By BURT ANGELI
BATTLE CREEK - Norway High School returns to the MHSAA Division 4 wrestling team state quarterfinals Friday.
Burt Angeli/The Daily News Photo
Donny Houle, assistant Billy Burklund and head coach Nick Burklund watch the action in the recent team district wrestling tournament. Norway wrestles in the state quarterfinal Friday.
The Knights absorbed a 67-5 loss from state champion Hudson in last year's inaugural trip to the Kellogg Center. They've already shown improvement, entering this time as the No. 7 seed against No. 2 New Lothrup.
"We always look for progression every year," said Coach Nick Burklund, his Knights seeded eighth last year. "However, New Lothrup is a very good wrestling program."
New Lothrup won the Marquette Challenge and also qualified 13 wrestlers to next week's individual state tournament in Auburn Hills.
"We know what we are up against but I know our kids will put up a good fight and represent the U.P. well," Burklund said. "We are fortunate to have made it this far and like every year we try to make it a little further."
Norway's season accomplishments include an unbeaten dual mark along with repeating as Mid-Peninsula Conference champion.
"The kids have a lot to be proud of," Burklund said. "I feel our program is getting stronger and stronger every year."
Norway will return 12 wrestlers next year.
"Plus I know we will be getting more kids to come out," Burklund said.
Six Norway wrestlers have produced at least 30 wins this season - Cole Gonzalez (41-4 record at 140 pounds), Cody Spade (32-16 at 145), Taylor Bonetti (37-7 at 171), Kasey Siegel (30-16 at 285), Zac Decremer (40-2 at 103) and Dylan Hoffart (36-7 at 112).
The Knights (19-0) and New Lothrup (28-1), ranked second in the state by michigangrappler.com, will meet at noon (Central time).
The other quarterfinals pit No. 1 Hudson (33-4) vs. Clinton (21-12); No. 3 Carson City-Crystal (25-2) vs. No. 4 Hesperia (26-3), and No. 5 Lawton (29-0) vs. Springport (24-4).
Norway-New Lothrop winner meets the Lawton-Springport winner at 8:30 a.m. Saturday in the semifinals. The finals begin at 3 p.m. Saturday.
New Lothrop features state individual regional kings in Steven Garza II (22-0 record at 140 pounds), Aaron Bauman (46-4 at 145), Josh Wendling (49-4 at 160), Taylor Krupp (50-0 at 171), Cody Symons (43-4 at 189), Connor Krupp (35-12 at 103) and Gabe Bennett (47-3 at 130).
The Hornets, a five-time state champion who last took it all in 2004, have reached the quarterfinals for the past 14 years.
"I think New Lothrup might be the favorite to be in the state championship match and don't be surprised if they win it all over the five-time state champs Hudson," Burklund said.