Lowell is known for its victorious wrestling program. Lowell wrestling has numerous Conference Championship titles, and they also boast of thirteen State Championships. Streaks worth mentioning are: State Championships 10 straight, 15 Academic All-State Teams, 16 straight years with an individual state champion. Statistics show that three Lowell wrestlers have won more than 200 matches. These are Brandon Kinney with 217 wins, Joe Mendez with 211 wins, and Bill Stouffer with 207 wins.
Wrestling became a high school sport during the 1958-1959 winter season. The first match was played on January 7, 1959. The number of young men increased during the season from nine at the start of the season, to twenty-six by the end.
The program prides itself on the 4 core values listed below and has a mission statement to create an environment that cultivates opportunities for young student-athletes to learn how to be well-adjusted adults through the trials of hard work, competition, volunteering and service, and being a good teammate.
It only took four years for the young Lowell team to take home the conference title followed by the Conference Championship in the 1961-62 season. Lowell wrestled in the newly formed Tri-River League. The 1962-63 season brought the conference title again, and Lowell won the regional tournament. In the 1963-64 season, the Lowell wrestlers took the conference title again.
The museum’s artifact collection includes the varsity sweater that once belonged to John Dawson who was the captain of the wrestling team from 1965-1967. The ‘L’ on the front of the sweater reads “Champs” The 1965-1966 season was the fourth time Lowell won the Conference Championship. The team proudly proclaimed, “We can take on ANYBODY using only four fingers!!”
These early championships led to the first state championship in 2002. The wrestlers repeated the win in 2004, 2009, 2014, and every year since, including the present, 2023!
Coaching always defines a team, and the Lowell wrestling program has only had five coaches since 1958. Don Kelly (1958-1960), Gary Rivers (1960-1998), Dave Strejc (1998 – 2007), Dave Dean (2007-2014), RJ Boudro (2014-Present).
Lowell has a wrestling tradition, a culture of family. It is one big family. This was developed by Lowell’s “Hall of Fame” wrestling Coach Gary Rivers. Rivers coached three generations. He preached “rewards come from working hard and never giving up.” Scott Vashaw said he was “big on hard work, having a big heart, never backing down and never giving up. He genuinely cared about the kids.” He was a five-time regional coach of the year, three-time State of Michigan Coach of the Year, inducted into the Michigan Wrestling Hall of Fame, Michigan High School Coaches Hall of Fame, and in 2007 was added to Lowell’s Athletic Honor Wall.
Today the Lowell Wrestling Program is alive and well. Over the past decade, it has maintained a youth program that averages 200+ wrestlers each year, and a varsity program that averages 50+ wrestlers each year. This has been possible from the foundation laid by Coach Gary Rivers and the descendants of his program. One of Coach Rivers' assistant coaches, Dave Strejc, carried on his legacy and won two state championships, and then handed the program over to Dave Dean who himself won two state championships. This strong foundation set up the program for 10 state championships in a row 2014 to present under Coach R.J. Budro.
A yearbook photo showing the first team 1958-1959. They are back row left to right: Mr. Kelly, Bill Smith, Evertt Onan, John Videan, Lewis Marvin, Noel Smith, Jack Houlihan, John Wakefield, and Tom Evans. First row: Ken Spooner, Roger Depew, Jim Green, Roger Kropf, Dean Collins, Charles Kyser, Larry Wingeier, Egbert Boes, Ron Potter, and Gordon Kerr.
The 1965-1966 season was the fourth time Lowell won the Conference Championship. The team proudly proclaimed, “We can take on ANYBODY using only four fingers!!”
John Dawson's Letter Sweater
First State Championship Win 2002
Conference Champions 1966