Henry Ford College Becoming Hotbed for Wrestling Talent
Jacob Campbell (FR) Hawks’ wrestler stands tall at Adrian Invitational after winning his match. Photo courtesy of Coach Grant Mackenzie.
Four All-Americans, 34 National Qualifiers and 22 Scholar All-Americans in five years. What started as a club team in 2013 at Henry Ford College has become a hotbed for local wrestling talent.
Bringing in its largest recruiting class in program history, the Hawks this season face a welcome problem.
“We have kids competing for spots,” Hawks Wrestling Coach Grant Mackenzie said. “In previous years, I would be the one reaching out to everybody, and I still do that. Now it seems I have more coaches reaching out to me saying, ‘Hey, I got a guy for you.’”
But maintaining a team throughout a season is a wrestling match in and of itself.
“Last year I had a massive recruiting class and kids flaked out because of eligibility reasons,” Mackenzie said.
Collaboration between the Athletic Department and coaching staff trends in the right direction, as eligibility notoriously causes problems. “Fifty percent of our recruits don’t make it; a big part is the grades,” Mackenzie said. “Rochelle Taylor and whoever helped her develop this new system knocked it out of the park with progress reports.”
Student athlete eligibility updates take place the third week of December.
After last year’s shutout loss against Rochester University, HFC sought redemption. “They killed us; it was 84 to 0. I am so excited for this dual meet,” Coach Mackenzie said. “We’re not going to be blanked this year, I’ll tell you that.”
The Hawks fought but lost 42-9. In the 197-pound division, Jake Navarro defeated a nationally-ranked opponent.
On Oct. 29, at the Fall Brawl at Mott Community College, Jake Campbell, Christian Byrne and Jake Navarro all placed first.
On Nov. 4, at the Adrian Invitational, 125-pounder, Jake Campbell, walked away as a champion with an overtime victory, while Jake Navarro and Kyle Wilson finished in second place in their weight class. Miles Eichelberger finished in third place. The Hawks team finished in 7th place out of 12 teams.
Brothers Xavier Byrne, a sophomore, and Christian Byrne, a freshman, wrestle for the Hawks and find their relationship a means to better competition.
“We just kind of go at it,” Xavier said. “When it comes to who can push me the most, I’d say I give that trophy to him.” Christian agreed and said, “We can really expand our toolboxes and explore new ideas when it comes to wrestling.”
Coach Mackenzie said, “Every coach loves when brothers are on the same team. They love each other; they’re unbreakable and the physicality of practice ramps up.”
Christian highlighted the critical differences between high school and college wrestling. “In high school, you get a lot of scrubs who are either forced to play a sport or just need something to occupy their time. In college, everybody is serious about competing, and you’re not going to get anyone who doesn’t have the drive to win.”
Both wrestlers complimented Coach Mackenzie for his coaching philosophy.
“Wrestling for Coach Mackenzie, I hit my peak right when I want to, about the time that conference tournament rolls around,” Xavier said. “I like how Coach Mackenzie structures his practices at the beginning of the year. We’re still conditioning, but we’re pacing ourselves. When it comes down to it, and it’s time for the postseason, that’s when we come alive.”
Christian added, “He always makes sure that he asks wrestlers what he can do for them, and he really lays out a plan for the whole year where he doesn’t want us to burn out.”
In his 11th year, Coach Mackenzie laid out his goals for this season. He wants Henry Ford to be the perennial conference champion and have multiple All-Americans. “I want to be the number one program in the Michigan Community College Athletic Association,” Mackenzie said.
The Hawk’s will be hosting the Hawks Invitational on Dec. 2 at 10:00 a.m. in the Athletic Memorial gymnasium in building H on Henry Ford College’s main campus in Dearborn, MI.