The intimidation factor of Bedford's wrestling tradition far outweighs the inherent pressure, according to those who hope to use that fear in the Michigan state tournament this weekend.
The Bedford program has produced 28 state champions and seven Mule wrestlers travel to Auburn Hills tomorrow in a quest to carry on that tradition. Bedford leads a large contingent of southeast Michigan wrestlers who will compete in the individual state meet, which begins tomorrow and wraps up on Saturday at the Palace.
"A lot of schools are afraid of the 'B' on our chest," said Bedford coach Denny Brighton. "It's a great thing to have. When they look over, they say, 'Oh no, I have a Bedford kid.' But we also have to live up to that. Sometimes it works against you because they're always going to give us their best shot. But I look at it as a positive."
Bedford's highest hopes to bring home a title to Temperance this year are seniors Scott Heidtman (160), Jade Heiserman (189) and Marcus Tormoehlen (215) and sophomore Alex Ortman (140). Heiserman, who takes a 47-4 record into the tournament, said he is proud of the tradition.
"It means a lot to wear a Bedford singlet," he said. "There's so much history behind it."
Bedford, which has won 11 state team titles in 48 years, captured its sixth straight league title this season. Bedford has won the Southeastern Conference crown every year since joining the league in 2001.
Heidtman (45-4) said, "It's great going out there and trying to fill those shoes.
"You see what all the guys before you have done. It definitely helps when everyone knows a Bedford kid will not lay down for anyone. It puts pressure on you, but it helps you focus on what you have to do."
Ortman (46-1) and Tormoeh-len (27-11) also will be focused along with junior James Fisher (39-4), senior John Potrzebowski (42-8) and freshman Nick Whitenburg (25-8) at the state meet.
They helped Bedford (31-3 in dual meets) open the season by winning the Dick Hoover Duals at Springfield. Brighton said it was special because his team beat Whitmer, which went on to win City League and district titles. He also coached for 14 years at Whitmer.
The Mules also won their own tournament and the Monroe County tournament. The team's biggest win was at the Dundee duals, where it beat the host Vikings, the No. 2-ranked team in Division 3.
Bedford won a district team title before losing in the state semifinals last weekend. The Mules defeated Traverse City Central in the quarters, before losing to top-ranked Hartland.
Every Mule wrestler who has ever placed at the state meet has his name on the wall at the school. If he reached the state final, his photo is on the wall.
"There are kids who all they ever wanted to do was get their name on that board," Brighton said. "It's a neat tradition. The kids shoot for that."
Bedford last produced a team and individual state championship in 2001 (Clint Salisbury). There are well over 50 photos of wrestlers on the wall, including ones of Brighton, who won state titles in 1973 and 1974.
"We've been consistently getting kids into the finals, so we're consistently putting up photos," Brighton said.
Heiserman said it would be the biggest thing he has ever done in the sport to get his name on the board. Heidtman agreed:
"Every time I walk through the hallway I see the pictures up there. I dream about having mine up there with the greats that Bedford has had. That would be a great accomplishment."
The upperclassmen both also agreed that wrestling in their final tournament after competing for years in the sport provides extra motivation.
"I've been wrestling since the fourth grade and this is the end of it, so that is motivation," Heiserman said. "Knowing it is my last chance to place at state makes me work harder."
"After all the work we've done this season, just making it there is not enough," Heidtman said. "I really want to place and end it on a good note."
Monroe High also has five wrestlers gunning for titles in Division 1 at the Palace. Sean Turner (103), Zachery Stevens (112), Joe Hess (130), Hunter Duncan (135) and Jeff Maddux (275) will represent the Trojans.
In Division 2, Tecumseh's Ron Martin (103), Vinnie Sorise (135), Rick Weirich (145), Nate DeJonghe (171) and Zac Cardenas (275) have qualified for the state meet.
Monroe Jefferson is sending four wrestlers: Billy Balentine (103), Anthony Conte (152), Calvin Stover (189) and Shane Kupchick (215). Adrian's Ed Mohr (125) and Oscar Johnson (171) also have qualified in D2.
Traditionally strong Dundee (29-4) has qualified nine into the Division 3 state tournament. Josh White (103), Pete Rendina (112), Justin White (125), Brad Wade (135), Alex Good (152), Mark Kohlman (160), Chris Eggert (171), Kevin Rowe (189) and Jimmy Rowe (215) seek titles for the Vikings. Kohlman is 53-3 and Rendina, a freshman, is 52-1.
Also in Division 3 are Erie Mason grapplers Nick Quinones (103), Brandon Griffin (119) and Kyle Gaynier (140).
Jacque Pruitt, a 130-pound junior, is Blissfield's lone representative. Matt Reaume (130) and Jake LaPlante (160) carry the chances for Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central in D4.
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