Originally from Burden, McMichael wrestled against Marion in high school, even wrestling in a regional tournament at Marion his sophomore year.
McMichael graduated from Midland University last May, where he was a four-year member of the wrestling program.
He teaches fifth grade at Marion Elementary and has taken over a Warrior wrestling program that has qualified at least seven athletes for the state tournament each of the past three years.
Last season, seven Warriors qualified for the state tournament. Six of those qualifiers return this year.
That list begins with senior Bryce Shults, a three-year state qualifier who is expected to wrestle in either the 138- or 145-pound weight class this season. Last season, Shults went 4-2 at 138 pounds to claim fourth place at state. He finished the season with a 38-8 record.
“(Bryce) had a good state tournament,” McMichael said. “I expect big things from him this year, definitely since it’s his senior year.”
Shults went 1-2 at 120 pounds his freshman year and 1-2 at 132 to conclude his sophomore campaign.
Junior Tyler Palic (195/220) placed sixth at state as a sophomore a year ago. He went 2-3 at 195 pounds, posting a season record of 37-12.
“(Tyler) had a pretty good tournament as well,” McMichael said. “We really expect him to come out of his shell this year. He kind of stayed apprehensive a little bit last year, but I (also) expect big things from him.”
Senior Ezra Darnall (126/132) was one match away from placing at state a year ago with a 2-2 record at 132 pounds. He went 34-11 for the season. Darnall also qualified as a freshman, where he went 1-2 at 126 pounds.
“We definitely want to get him up on the podium at state,” McMichael said. “That’s one big goal we’ve got. He’s putting in hard work, and with him being a senior as well, I think that goal’s easily achievable.”
Senior Jarrett Johnson (132/138) is another three-year state qualifier. He went 0-2 at 106 his freshman year, 2-2 at 113 as a sophomore and 0-2 at 126 as a junior after falling ill and needing to withdraw from competition.
He concluded last season with a record of 30-10.
“(Jarrett) has been working extremely hard these first couple of days,” McMichael said. “You don’t want to get sick right before state. That puts a big damper on it, but we’re looking to come back strong this year (and) work to get on the podium as well.”
Senior Noah Albin (145/152) will seek his first state win this season. He qualified at 113 pounds as a freshman, and went 0-2 at 145 a year ago. He finished the season with a 26-17 record.
“(Noah) qualified pretty well last year,” McMichael said. “The main goal there is to get a win at state and also score or get on that podium, since he is a senior as well.”
Sophomore Charlie Nordquist (182/195) is Marion’s final returning state-qualifier. Nordquist went 0-2 at 182 pounds as a freshman, finishing the season at 28-18.
“(Charlie) had a great regional tournament last year, made it to state (and) did awesome,” McMichael said. “We just want to keep building on that, whether it’s getting on the podium or making it further in the tournament.”
Marion’s seventh state-qualifier, Remington Putter, has graduated.
Four additional Warriors return with experience, including juniors Brock Mitchell (145/152), Kolton Brewer (152/160) and Jarrett McLinden (285), and sophomore Ethan Darnall (120/126).
One newcomer McMichael may look to is freshman Calib Mallory (132/138).
McMichael praised his team for the work ethic it has displayed early.
“We’ve been trying to work them really hard these first few days, and they’ve been sticking with it going strong,” he said. “They’ve been really putting in the effort to get better.”
He said the Warriors will have a couple openings in the lower weight classes this season.
In taking over a team with plenty of returning talent, McMichael is hopeful good things are in store.
“I would like to place pretty high in state and get as many of these guys on the podium as possible,” he said. “Some of them were just short last year. We want to break through that barrier and get to the podium so we can have as many on it as we can.”
Marion will open the season Friday at the Burlington Dual.