Dynasty began early

MARQUETTE – A dynasty began with a little boy in first grade coming home to his parents one day.

“I brought home a piece of paper, and it said you could wrestle and it was $5,” said Mathew Gonzalez of Manistique, now a senior with the Emeralds wrestling team.

Neither of his parents, Larry or Bonnie Gonzalez, had been involved with wrestling themselves, but thought youth wrestling would be a good activity for their oldest son in the small town in Schoolcraft County.

Mat joined the program under now former MHS high school coach Everett Wood, and the rest has become history.

At 145 pounds, Mat has been joined by junior Zavier at 160, sophomore Cole at 135 and eighth-grader Tanner, who at 145 has the potential to be the best Gonzalez of all.

That’s saying something considering what his brothers have done in Manistique. For instance, Mat has traveled to the state finals at The Palace of Auburn Hills twice already. And the older brothers are top-notch football players, too.

Mat, Cole and Zavier wrestled at the Upper Peninsula Championships at Marquette Senior High School on Saturday. Each of the 19 schools in the U.P. was invited to participate.

Mat and Cole made their respective championship matches. Results from most of the matches weren’t available by Journal press time Saturday night.

But Mat is a two-time runner-up and has a 24-1 record this season, while Cole is 27-0 this year. Zavier did win several matches in the consolation bracket Saturday.

“I’m so proud of these kids,” Larry Gonzalez said while waiting for the finals to begin. “Athletics they take so seriously and their school work they take so seriously.”

He’s made one concession to having four sons near in age who like to wrestle.

“We finally just decided to have all second-hand furniture in the house,” Larry Gonzalez said, adding he does have mats and a boxing ring set up in his garage.

Mat Gonzalez said he’s been shown interest by three Division III-sized colleges for wrestling, but hasn’t made up his mind about them yet.

The two finalist brothers sat side by side before the championship round began, with Mat definitely the more talkative of the two.

“I think I do my best when I’m on top, controlling the guy and keeping him down on the mat,” Mat said, adding, “I feel like I’ll be more prepared if I get to the state tournament this year.”

Two seniors at Marquette Senior High School who also made Saturday’s title matches are also like brothers – Curt Calovecchi at 171 pounds and Joe Iwanicki at 215.

“All of our losses have been at the same tournaments this year,” Iwanicki said about his 28-3 record and Calovecchi’s 27-3 mark. “And in practice we play off each other. We’re always looking to see who has more takedowns.

“But Curt is by far the best wrestler in the U.P., pound for pound. He’s better than Galloway,” a reference to St. Ignace senior Galloway Thurston, who Calovecchi was scheduled to meet for Saturday’s championship.

“Aw, Joe, he’s a beast,” Calovecchi said in return.

Calovecchi also said he’s had some interest from colleges of various sizes both inside and outside of Michigan.

Both have starred on Marquette’s football team in the past, though Calovecchi took last season off to fully heal a shoulder injury he suffered last wrestling season, while Iwanicki earned All-U.P. Dream Team honors as an offensive guard in November.

While Calovecchi said his primary sport is wrestling, Iwanicki had to admit he’s more of “a football player who wrestles.”

He also feels most comfortable with the team aspect of football vs. the individual aspect of wrestling.

“Offensively, I have faster feet in football because of wrestling, and the handfighting helps with that part of it on the field,” he said.

The fifth area wrestler who made the championship round Saturday was junior Tyler LaJoie of Negaunee. He was pinned at 2:56 by Travis Heller of Escanaba in one of the early finals.

“He got my leg pretty good,” said LaJoie, who won his first tourney title last week at the Ray Mariucci Invitational in Kingsford.

Coach Brad Saatio has enjoyed watching LaJoie improve this year.

“He’s really come into his own,” the coach said. “He was third at the Elks (tourney) a couple weeks ago. He lost to Heller, who’s a beast, then dominated everybody else.

“Tyler is one of the most talented athletes at Negaunee, but he’s also the hardest worker on this team.”

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net