TEMPERANCE — Bedford has one of the most successful high school wrestling programs in Michigan history and, by Saturday night, senior Mitch Rogaliner could become the Kicking Mules’ most celebrated wrestler.
Rogaliner, one of Bedford’s six two-time state champions, begins his bid to become the only Mule with three titles today when Michigan’s individual state tournament opens at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
“That’s my No. 1 goal,” Rogaliner said. “It’s something that no one else has done at a school that has such a great history in wrestling. It’s really a big deal for me to be a part of that history.”
Earlier this season the Mules’ 119-pounder broke the school record for career wins when he passed former teammate Brian Gibbs’ previous mark of 187 set between 2007-11.
On Feb. 16, Rogaliner (201-14 career) earned his 200th win when he defeated Trevor Zbedski of Detroit Catholic Central to win the Division 1 regional championship.
“I think Mitch is at the top of his game right now, and he’s been looking forward to this tournament all year,” said second-year Bedford coach Kevin Vogel, who is one of the Mules’ other five two-time state champions (1986-87). “I would think he’s easily got to be in top five all-time best here, and he’s still got a long career ahead of him going into college. He could end up right there at the top [ever at Bedford].”
Bedford’s other four two-time state champions were Denny Brighton (1973-74), Doug Harper (1984-85), Ryan McBroom (1991-92), and Alex Ortman (2007-08).
Rogaliner must progress through first-round, quarterfinal, and semifinal matches to earn a probable showdown with his chief career rival, senior Shayne Wireman of Holt.
After winning his first title as a freshman 103-pounder in 2010 (50-7 record), Rogaliner returned to the 103 state final as a sophomore (57-3) in 2011, only to lose 2-1 to Wireman.
Last March, Rogaliner (47-2) avenged that loss by pinning Wireman at 5 minutes, 48 seconds of their 112-pound state semifinal. He then took a 9-5 decision over Canton’s Ben Griffin in the final.
“Throughout the whole season I’ve known that it’s probably going to be him [Wireman] and me in the finals,” Rogaliner said. "I know I’m going to have to wrestle my style so I can beat him again.
“That’s what it’s going to come down to — who can wrestle their style better and execute their moves. I feel like I’ve got my conditioning down, and I’m working on some moves that are not only going to help me now, but when I transition to college wrestling next year.”
Rogaliner will wrestle on scholarship at Michigan State University.
Rogaliner enters the state tourney with a 47-2 record, while Wireman is 44-0. One of Wireman’s 44 wins came against Rogaliner, who owns a 3-2 edge in career matches.
“It was 0-0 and I was scrambling out of a move and ended up pinning myself,” Rogaliner said of the loss. “So, it was 0-0 with a defensive pin.”
Rogaliner’s only other loss this season came against two-time Ohio Division I state champion Brandon Thompson of Solon, who takes a 45-2 record into the state tournament today.
“I’m just going to lay everything I have out on the mat, and do my moves,” Rogaliner said. “Hopefully Shayne and I meet in the finals and I can pull that one out, get my third state title, and become part of Bedford history.”
For the second straight year, Bedford has six wrestlers competing in the state tournament.
Joining Rogaliner are seniors Mitch Pawlak (44-1 at 125 pounds), David Lijewski (35-12 at 171), Codie Bettencourt (32-12 at 189), and Brandon Sunday (46-1 at 215), and junior Adam Ortman (36-10 at 285).
Sunday returns to state after finishing as runner-up last year at 189.
“Brandon Sunday is the No. 1 guy right now in his weight class,” Vogel said, “and he’s beaten the No. 2- and No. 3-ranked guys, who are both from our region.
“Winning a state title is his goal. He was upset last year when he didn’t do it, and he’s been working hard to make that dream come true.”
Pawlak qualified for state last season and won his opening-round match, but did not place among the top eight in the 16-wrestler bracket.
“Mitch Pawlak is ranked No. 2 in the state,” Vogel said. “He just lost to a kid [Josh Wood] from Rochester who is ranked No. 1. Mitch was beating him 7-0 and then got caught on his back and got beat [12-11]. Mitch was dominating him.
“He did lose the match, but I don’t think that kid wants to wrestle him again. I really think Mitch is the best in the state in his weight class.”
Lijewski, Bettencourt, and Ortman are each making their first trips to the state individual tourney.
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com, or 419-724-6461 or on Twitter@JungaBlade.