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MT. PLEASANT — Perhaps every dog will have it day.


The patience of Job.


A moment in the sun.


One could go on and on about the analogies of Hartland’s wrestling program and finally winning a state title.


For a program that’s been amongst the state’s large-school elite for nearly two decades, the Eagles’ coaching staff and those in and around the program have become very patient over the years despite many near-misses of winning a crown.


The Eagles, nevertheless, finally had their day on Feb. 25, taking down fellow state powerhouses Oxford (42-19) and Davison (36-23) at Central Michigan University’s McGuirk Arena — Oxford in the semifinals and Davison in the title bout.


It ended the frustrations of a highly-successful program that has been a mainstay in the team state tournament for 15 straight years with multiple Final Four appearances and state runner-up finishes, including a finals loss to Brighton in 2015 and four straight state finals defeats from 2004-07 (three to Davison and one to Rockford).


“I could just sense it, part of the way through it (the match with Davison) that this could be different,” smiled Hartland coach Jeff Cheney, who held back tears while talking to legions of reporters from around the state. “We only beat them by a point earlier in the year.


“The community has stood beside us for a long, long time, never giving up,” he continued. “We just kept working hard year after year with the hopes that this would finally happen…It’s an incredible feeling.”


Hartland, which spent two-thirds of the season ranked No. 1 in Division 1, fell from the top spot in late January, then earned the No. 1 seed for the MHSAA team tournament’s Elite Eight at CMU — a new venue for the team tournament after 27 years of being contested at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena.


A new arena — a new result.


“This is an amazing moment for the kids, families, parents — everyone who has been a part of this program, really, over the years,” offered Cheney of Hartland’s long-overdue crowning moment. “Just standing here, soaking it all in, looking at the all the expressions of everyone’s faces — it’s incredible.”


Hartland again wrestled a brutally-tough league and non-league schedule this season, including top-level teams from Ohio and Indiana as well as Michigan’s cream of the crop. The Eagles’ only loss came against Novi Detroit Catholic Central in late January, a team that also reached the Final Four this season but had won 11 state championships dating back to the late 1960s.


Hartland had not enjoyed such glory, until Feb. 25 — a day that will live on in infamy in the community of Hartland.


Behind the mantra of “nothing given, everything earned,” Hartland certainly earned its day in the sun.


The Eagles trailed only once in the match, 3-0 when Davison’s Brian Case posted a 3-0 decision at 135, the opening weight class. Wins from Reece Hughes (140), Sage Castillo (145), Logan Vish (152) and Lucas LaForge (160) put Hartland in control five matches in at 21-3.


Kyle Kantola recorded a pin at 112 that put Hartland in a comfortable  33-12 driver’s seat, and despite Davison winning three of the final four matches, aided the Eagles’ victory dance.


Senior Sage Castillo, one of Hartland’s top wrestlers the past three years, said those around the program had suffered two much heartbreak over the years.


“I know how it felt last year when we lost to Brighton,” noted Castillo. “We had heard the stories of the losses (in the team tournament) by coaches, former wrestlers, and we were sick by it. We wanted this more than anything.”




This is a shining state championship trophy that will forever be placed in a trophy case in Livingston County just a short jaunt off the M-59 cooridor, surrounded by legions of other trophies for league, district, regional wins and even five runner-up trophies.


It took the enduring patience, something Biblical straight out of the Book of Job, but a dog named Hartland finally had its day — a moment in the sun well-earned and very much long overdue.