Gaylord Looks to Continue BNC Dominance
GAYLORD – Fresh off its first 40-win campaign in more than a decade and second under veteran coach Jerry LaJoie, the Gaylord wrestling program is going back to work this season with a few fresh faces.
Gaylord has advanced to the Division 2 state semifinals in each of the past two years, and with a strong contingency at the lower weight classes this winter, the Blue Devils are eyeing their first state title.
"This year it’s more fun for me coaching, where they’re, you know, let’s go in and wrestle and have a good time, and their smiling, and they’re working hard, but they’re physical when they go,” Jerry LaJoie said.
Already off to a 7-0 start, the Blue Devils have posted impressive wins over Division 3 No. 2 Lake Fenton and Division 3 No. 9 Corunna. In addition, Gaylord recently captured the Marquette Challenge.
"We finally won our second Marquette Challenge this year,” Jerry LaJoie said. “We had four guys in the finals, and three of them were champs, and we have a number of guys that are starting to break into the rankings, and our untested freshmen are getting battle-tested, and winning.”
Currently ranked seventh in Division 2, the Blue Devils have been the class of the Big North Conference, winning nine consecutive league titles.
Headlined by senior and Cornell University commit Dominic LaJoie, Gaylord has four athletes ranked in the top 10 of their respective weight classes. After finishing runner-up at 119 pounds a year ago, Dominic LaJoie is currently that top-ranked wrestler at 125 pounds, while younger brother and freshman Chayse LaJoie is fifth at 112 pounds. Freshman Jacob McKnight is fourth at 140 pounds, while former individual state qualifier Derek Giallombardo ranks sixths at 119 pounds.
"We’re small in number this year,” Jerry LaJoie said. “Usually we have 40 guys, but we don’t have 40 this year. But, the guys that we do have, they’re hammers. So, if you’re going to get ahold of a Gaylord wrestler, you’re going to know that you wrestled Gaylord by the time you’re done."
The Blue Devils are set to take part in a three-team Division 2 district on Thursday, Feb. 9 at Petoskey, featuring Ludington and Petoskey.
"It’s going to be tough, getting to the state tournament, but I think that we’ve got the team to do it,” Dominic LaJoie said. “I mean, same as the last two years, I think we’re tough again, and a lot of people aren’t going to see us coming with all of our tough freshmen."
"We’re going to have a lot of kids on the podium, we’re going to have some state champs this year, we’re going to have some state medalists, and we’re going to have a lot of team success,” added Jerry LaJoie.
Gaylord returns to competition at a Goodrich tournament on Friday, Dec. 30.