On Saturday, Feb. 4 the Albion College Men’s Wrestling team traveled to Adrian to compete in the MIAA Championship against other teams in the conference. The Britons successfully earned three individual MIAA titles, awarded to CJ Krum, Saint Johns sophomore, Peyton Brooks, Midland first-year, and Owen McDaniel, Plainwell sophomore, in only the wrestling program’s second year.
The MIAA conference meet gives division three wrestlers the opportunity to compete amongst one another in a tournament-style competition, where they not only wrestle against other teams but their own teammates. The Men’s Wrestling Head Coach, Adam Wilson, said the tournament was put together with a lot of collaboration among the schools who wrestle in the MIAA.
“I think as a traditional conference, you have to have that for wrestling,” said Wilson. “After some passionate discussions with other head coaches, we slowly migrated to adding the MIAA officially for the first time last year and it evolved into a mainstay.”
Wilson began his career at Albion last year, where he started from scratch establishing the Britons wrestling team. When he began, the school had no wrestling facilities, no coaching staff and no roster. In his eyes, the MIAA Championship is an important event for the program.
Krum pinned his first opponent in 6:17 and advanced to the finals after an 11-1 decision in the individual tournament.
This experience was nothing new to Krum, as he was also a runner-up at the MIAA Champion conference last year. Wilson praised him for this year’s performance, where he beat Donovan King from Olivet College, the number one ranked individual in the country for his division. This made Krum the first wrestler in Albion’s history to knock off an individual ranked top five in the country. He finished the season at 8-3, ranked in fifth place.
Brooks wrestled at the 157-pound weight class, claiming a perfect 3-0 day, an 8-0 decision and an 8-2 finish in the championship bout.
Brooks finished with the champion title, as well as the First-Team All-MIAA selection determined through a coach’s vote at the end of the tournament. He was the only Albion wrestler and first-year selected for this title this year. He ended the regular season with a 20-7 overall record.
To Brooks, the MIAA conference “felt like a normal tournament, I have been wrestling a long time so I just went in there a little bit nervous, a little bit excited,” he said. “Being projected as the first seed gave me confidence going into the competition.”
This championship gave Brooks the ability to reflect on the season as a whole and how he has grown as an individual through the entirety of his wrestling experience.
“I started off the season a little timid,” Brooks said. “But, my coach allowed me to drop down from 165 pounds to the 157-pound weight class and I started finding more success there. I’ve been undefeated there so far.”
Doing well in the MIAA conference was one of Brooks’ goals for the season, and the win awarded him confidence going into the postseason. Next up for Brooks and the other champions is traveling to the NCAA Regionals and hopefully placing top three in their weight class for the opportunity to proceed to the NCAA Nationals.
McDaniel, who wrestles at 184 pounds, led his division as the first seed after the dual portion of the conference. McDaniel went 3-1 in the duals and won the conference tournament, crowning him with the MIAA Champion title.
McDaniel wrestled as the first seed after Adrian College pulled their starter – who had previously beaten McDaniel in duals – out of the tournament.
“I was pretty nervous, feeling a lot of pressure, unneeded pressure that I put on myself,” McDaniel said. “But then I told myself I need to take it one match at a time. You know, have fun.”
Like Brooks, McDaniel was able to cross off one of his season’s goals on the list when he was awarded the MIAA title.
“The ultimate goal is to become an All-American, that’s what we work for,” McDaniel said. “It’s nice to accomplish something after all the hard work we put into training. The MIAA championship title is one of those things where you know you are doing the right thing and that you need to continue to work hard.”
The Briton wrestler also congratulated his fellow teammate Garret Lobe, a first-year from Union City, for making it to the finals. Lobe was the second seed in McDaniels weight class. The two Britons were slated to compete against each other in the finals, but the match was forfeited by Wilson and given to McDaniel. This decision allowed Lobe to claim the award for All-American Scholar Athlete Award for maintaining a 3.2 GPA and a 66 percent win rate throughout the season, while McDaniel was able to walk away with the title.
“The decision to forfeit, made by our head coach, allowed me to go on to regionals,” McDaniel said. “I have a lot to be thankful for. The whole experience of the season has allowed me to be a good teammate and to be a good friend. I owe a lot to wrestling.”
Overall the Men’s Wrestling team earned 3rd place at the tournament with a 2-2 record, beating Trine and Alma while losing to Olivet and Adrian. Adrian took the team championship after going 4-0 in dual meet competitions in the conference.
The three MIAA champions and the rest of the men’s wrestling team will travel to the NCAA Regionals on Feb. 24-25 to compete for a spot at the NCAA Nationals.