Bedford's Mitchel Rogaliner draws praise from his coach, Denny Brighton, who lauds the freshman's work ethic in wrestling.
On the brackets of the Michigan individual state wrestling tournament, Bedford's 103-pounder was listed as Mitch Rogaliner.
The freshman prefers to go by Mitchel, and it's only appropriate he ends his name with just one "L". Rogaliner might suffer an "L" - the abbreviation of a loss - to an opponent, but he refuses to give up a second "L."
Of Rogaliner's seven setbacks in this, his first of perhaps many state championship seasons, none was dealt more than once by the same competitor. Rogaliner avenged two of his defeats, and had a winning record against two others to whom he lost a single match.
It's a nice subplot in the grander story of Rogaliner claiming the Division 1 title and positioning himself to be among the most accomplished wrestlers in Bedford's rich history of state champions on individual and team levels.
"Anytime somebody beats you, you kind of get mad at yourself and you want to come back and beat him to prove a point that you've gotten better over the season," he said. "I'm letting go of my losses and I'm coming back to beat you."
After suffering a loss the first weekend of the year to Howell's Kyle Pillars, Rogaliner captured the next two meetings, including a 6-2 decision over Pillars in the first round at state. Following wins in the state quarterfinals and semifinals - by scores of 5-2 and 13-4 - Rogaliner met Rochester's Josh Wood in the finals March 4-6 at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
Rogaliner, facing Wood for the first time, jumped out 4-1 in the first period but watched his lead slip to 5-5 to begin the third and final period. A prolific wrestler, Rogaliner used a half nelson to turn Wood to his back before securing a fall with 48 seconds left.
In doing so, Rogaliner (50-7) became the Mules' first freshman state champ and just the third freshman state placewinner.
And he became the first wrestler in program history to win a state title in either his freshman or sophomore year. Should he repeat his feat three more times, he'd become the 15th wrestler in state history to win four titles. Bedford has crowned 31 state champions, including five two-time champs.
"When you have a great wrestler come along, you can point to what he's done throughout his career and point to why he's at that point," said Bedford coach Denny Brighton, who was crowned state champion in 1970 and 73. "You can say to the other kids, 'Do you want to be like that? Here's how it's done.'•"
Brighton lauds Rogaliner's work ethic and willingness to improve, noting the athlete hardly will take a break before he's again competing in off-season tournaments. Rogaliner attributed his varied opportunities to the assistance of junior teammate Brian Gibbs, who drove Rogaliner to numerous camps and tournaments last offseason. A 135-pounder, Gibbs finished third at state, wrapping up his season at 55-3.
Rogaliner said the idea of winning a state title strengthened after the first time he avenged a loss to Pillars, 4-2 in overtime, on Jan. 23. Pillars had been ranked No. 1 in the state at the time.
"I knew I had a pretty good shot [after defeating him]," Rogaliner said. "I had my confidence up because earlier in the season, I faced him and lost."
Another of Rogaliner's losses that he later reversed came against Dundee freshman Travis Sproles, who was second in D-3. Although rivals, the two routinely work out together in and off-season.
"We've gone back and forth since we were 6 years old," Rogaliner said.
It's hardly a secret the 103-pound class is void of upperclassmen and thereby less challenging for a rookie to win. Of the 16 competitors who made up that weight at state, 10 were freshmen and Pillars was the lone senior. So with an expected progression to 112 next year comes a new challenge for Rogaliner. But the goal remains simple: to become Bedford's most decorated wrestler ever.
"That's kind of what I'm looking toward," he said. "Trying to be the first three or four timer in Bedford history."
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org,
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