As he progresses through his seventh season as Bedford head wrestling coach, it is business as usual for Kevin Vogel and his Kicking Mules program, which has a tradition unlike any other in the metro Toledo area.
Austin Emerson went 49-2 last year for the Kicking Mules and fell just short of a state title.
The principles and techniques once taught by Bedford’s 30-year coaching legend Bill Regnier (26 league titles, nine state championships, 500 dual-meet victories) were passed down to his two-time state champion Denny Brighton (16 seasons as head coach, two state titles, 417 dual-meet wins), and then to Vogel, another former two-time Michigan state champion.
This season, the Mules program boasts 42 total wrestlers dispersed among the junior varsity and varsity teams, the latter of which returns 12 returning starters as Bedford looks for its third straight Southeastern Conference championship, and 14th title in the last 15 years.
One oddity is that the roster includes only four seniors to lead the way in the practice room.
The biggest of these senior returnees — both in stature and achievement — is 6-foot-5, 285-pounder Austin Emerson, who was one point from a Michigan Division 1 state championship last year, losing a tough 3-2 decision in the state final against Nicholas Jenkins of Detroit Catholic Central.
Emerson, 49-2 last season, is joined by senior returnees Neil Antrassian (160) and Hunter Gandee (189), who each advanced to the D-1 regionals last season.
Other starters back include juniors Blake Wingate (215) and Cade Sutterfield (125), and sophomores William Gorman (119) and Colin Jagielski (171).
Vogel sees his wrestlers as strong top to bottom throughout the lineup, but still with some room to mature as part of a relatively young group.
The Mules placed third in the team standings last Saturday at home in the Denny Brighton Invitational. Last season Bedford reached the Michigan Division 1 regional team dual-meet finals before losing to Westland John Glenn 38-30.
“We look forward to a great season of wrestling,” Vogel said. “Coming together as a team, and taking on the challenges ahead of us. We’ve got several guys who will be looking at getting on the podium at [individual] state, and as a team we’re pretty solid in dual meets, so we’ll be looking to get into that final eight at state.”
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