were freshman as Darling posted a decision over Case at the Mid-States Championships. This year Case took 2nd at Ohio Northern as Darling finished a nearby 3rd with each wrestler losing to the champion. It’s another match-up on the evening that is really too close to call.
141 Pounds, Ryan Foley, So (AC/Brighton) vs. Dominic Trevino, So (OC/Holt): These sophomores have somehow avoided a meeting despite mostly wrestling the same weights throughout their MHSAA D1 careers and now wrestling at several common venues a year in college. Trevino was the Ohio Northern Invitational champion this year as Foley failed to place in the same event. Yet, other results for the pair have been similar on the year and Foley is known as a dangerous wrestler who can never be counted out. This could be the first of many meetings for a couple of years to come.
149 Pounds, d3wrestle Honorable Mention James Carey, Sr (AC/Ithaca) vs. d3wrestle Honorable Mention Kyle Witgen, Sr (OC/Romeo): The second battle of program seniors pits former MHSAA state runner-up Carey, an unorthodox scrambler with a deep gas tank and a never-say-die attitude against Witgen, a familiar family name in Michigan wrestling circles and a competitor who brings an entertaining and attacking style to the mat. With Carey having always been at 149 and Witgen having been at 157 until this year – the two have never met. Both however have competed in this dual before – as two years ago in this same gym they each lost heartbreakers at the buzzer in back-to-back bouts at 149 and 157. This year they both seek to close out their career in The Rivalry with a win for their team.
157 Pounds, d3wrestle Honorable Mention Shawn Brewer, Jr (AC/New Boston Huron) vs. d3wrestle Honorable Mention Jacob Gould, Sr (OC/Lowell): At 157 we will see a rematch of last year’s dual matchup between Brewer and Gould. Brewer got the better of Gould last year 11-5, and also owns a previous decision over Gould in his career. Brewer is a beastly strong 157 with some great shots on his feet and a wear-you-down style from top position. Still, Gould is a big move kind of guy and can be dangerous scoring points in bunches.
165 Pounds, #4 Matt Tuttle, Sr (AC/Reading) vs. Dan Fleet, Sr (OC/Lowell): The last match-up of program seniors is an interesting one. Tuttle is one of the more feared wrestlers in all of Division 3 wrestling. His pin rate over the past three years of his career hovers around 75%. He has even led the nation in pinning at points during each of the past two seasons. And he pins in different ways from both neutral and top position. In one of their previous three match-ups he did register a fall against Fleet. However, the other two matches were decisions, including a barn-burner at the Midwest Regionals a year ago. And you have to believe that as a senior with experience wrestling in this match-up and this dual, Fleet will have his “A” game. Don’t turn away during this one.
FEATURED BOUT: 174 Pounds, #6 Jamie Jakes, Jr (AC/Dearborn Divine Child) vs. #5 Nick Allen, Sr (OC/Mason County Central): These national qualifiers met in December for the Ohio Northern Invitational championship and gave fans all that they could ask for and more. Even as a low-scoring match, it was one of the better Division 3 match-ups on the season. After a scoreless first period, Allen accumulated two minutes ride time in the second period. Then after earning an escape in the third Allen held a “virtual” 2-0 lead counting the ride time. As the period drew short Jakes was on the prowl and secured a takedown that put Allen in jeopardy of surrendering nearfall. However, there were only a pair of “one-counts” in the closing seconds, thus the match moved to a sudden victory overtime. Once again in OT Jakes was on the attack and appeared to be closing in on the winning takedown when he hit a high crotch and lifted Allen over his head. The Alma fans erupted in anticipation of victory – but in his characteristic manner upon hitting the mat Allen gutted out an amazing scramble to secure the takedown and the win. And in doing so, he secured the ONU team title for the Comets. It was EPIC. Get ready on Thursday for EPIC II. These opponents could not be more different – with only their talent for wrestling and for mustache-growing being their similarities. Jakes is shorter for the weight class and known for his strength both in the weight room and on the mat. Allen is tall, rangy and absolutely maximizes those attributes with his style. Jakes is known as an attacker, respected for his shots and deadly on his feet. Allen is one of the best counter-wrestlers in the country and highly respected for his top-position game. Regardless of the team score on Thursday, you most definitely want to stick around for this one. And if the match is still in question entering this bout – expect the Scots and Comets to be on their feet!
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