Knizacky and Merrick lead the way for Spartans at state wrestling tourney.

March 9, 2016
MCC's Knizacky

MCC’s Knizacky

By George C. Wilson, contributing writer.

AUBURN HILLS — The Mason County Central Spartans concluded the 2015-2016 wrestling season this past weekend with seniors Spencer Knizacky and Logan Merrick leading a group of five teammates to the Palace in Auburn Hills seeking medals in the MHSAA Division 4 individual state wrestling championships.  Both Spartan seniors earned individual medals.

Logan Merrick finished fourth in the 145 pound weight class.  Logan came in to the tournament with a season record of 48-8.  He dropped a tough 3-0 decision to eventual weight class champion Cole Hersch of New  Lothrop in the semifinals on Friday night.  Logan wrestled back in the consolation rounds on Saturday morning to take the medal for fourth place capping a highly successful wrestling career.

Spartan juniors Eldon McCabe and Jon Zoscsac failed to win medals at 171 pounds and 285 pounds respectively.  The Spartan coaching staff led by head Coach Jim Allen had praise for both young men but singled out heavyweight Jon Zoscsac for the strides he has made in the sport.  “He has come so far this season. Last year Jon struggled to even beat a few wrestlers but this year the improvement is night and day,” Coach Allen said of his very tall and lanky heavyweight.  Assistant coach Kendall Trim, a former state champion wrestler for Ludington High School — whose father wrestled for the Spartans 40 years ago — noted that just teaching Zoscsac to “get in a stance and to lower his attack level last season was a major goal.”  But now that he is learning to use his height advantage he has the potential to be a dominant wrestler.  Jon Zoscsac did win one match at the state meet and finished the year with a 28-12 record.

Junior Jacob Shoop is the leader of the Spartan underclassman.  Shoop came into the state tournament with an impressive 52-4 overall record.  Jacob lost in the second round to eventual state champion Steven Garza of New Lothrop but then stormed through the consolation rounds.  The Spartan junior put the word out that he will be a senior to watch next year by pinning Zack Menck of Lawton in the second round of the 3rd place match in the 152 pound weight class.

The story of the tournament for the Spartans came in the 160 pound weight class where senior leader Spencer Knizacky was seeking a state championship to cap a 50 plus win season and two prior state placer medals secured in his sophomore and junior seasons.  Knizacky took care of business in the first two rounds picking a wins by a major decision in the first round and a come from behind victory via fall in the second setting up a show down in the semi-finals with yet another New Lothrop wrestler.  For those who know high school wrestling in the state of Michigan the Hornets of New Lothrop are held in awe.  A small village west of Flint, New Lothrop only a week before won their 15th team state championship.  No other school in any division has close to that total.  Over the last four decades the Hornets have produced dozens of individual state champions.  Spencer Knizacky would be facing John Robinson of New Lothrop in the semi-finals knowing that two of his teammates had already lost matches to Hornet wrestlers ending their hopes for an individual state championship.

The semi-final match was masterfully fought and in the end Knizacky was able to hold off the hard charging Hornet wrestler for a 12-7 victory setting up a Saturday night championship match.  In that match Spencer would be facing returning state champion Kyle Johnson of Hudson.  The Hudson Tigers are another storied school in Michigan wrestling only two seasons removed from a string of five      consecutive team titles.  Spencer Knizacky would again have to face the best of the best to advance to his goal of being crowned a state champion.  It was not to be.  Spencer dropped a 4-2 decision to the Hudson senior.  “It came down to getting the take-down in the first period.” Coach Jim Allen noted.  “Johnson is very strong and a great rider.  Spencer had his chances but the takedown was the difference”  

Spencer Knizacy is only the second wrestler in MCC Spartan history to medal in three state tournaments.  He had hoped to join Jeff Henry, Bob Cameron and Mike Root to become the fourth wrestler from the school to win an individual state championship.  It didn’t come to pass.  But Coach Jim Allen had nothing but praise for his senior leader.  “Spencer never complained about spending most of the season wrestling at heavier weight classes.  He only had a handful of matches at 160 pounds prior to the start of the state competition last month but he is a tough kid and a very hard worker.”  Allen went on to praise his state medalists and qualifiers.  “They worked so hard.  They really pushed each other in practice.  That’s the key.  Their toughest match up most weeks was in our own practices.”

An emotional Spencer Knizacky took time only moments after his season ending loss in the state championship to thank “my parents and coaches and teammates who pushed me to be the best all season long.”  He may have come up just short but the Spartan wrestler joins the long list of young men who have proudly worn the blue and gold singlet and brought home honors to the sport in Scottville.  And like so many before he has helped lay the groundwork for his younger teammates to maybe be the next Spartan to bring home the gold.  

George C. Wilson has been a high school wrestling coach and educator for 25 years. He is the Media Specialist for Rockford High School and has most recently coached wrestling there. George grew up in Scottville and graduated with the Mason County Central class of 1979.

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