Sam Gilles, Rocco Carlson lead Westwood to wrestling regionals after winning individual district championships

Westwood’s Sam Gilles, top, attempts to turn Munising’s Richard Sneller Jr. in the 285-pound match during the MHSAA Division 4 team wrestling district tournament meet held at Munising on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy Sandy Maki)

ISHPEMING — Sam Gilles is having quite a year for the Westwood High School wrestling team.

He dominated with three pins at the MHSAA Division 4 individual district tournament in Munising on Saturday, three days after blowing past a Mustangs’ opponent to help his Patriots advance in the team districts.

Gilles, with a 40-1 record, won his individual district at 215 pounds by pinning Jordan Tramontine of Iron Mountain in 1 minute, 36 seconds, pinning Ryan Henry of Charlevoix in 23 seconds and also pinning Lance Bowler of Newberry in 1:48 of the championship match.

On Wednesday, he had moved up to the 285-pound division and took out Munising’s Richard Sneller Jr. 22-6 on a technical fall.

The Patriots scored a 47-27 victory over the host Mustangs in the team district to advance to Wednesday’s team regional at St. Ignace. There, Westwood faces the host Saints while Iron Mountain takes on Onaway in the semifinals.

Immediately after those matches, the winners square off for the regional championship and a berth at the eight-team state finals to be held at the Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo on Feb. 22-23.

In individual districts, Gilles is one of five Westwood wrestlers to advance to the D-4 regional tourney this Saturday in Charlevoix. The top four wrestlers in each weight class from the Munising district square off against their counterparts from the Oscoda district.

“On Saturday, we wrestled quite well, even though we didn’t have as many get through (to regionals) as we have the last couple of years,” Westwood head coach Dan Carlson said. “But we have some good possibilities, like Sam, in the regionals.”

As a district winner in his weight class, Gilles has the advantage of taking on the fourth-place finisher from Oscoda to open his regional tourney. Similarly, every Oscoda winner gets a fourth-place finisher from the Munising district in their first matches.

Likewise, No. 2s from one district are pitted against No. 3s from the other in openers.

That gives the same advantage to Gilles’ teammate, 160-pounder Rocco Carlson, who has a 31-10 record after also winning his individual district.

He pinned Tyler MacMillan of Gwinn in 1:18, then scored a major decision over Trevor Johnson of Munising 12-3 before scoring a technical fall with a 20-5 score over Isaiah Crawford of Pellston in his finale.

Other individual regional qualifiers from Westwood are Joe Derocha, who was runner-up at 112; Jackson Vidlund, who was third at 215; and Connor Traver, fourth at 135.

Derocha, who was injured in his final match but hopes to be back in action on Wednesday or Saturday, won twice in the individual district. He pinned Jordan Cebulski of Charlevoix in 3:23 and decisioned Aidan Fry of Onaway 7-1 before being pinned by Parker Stroud of IM in 2:32.

Vidlund, a second individual qualifier at 215 for the Patriots, lost his opener 7-3 to Devin Racicot of Bark River-Harris.

Then in the consolation bracket, he pinned Marion Staten of Rudyard in 4:00, beat Ryan Henry of Charlevoix 10-2, and in the third-place match, shut out Racicot 6-0.

Traver went 2-2 in four matches on Saturday. He opened with a pin of Tylor Greene of Manistique in 4:49, then was pinned by Matthew Grant of Onaway in 2:28. He came back for an 18-1 technical fall over Zander Overholt of Pellston before being pinned at 2:17 in his third-place match against Isaac Hein of Rogers City.

Unlike Gilles, the other individual Westwood qualifiers didn’t wrestle in the team district match against Munising, since the Mustangs were only able to field six wrestlers. With the numbers Westwood had, they won enough forfeits to guarantee a victory before their meet started.

So Coach Carlson employed a number of younger and more inexperienced wrestlers who haven’t seen a lot of mat time during the season.

Munising’s winners included Cole Whitehead over the Pats’ Christian Ryan at 103, Billy Crisp over Lenny Pizziola at 119, Devin Moore over Elliott Lemire at 152, Trevor Johnson over John Bleau at 160 and Gabe Cole over Carter Guidebeck at 171.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is