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Published: Thursday, 3/1/2012

SIDELINES: WRESTLING

6 Mules headed to state tournament in quest of titles

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Bedford, under coach Kevin Vogel, had six wrestlers qualify to the Division 1 state tournament at the Palace of Auburn Hills -- from left, Mitch Rogaliner, Al Regnier, Bryan Smith, Logan Rimmer, Brandon Sunday, and Mitch Pawlak. The Mules won the Southeastern Conference championship. Bedford, under coach Kevin Vogel, had six wrestlers qualify to the Division 1 state tournament at the Palace of Auburn Hills -- from left, Mitch Rogaliner, Al Regnier, Bryan Smith, Logan Rimmer, Brandon Sunday, and Mitch Pawlak. The Mules won the Southeastern Conference championship.
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TEMPERANCE -- With the quest for a 12th state team championship having ended last Friday, the wrestling season continues Thursday for perennial Michigan Division 1 power Bedford as six Kicking Mules begin competing in the state individual finals at the Palace of Auburn Hills.

Qualifying out of regional for first-year coach Kevin Vogel were junior Mitch Rogaliner (41-2 season record) at 112 pounds, junior Mitch Pawlak (39-10) at 119, senior Al Regnier (38-11) at 140, junior Brandon Sunday (44-5) at 189, senior Bryan Smith (40-1) at 215, and senior Logan Rimmer (43-1) at 285.

Rogaliner, who is ranked No. 1 in his weight class, was a state champion at 103 pounds as a freshman, and lost 2-1 in the state title match last year against Shayne Wireman of Holt.

"It was a big disappointment," Rogaliner said. "I was ranked No. 1 all year and I went into the finals and lost 2-1. That's what's motivating me now to get back.

"I'll actually have that kid [Wireman] in the semifinals this time. I'm motivated to get back at him and take my title back."

Rogaliner is looking to become Bedford's sixth two-time state champion, following former longtime coach Denny Brighton, who won titles in 1973 and 1974, Doug Harper (1984-85), Vogel (1986-87), Ryan McBroom (1991-92), and Alex Ortman (2007-08).

"Mitch Rogaliner's been there twice and he's been in the finals twice," Vogel said. "He's hungry again, and he knows what it takes to win in the finals. He's experienced and he's ready. He's been working since the summer for these matches."

In all, 28 Bedford wrestlers have combined for 33 state titles.

Rimmer was also a state runner-up last season, falling 4-1 in the 285 title match to Justin Dozier of Brownstown-Woodhaven after a surprise run to the final.

"Last year I came in as kind of the underdog," Rimmer said. "I wasn't thinking I was going to the finals. I won my first match, and then in the quarterfinal match I beat a kid who was undefeated.

"By the semifinal I started believing in myself and pinned a kid who had beat me the week before. When I lost in the finals [4-1] it was a big disappointment. But that's been a ridiculous motivator for me. I'm working 10 times harder than I did last year, and I really want it bad this year."

Mitch Pawlak, left, and Mitch Rogaliner practice against each other. Pawlak is ranked No. 5 at 119 pounds. Rogaliner, is ranked No. 1 at 112 and looking for his second state title. Mitch Pawlak, left, and Mitch Rogaliner practice against each other. Pawlak is ranked No. 5 at 119 pounds. Rogaliner, is ranked No. 1 at 112 and looking for his second state title.
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An all-region defensive tackle on the football team, Rimmer, like Rogaliner, is rated No. 1 in his weight class in D-1.

"Logan is a big heavyweight," Vogel said. "He's a 300-pound guy who cuts down to 285 to make heavyweight. He can move his feet. He's a Division I [college] quality wrestler or football player.

"He's big and physical, and he knows how to compete. He was in the finals last year, so he's hungry to win a state title."

Smith was Bedford's third state placer in 2011, finishing fifth at 215. He is ranked No. 2 entering this year's tournament, which includes 16 wrestlers in each weight class.

"I have a pretty good chance if I stay focused," Smith said. "I've got a tough kid [potentially to face] in the semifinals who was a state champ last year. "But, if I stay on top of my game plan and just wrestle my match, I've got a good shot of beating him."

Smith said last year's state tourney experience should help him settle in this time.

"The first time I went on the mat [at state] I was like star-struck," Smith said. "I was looking up at all the people and was really nervous. But, now that I've been there it's different.

"I lost my first match and wrestled all the way back. I know how to not let the pressure get to me and just stay on my game and wrestle."

"Bryan Smith is a powerhouse," Vogel said. "I don't know if I've seen too many guys at the high school level who are as strong and powerful as him. "He has excellent technique on his feet and can shoot all day long. For a big guy, he's very active. He leads the team in technical falls."

Sunday, who is making his first trip to the individual finals, is ranked No. 2 at 189.

"Right now I think I have a pretty good chance at making it to the state finals," Sunday said. "I've just got to stay on top of my game and beat whoever's there to be beat. Anybody can be beat. I've realized that over these years.

"This is my first year going [to state] and I feel like it's a great opportunity for my junior year. I came up one match short last year and I know how it feels to not make it."

"Sunday is dangerous," Vogel said. "He's got a mean headlock and he's a competitor. He loves to get out there and get after it. If he catches you on your back, you're not getting up."

Regnier is the grandson of Bedford coaching legend Bill Regnier, who returned to the practice room this season as an assistant under Vogel.

Coach Regnier, who built Bedford into a state power beginning in the late 1960s, guided most of the Mules' 11 state team championships, and is a member of both the Michigan and national high school coaching halls of fame.

Bryan Smith (215 pounds) takes down Codie Bettencourt during practice. Smith finished in fifth place last year at state. Bryan Smith (215 pounds) takes down Codie Bettencourt during practice. Smith finished in fifth place last year at state.
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His grandson may be the most appreciative of the six qualifiers. Having lost in the first round at regionals, he had to battle back through the consolation bracket to earn a spot.

"I've been working to get there for a long time, and it was really nerve-racking at regionals," Al Regnier said. "Once I lost in the first round, it was win or go home. I don't know if I appreciate it more than the other guys but it means a lot to me. Everyone's worked hard to get there."

Pawlak is ranked No. 5 at 119.

"He's another dangerous guy," Vogel said of Pawlak's chances at state. "He can pin anybody at his weight class. I expect him to place high if not win it."

Bedford's run in the state team tournament ended by the tightest of margins in a state quarterfinal dual match at Battle Creek.

The Mules actually tied Hartland 27-27, but lost on the eighth level of Michigan's tie-breaker system, which was the total of first points scored in each of the 14 matches.

"We've had a good season," said Vogel, who is in his first season as a high school coach after spending eight years (1999-2007) as an assistant coach at the University of Michigan. "We continued to improve and each month we got better right up to the end.

"The guys did what I asked them. I brought in some new technique. They learned that and just continued to get better each week."

The Mules won the Southeastern Conference championship with Rogaliner, Sunday, Smith and Rimmer all taking league crowns.

"It was a little harder for me coming from a college level back down to high school," Vogel said. "It's a lot more repetitive. The guys I was dealing with at Michigan, everybody was a state champion. They were all cream of the crop. You show them something and they can pick up on it. You've got to drill it into these guys a little more."

Contact Steve Junga at: sjunga@theblade.com 419-724-6461, or on Twitter @JungaBlade.



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