Going into districts the Howell wrestlers had only one thing on their mind: win a district trophy. It was an emotional night for the Highlanders since they haven’t won districts since 2009, and this year districts were held on their home mats.
“It feels great to see the guys work so hard throughout the season and accomplish this goal. I hope it is a sign of bigger things to come,” says proud coach, Joe Adams.
Howell dominated the night winning 51 to 21 against East Lansing and then beating Okemos 69 to 6 in the championship match. Howell won three of the four weight classes.
“It felt good. We haven’t won in a while as a team since 2009 and we finally won,” says senior Hayden Hughes.
Sawyer Hughes (103), Nick Trackwell (112), Mike Strayer (119), Cole Gilmer (140), Dean Honkala (160/152) and Dalton Smallwood (215) all went 2-0 in their matches.
“It feels pretty good winning districts after a rough year and having a young team. We are really tightening down and focusing during practice. We will continue to come together as a team in order to keep the season going,” says junior Cole Gilmer (140).
Junior Ben Calandrino made an appearance on the mat to boost the teams confidence against East Lansing. Calandrino recently injured his knee in an earlier match. After his win Howell took a 35-15 lead over the Trojans.
Howell has won the last seven dual matches. The Highlanders with a 19-14 record had plenty of up and downs.
“Starting the season we had very high goals. As the season progressed we were hit with a lot of adversity. Injuries, illness, and participation started to take its toll. However, the guys continued to work hard and are forming a championship mentality that hopefully will grow for next year,” says coach Adams.
Next week the team will take on Portage Central in a regional semifinal at Lansing Everett.
“We prepare just like any other week of competition. The big difference is we stress a win or go home mentality. If you win and advance your season is extended, you lose and it’s better luck next year,” says Adams.
Watching your brother wrestle his way to a state championship is quite a memorable moment. For Howell High School junior, Ben Calandrino, nothing would mean more than following the same road to his own state championship.
Calandrino, who grew up in Howell, has been wrestling since six-years-old. Wrestling runs in the Calandrino blood as Ben grew up in the footsteps of his older brother Alex. Alex is currently wrestling for Eastern Michigan University.
“My brother has definitely inspired me throughout my wrestling career. He taught me a lot and helped me improve as an athlete,” Calandrino says.
Calandrino wrestles at 130 and last year went 38-5 during the high school season. He is known in the wresting world, having placed in many national tournaments.
“I was always taught to win everything and anything, no matter what,” he says.
Calandrino expresses his love for the sport, even though it takes a careful diet and often cutting weight, which he sees as the one downside to the sport.
“Wrestling is something that has always kept me busy, and I love it.”
Wrestling isn’t Calandrino’s whole life though. Outside of wrestling he enjoys hanging out with his friends and making money from his job. In his future Calandrino sees himself as an architect.
As a junior, Calandrino’s time is ticking down. He explains he has been working even harder this off season in hope to achieve his one ambition.
“I want to become a state champion. That’s my goal this year. Seeing my brother win one makes me strive to win one for myself,” says Calandrino.
Howell senior Alex Calandrino took home his first ever state title in his 8-4 victory over Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central’s Mitch Hrnyak at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
“The success was all of the preparation and all of the time and effort it took to get there.”
In his senior year, Calandrino not only cemented himself as one of the top wrestlers in Howell history but one of the top athletes as well.
“I’m extremely happy for him and really proud. He’s a great wrestler and an even better person,” Howell athletic director Dan Hutcheson said.
The reality of winning the state title still hasn’t completely sunk in for Calandrino.
“The feeling of being a state champ is like feeling you’re worth a million dollars, as if nothing is in your way.”
His opponent made a strong surge during the match, but Calandrino was able to suppress the attack after an escape and a takedown to become state champion.
“I was so exhausted, and at the same time it was like finally, I did it,” Calandrino said.
For Calandrino, the state title was four years in the making, after placing second twice and third once at the state meet.
February 18 was a big day for Howell senior wrestler Alex Calandrino. After a 6-3 victory in the 125 pound finals over Mitch Hymak of Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, Calandrino punched his ticket into the Division 1 individual state finals at the Palace of Auburn Hills on March 1-3.
Calandrino excelled at wrestling since his freshman year at Howell, and it’s quite clear that all the preparation and intense workouts he has put in over the years have paid off.
“During the off-season I wrestle in the biggest national tournaments and I practice almost every day. I lift as much as I can and I travel around the state to practice with the best. I try to keep the right mindset and stay focused. There’s no time to slack off knowing someone else is training just as hard as you with their eyes set on the same goal. So I need to take that extra step and train harder and improve every day,” Calandrino says.
In his senior year at HHS, Calandrino (38-1) is the first Highlander to ever reach an astonishing 200 career wins. With clinching another regional title and his sights set on more, Calandrino knows the feeling of pressure. In a familiar place, Calandrino is back to the state competition, but this time it’s different. Being a senior, this is his last run for a Championship.
“This year is my last year to win it,” Calandrino explains. “I’ve came up short taking second twice and third once. It’s heartbreaking being that close, but it makes me push myself that much harder to win it this year. I plan on wrestling how I always do – push the pace and wrestle my match. If I do that, I feel like no one can stop me from achieving my goal.”
Regardless of what happens, the future looks promising and there are two winners when it’s all said and done: Calandrino and Eastern Michigan. Next year Calandrino has decided to take his talents over to Ypsilanti and wrestle for the University of Eastern Michigan where he has hopes of becoming a starter for the Eagles.
“I chose to enroll at Eastern Michigan because their coaches are very focused and they are great on and off the mat. The team there is like a big family, and I have known them for a long time through national teams. They work hard and push you above and beyond. Their team is only getting better and progressing in the country in rankings and getting better recruiting classes each year.”
The road isn’t very long, and after the State meet, Calandrino’s storybook career at Howell will be over. The legacy he leaves behind though will last for years and years to come. Highly considered one of the best, if not the best wrestler of all time to come through Howell, Calandrino reflected upon his long journey.
“Being one of the best wrestlers to come out of Howell so far has made me into a better person. I’m thankful for the chance I’ve had to show the upcoming kids how much work and effort it takes to get to where I am today. I am very competitive and settling for anything less than first is not an option. I’ve had tremendous coaches that have been by my side throughout my entire career and I couldn’t have asked for anyone better to motivate me.”
With lofty goals and high expectations, there is one last shot to seize the opportunity of a lifetime. Calandrino has been in this position before and has an ultimate shot at redemption. A leader on the mat and a warrior at heart, Calandrino is ready for anything.
“I lead by example not by words,” Calandrino says.
The mats at the Palace of Auburn Hills is the perfect place to set an example that could forever stand the test of time.
What do Howell’s wrestling mats and football field have in common? Junior Cameron Englund dominates both. Whether he is throwing head-locks or sacking quarterbacks, Englund is a leader among Howell’s student-athletes.
“I work hard and push myself to be the best,” Englund said confidently. “No one person or thing will get in the way from me reaching my goals.”
Englund grew up in a close-knit family with multiple siblings in which the youngest, Caden, was adopted. Caden plays football and soccer, while Englund’s other brother Kyle strictly plays football. Englund also has two sisters, Danielle, who cheers, and Gabrielle, who plays volleyball. Englund is also extremely close to his mother, Holly, who works at Maximus Gym in Fowlerville, Michigan.
“She has always been there to get me to my practices and attend all of my games to support me,” Englund said. Englund’s mother has installed determination within her son and no doubt will continue to push him to reach his goals. Even though Englund has had a solid first two years for Howell football and wrestling, he set much higher goals for himself and his teams to finish out his high school career.
“This year I’d like to place at states for wrestling and eventually go on to place first at states my senior year. And as far as football goes, my team and I are putting in the time to make sure we make it to the state championship at Ford Field.”
Englund will stop at nothing and sacrifice whatever he must in order to achieve his goals. This past football season put a bitter taste in Englund’s mouth and did nothing but provide additional motivation for him and his team.
“[Our record of] 4-5 is not where we wanted to end up, but it happened nonetheless. So our senior class is working non-stop to make sure that does not happen again,” Englund said.
Howell varsity football coach, Ryan Ash, is noticing the leadership Englund brings to the forefront.
“Going into his third year starting on this team, Englund is leading not just the linemen, but the rest of the players on and off the field,” Ash said.
Not just the coaches are noticing Englund’s performance. Senior and former co-captain Nate Mimnaugh applauds Englund on his integrity and responsibility as a captain.
“It isn’t easy leading a group of men, especially in the game of football, yet Englund makes it easy. With his amazing gifts in the weight room and hard-nosed mentality on the field, Englund knows how to keep the mood light, but still focus on becoming better day in and day out,” Mimnaugh said.
Englund continues to prove that he is a prime candidate to lead his teams and reach his goals. Not just is he working hard during the school year, but Englund continues to train hard and put himself among the best by attending collegiate instructional and showcase camps at institutions such as the University of Michigan.
“I want to play college football. I don’t care where, I just want to play,” Englund said. Between putting in hours in the weight room and attending the camps, Englund is placing himself in the best situation to continue competing in the game of football into college.
With his senior year coming up soon, Englund will hopefully lead his teams farther than any football or wrestling team has ever gone for Howell.
A new season with a lot of promise is beginning for the Howell wrestling team. Coached by Dan Minock, the team is looking to achieve success, even though they are a young team.
“We need to just improve and not worry about any of the scores or anything like that,” senior Alex Calandrino says. “We’re young and we got a lot to work on. We just have to be prepared for every dual meet.”
While Brighton (#4) and Hartland (#5) are both ranked in the top ten for Division 1 wrestling in the state of Michigan, Calandrino is more focused on his team.
“Well, we always have had Hartland as a challenge and Brighton has stepped it up big time [this year],” he says. “This year I feel like is our year to just get things down and improve as a team and see what happens,” he adds.
Athletic director Mr. Dan Hutcheson is also not worried about the rankings of other teams in the division.
“I don’t think it will be any tougher than it has been in the past. I think if you’re a true competitor you want teams to be good around you because that pushes you to train and be your best,” Mr. Hutcheson says. “If you look back at the last eight or nine years, there has been years we were ranked tenth in the state but third in our division of six teams. Wrestling is very tough in this area and I think that is good for us.”
Even though this season will be just as tough as years before, senior wrestler Marcus Wendel has high hopes for the team.
“I want the team to win states this year. That is my goal coming into this season and I’m sticking with it,” he says with a bright smile on his face.
For leaders of the team, Mr. Hutcheson explains why the word leader isn’t as simple as most people think.
“Well, a leader is a tough term. When it comes to being a leader, it’s not necessarily because you’re a senior or the best wrestler,” he says. “It’s supposed to be someone who leads by example and does things right, and I think Alex [Calandrino] fits that description.”
Calandrino, who was the state runner-up at the 125 pound class, the individual goal for this year is as high as it can get.
“My goal for this year is to go undefeated and be state champion,” Calandrino says in a determined voice.
For the team to have a successful season, there are a few things the team has to do according to Mr. Hutcheson.
“Number one, they have to come together as a group. They have to work together as a team. For them to have a successful season, a lot of the young kids need to step up. They need to believe in themselves as well,” Mr. Hutcheson says. “You have to believe in yourself and believe in your team, and good things can happen for you.”
Hours upon hours in the weight room, training harder than most athletes in America, junior Alex Calandrino proves to be one of the top wrestlers in the country. Even though many know him as just a Howell High School wrestler, Calandrino spends the rest of his time with family and friends.
“I am most like my uncle,” Calandrino says with a smile. “He’s crazy . . . and outgoing.”
Even when he is training, his family is still with him. Calandrino’s younger brother, Ben, wrestles at 103 pounds as a freshman. Coming from a wrestling family, outside the mat he is still very focused on his goals. Calendrino carries his work ethic into the classroom, as well as the weight room, or the wrestling room.
Calandrino started his wrestling career twelve years ago, and has loved it ever since. “Wrestling isn’t a sport where you have a coach pushing you as much as other sports. You have to push yourself in order to succeed,” Calandrino says.
Even though Calandrino is self-driven, he has people along the way that has helped him succeed.
“He is hard-nosed,” Mr. Dan Hutchinson, Howell’s athletic director says. “He has a college mentality work ethic already. His sky is the limit.”
The morning before meets and tournaments, he makes sure to stay focused and quiet. Directly before his matches, Calandrino loosens up, listens to a few songs, and goes over in his head what he is going to do.
Ending up third in the state in 2010, Calandrino looks to be the best this season.
When the high school wrestling season ended last year, he spent his time working with national teams, and wrestling in national tournaments to improve his game and push it to the next level. When Calandrino wasn’t wrestling, he was in the weight room getting stronger.
The 2010-2011 season looks to be good for Calandrino and Howell this year. He remains undefeated, and intends to stay that way.
Key players: Kenny Miloser (senior, defense), Dakota Olvin (senior, defense), Jordan Simmonds (senior, forward), Branden Burton (senior, forward), Jake Henrikson (senior, forward), Gabe Daavettila (senior, forward), Andrew Brownlee (junior, goalie)
Season Outlook: Howell Varsity Hockey looks forward to another successful season after reaching the state finals the past two seasons. Team chemistry and leadership will be the key factors that will determine how far they go this season. Howell is very experienced this season with six seniors who will play significant roles on the team. The Highlanders aspire to advance deep in the post season and make it to their third consecutive state championship game.
Coach Comment: “This team has a lot of players that have played in one or both of the State Final games and have experienced the success over the past two seasons. Hopefully these players will be the catalyst to start the fire burning again and spread to the entire team by late February.” – Coach Montrose
Player Comment: “We hope to win states after two years of losing in the finals. We have several returning veterans that should help us reach our goal.” – Jordan Hawkins (Junior)
Rivalry: Brighton, Hartland
Key players: Jordan Phifer (Junior), Amanda Pompilius (Junior), Katelyn Beno (Senior), Courtney Schippers (Senior), Samantha Leventis (Freshman), Emily Laupp (Freshman)
Season Outlook: Howell Varsity Gymnastics plan to be very competitive for this season. Senior leadership will be key for the team’s success. All the girls have and continue working extremely hard to upgrade their routines. The two freshmen are learning fast and should improve quickly throughout the season as they gain experience. The girls are determined to all qualify individually for the State Finals.
Coach Comment: “The team should easily qualify for Regionals and could potentially be very competitive for a spot at the Team Finals. The team goal is to have all team members qualify for Regionals to give them a chance to qualify for State Individual Finals.” – Coach Gregory
Player Comment: “This year I feel that our main goal is to do the best that we can and have fun.” – Jordan Phifer (Junior)
Rivalry: Brighton, Walled Lake, Plymouth
Key players: Alex Calandrino (Junior), Troy Root (Senior), Taylor Moore (Senior), Mitch Faulkner (Senior), Jimmy Dobson (Senior), Kyle Barjon (Senior), Jimmy Walsh (Senior), Trevor Loge (Senior), Joe Brancheau (Junior), Marcus Wendel (Junior), Josh Spisak (Junior), Hayden Hughes (Sophomore), Chad Czerneski (Sophomore), Cam Englund (Sophomore), Ben Calandrino (Freshman)
Season Outlook: Howell Wrestling is ready to start another successful season in the KLAA West division. They have several upperclassmen that should make a very strong impact this season. They return one wrestler who made it to the state wrestling meet. They want to improve upon last season, hoping to earn the league championship and get to states as a team.
Coach Comment: “Our goals are always the same, win the league and go to team states.” – Coach Minock
Player Comment: “We are hoping to improve this season and have more guys make it to states.” – Junior Alex Calandrino
Rivalry: Brighton and Hartland
Key players: Aleksander Antic (Senior), Torey Williams (Senior), Brandon Nazione (Junior), William Ainsworth (Senior),
Season Outlook: Howell Varsity Basketball aspires to do great things this season. After a losing record last year, they strive to improve and surpass expectations. The boys want to make a serious run into playoffs with their main goal of winning a state championship. They have several returning players from last year who they will look to for leadership and experience.
Player Comment: “Our ultimate goal is to win our league, make it far in the playoffs, and win the state championship. The whole team has worked really hard in the offseason and we’ve tremendously improved.” – Aleksander Antic, senior
Rivalry: Brighton, Hartland
Key players: Kaytlin Stroinski (12), Bre’Ana Strong (12), Katie Kubiak (12), Emily Lorkowski (12), Mackenzie Cleary (12), Kathryn Wright (12), Shelby Demeuse (12), and Ashlyn Samples (12)
Season Outlook: The Lady Highlanders are excited to improve upon a very successful season last year. The girls have worked very hard in the off season to prepare themselves. Howell will have great post play this season. The key to their success will be for the guards to step up and make big plays despite their inexperience. Howell wants to repeat as West Division champions and as the KLAA conference champions. They also strive to make a deep run into the state tournament.
Coach Comment: “It should be a great season for this group. I as a coach love coaching them, and they always are willing to go the extra effort for the team which says a lot about these young ladies.” – Coach Clark
Player Comment: “I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do as a team. All the girls on the team are unselfish and will do whatever it takes to win.”- Bre’Ana Strong (Senior)
Key players: Joe Brosnan (Senior), Zac Cain (Junior), Christoph Hohenfeld (Senior), Garrett Murphy (Freshman), Bryan Stroinski (Sophomore)
Season Outlook: Howell Swimming has high expectations coming into the winter sports season. They have a mix of great talent and potential from the upperclassmen as well from the underclassmen. The team has a great turnout this season with over 35 swimmers. Howell lost seven seniors of their top ten swimmers from last year’s team that went to states. However, many people on the team have stepped up, and two foreign exchange students are expected to make a great impact this season.
Coach Comment: “We want to win the KLAA west division, win the KLAA Lakes conference, and place top 10 at the state championship meet.” – Coach Kasprzak
Player Comment: “Our goals are simple. We want to score top ten in the state meet, and we want to defend our title as returning champs. Initially, I didn’t think it was possible but now, looking at these brave boys who walked on deck the first day, well, maybe we might just be able to do that.” – Joe Brosnan (Senior)
Key players: Kelly Frazier (Senior), Megan Salas (Senior), Melanie Eastman (Senior), Michelle Michailuk (Senior)
Season Outlook: Howell Competitive Cheer is excited to show that they can compete among the best in the conference as well in the state this season. However, every meet will be battle in the tough KLAA West division for the girls. The team’s goals are to advance as far as possible in states, win the KLAA, and come closer in the standings to Brighton and Hartland. They have made great improvement since last season and have several seniors that will provide leadership.
Coach Comment: “The team has worked very hard and has improved incredibly. We are trying to prove that Howell is a solid program and a force to reckon with.” – Coach Rossman
Rivalry: Hartland and Brighton
Key players: Boys – Austin LaCarter (Senior), Justin Halstead (Junior); Girls- Danielle Robson (Junior), Heidi Maxwell (Senior)
Season Outlook: Boys – Boys Varsity Bowling will be dealing with a great amount of inexperience this season. Austin LaCarter is the only returning member from last year’s team. However, the team has great talent since the junior varsity took first in the JV State Championship tournament last year. The boys expect to compete in the middle of the pack or better in the KLAA West Division.
Girls – Girls Varsity Bowling expects to have an outstanding season. They are returning all five starters from last year’s team which won the first KLAA Division bowling title in school history. The girls have good experience and they will strive to win the KLAA West division for the second consecutive season.
Coach Comment: Boys: “Even with the boys being young they have a lot of potential after finishing 1st in the JV State Championship tournament last season.” – Coach Collopy
Girls: “With another year’s experience under their belts the girls team this year will look to win the KLAA West once again. Not only does this team have the potential to win the division they have the potential to compete for a Regional and State title.” – Coach Collopy
Player Comment: “Going from winning the JV state championship to varsity was a big step up and I’m expecting our team this year to have huge accomplishments.” – Justin Halstead (Junior)
Rivalry: 1-18-2011 vs. Brighton @ Pinz Bowling Center; 2-12-2011 vs. Brighton @ Whitmore Lanes
Key players: Girls – Erika Vichcales (Junior), Amanda Depuydt (Senior); Boys – Nick Borchardt (Sophomore), Lames Maize (Sophomore), Lee Mersch (Sophomore), Keegan Zemper (Sophomore)
Season Outlook: Howell Skiing is determined to have a strong season this winter. They will again compete in the Mt. Brighton Ski league. This league consists of 11 teams from Ann Arbor to Okemos. Howell Varsity Ski Team will again compete in the Mt. Brighton Ski league. The girls’ team is led by two upperclassmen that have a large amount of experience and who are capable of winning any race. All the girls will be pushing each other to get better. The boys’ team is dealing with a lot of inexperience with no upperclassmen on the team. However, they all have great talent and will be working hard to improve every day.
Coach Comment: Girls – “Our girls’ team is strong this year with eight members. Six girls returned from last year lead by Amanda Depuydt (Senior) and Erika Vichcales (Junior).” – Coach Gorton
Boys – “The boys’ team is very young this year. We have four sophomores and two freshmen. We look for Nick Borchardt to be the fastest of the boys. Lames Maize, Lee Mersch, and Keegan Zemper will be working hard to catch him.” – Coach Gorton
Player Comment: “We’ve put in a lot of hard work and are hoping to go far as a team this year. We all get along very well and push each other to do better every day.”- Erika Vichcales (Junior)
Rivalry: League races are held at Mt Brighton on Tuesdays and Thursdays in January and February. First race will be January 6th.