Sunday, February 11, 2024

NJCAA Great Lakes District Preview (Saturday February 17th)


Of the many happenings that have taken place in Flint, Michigan, one of the best is gonna take place this upcoming Saturday.  Hosted by Mott, featuring Regions 4 & 12, the Great Lakes District will have an assortment of great wrestlers at each weight class fighting for NJCAA qualification.

125 lbs

Just a hair smaller, Jordan Simpson is from the same Michigan community as is the legendary Chris Taylor.  Simpson will most likely be the *1 seed this weekend, looking to win a Great Lakes District title.  As to who might be his finals opponent?  Chris Kish of Harper was 3rd here a year ago.  Thus far in '23-'24 he was 6th at the Yellow Jacket Open & 4th at the Art Kraft Memorial. 

133 lbs 

No doubt in my mind, our Great Lakes District champ this year will be Anthony Schickel of Triton, who won a title last year, placing 5th in the NJCAA nation.  As to whom his finals opponent might be?  Well, Gabe Livingston of Southwestern Michigan was an NJCAA qualifier last year. 

NO OPINION ON 141 lbs 

149 lbs 

You know Ashton Hayhurst must be pretty good, because he beat out David Capron for the starting spot on the Triton roster.  Capron, an NJCAA qualifier in his own right was 3rd here a year ago. This season, he'll be watching from the stands as teammate Hayhurst looks to take the gold.  As to who might be their to meet him in the finals?  Both Zam Thompson of SW Michigan & Xzavier Suess of St. Clair strike me as worthy candidates.  Both were NJCAA qualifiers last season.  

157 lbs 

Alabama native Manny Oliver will be illustrating some southern talent this weekend here in Flint, Michigan & then he'll be doing it again in a couple of weeks at the NJCAA national tournament in Council Bluffs, Iowa. 

165 lbs 

A Great Lakes District Champion last season, it's most likely that Conner Svantner of Triton once again is crowned champion this year.  As to a finals opponent? My pick is Hunter Heath of Southwestern Michigan.  An NJCAA qualifier for the Roadrunners last season, he was recently named MCCAA wrestler of the year. 

174 lbs 

Without a doubt, the Great Lakes District's toughest weight class.  Three ranked wrestlers, all All American candidates.  A transfer from Jamestown CC, I'd be very curious to know if Mustafa Salimi of Triton would be the Great Lake District's first ever champion from Afghanistan. Be even more curious to know if there's ever been a collegiate champion in any Division here in the United States that was originally from Afghanistan.  Don't know.  What I do know, is that Salimi is a very good wrestler & while the competition is fierce this weekend, he's our likely District champ.  As to finals opponent?  Paul Kadlec of Joliet will battle it out with Aiden Cohen of Harper for that honor.  Cohen was 3rd at the Yellow Jacket Open & champion at the Muskie Scramble earlier this season.  With that said, upsets could occur here at 174 lbs.  Jared Checkley of Southwestern Michigan & Rice Robins of Muskegon were both NJCAA qualifiers last season.  Robins recently won the MCCAA title. 

184 lbs 

Probably looking at the best match of the Great Lakes District finals.  Nathan Andrina of Southwestern Michigan recently defeated Ashton Light of St. Clair 2-0 for a MCCAA title. I suspect that we'll see another good match between the two this weekend. 

197 lbs

Another tough weight class here in the Great Lakes District.  Our *1 seed looks to be Ghee Rachal of Triton, with a likely *2 seed in Jase Grundy, giving Mott an opportunity to shine on their home mats.  As I've said before, qualifiers are breeding grounds for upsets & let's not forget that Manny Mejia was a runner-up here last season.  Vinny Patierno himself was also an NJCAA qualifier last season. 


Oleg Simakov of Harper has thus far collected bronze medals as both the Muskie Scramble & the Yellow Jacket Open, while collecting a silver medal at the Harper Open.  He looks to collect gold this weekend, but will have a great challenged from Southwestern Michigan's Jack Stuart. 

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