Brighton defeats Hartland, 31-25, in Division 1 final to capture program’s first state title
Battle Creek – Lee Grabowski of Brighton must have felt the weight of the world on his shoulders Saturday night.
With his team leading 28-25 heading into the final match at 112, the sophomore posted a 4-2 victory over Hartland’s Garnet Potter. Not only was the victory significant for Grabowski, who had lost to Potter twice this season, but it was the final points in Brighton’s 31-25 victory over Hartland in the Division 1 state finals at Kellogg Arena.
The state title is the first for Brighton, a program that was competing in their first state title.
“We kind of thought with a few matches to go that it could come down to Grabowski’s match,” Brighton second-year coach Tony Greathouse said. “We knew that he could do it. What a way for a sophomore to go in there and beat a kid who had beaten him earlier this season. With that pressure, he stepped up and (delivered). We did not want it to go down to (criteria) points.”
Grabowski lost to Potter by one and three points, respectively, this season in Kensington Lakes Activities Association.
“I knew I could beat him. It’s not like he beat me by all that much (earlier),” Grabowski said. “The last time he beat me by a point, so I had to stay on top of him.”
Brighton (29-1) lost a point three matches earlier for unsportsmanlike conduct. If the meet would have ended in a 28-28 draw, Hartland would have won on the criteria.
Brighton, ranked No. 2 in the State Champs Power 15 rankings, defeated Hartland for the second time in a dual meet this season, 38-18, in mid-January. The Bulldogs also defeated Hartland at the KLAA Championships.
Brighton walked into Kellogg Arena with 10 senior starters, but the platform for a title run had long since put into place. The Bulldogs also had plenty of motivation, losing to Hartland in last year’s district finals.
“I think looking back on that day, we had plenty of motivation for this season, no doubt,” noted Greathouse. “With all of the seniors we have on this team, they talked about coming back this season and contending for a state championship. They stepped up this season and accomplished that goal.
“But it just didn’t happen overnight. I have only been here for two years. I like to think that I have helped. But Sam Amine was here for 10 seasons before and he really laid the foundation for all of this, getting Brighton to become such a strong program. We have only added to it. The kids on this team put in all of the hard work to make this possible.”
Brighton opened the season with a convincing victory over three-time defending state champion Detroit Catholic Central.
On the other side, Hartland, one of the state’s most successful programs over the past quarter century, fell short of its ultimate goal once again, claiming its fifth state runner-up trophy.
This marked Hartland’s 11th semifinal appearance since 2004, and it’s still without a state title.
“It does hurt now,” Hartland coach Todd Cheney said. “I know we have a lot coming back next season with only two senior starters. But we came close again. We lost a couple of matches that we could have won and won a couple of other swing matches. But you have to win more matches at the state finals and Brighton won eight of them.”
Brighton led 12-0 after three matches, only to see Hartland go on a 22-0 run for a 22-12 advantage through eight weight classes.
A technical fall win from Beau Mourer (171) and a void victory from Nick Brish (189) put Brighton back up 23-22 with four matches to go — and the Bulldogs never relinquished the lead.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Highlights from Brighton’s D-1 state championship can be seen on The State Champs! HS Sports Show, Sunday at 9 am on Fox Sports Detroit.