In less than 3 minutes of mat time, Oxford jumped out to an 18-0 lead over Clarkston before sailing on to a 45-16 Division 1 regional title win Wednesday at Rochester High and an eighth trip to the state tournament since 1999.
Oxford advances to the quarterfinals, contested a week from Friday at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena. It’s not uncommon territory for the Wildcats as they went one better to reach the final four three straight years from 2010-12, earning the state title in 2011 and a runner up in 2012.
“Getting to states so many times has set kids up to be motivated to wrestle at this level of competition,” said Oxford heavyweight Zach Wood. “It really brings the team together.”
Wood led things off for the Wildcats with a pin in 40 seconds. A void at 103 and another Oxford pin by Alex Hrisopoulos in 1:50 gave the Wildcats the 18 point edge it never relinquished.
“I think that’s the first time I have ever led off, and I liked setting the tempo for my team,” Wood said.
The next eight weight classes, from 119 to 160, were split at four wins each for Oxford and Clarkston, making the score 30-16. Oxford then rattled off three wins to close it out: a pin for Wesley Maskill at 171 in 4:20, a pin for Grant Krause at 189 in 1:17 and a 3-1 win for Ben Line at 215 pounds.
Those wins and losses is almost how Oxford coach Paul McDevitt mapped out the match beforehand, but his scenario ended in a tie.
“We always mentally prepare for opponents by bringing the whole team together, putting the matches up on a white board and going through the match and what the probable turnout could be, and we had Clarkston tied with us, 33-33, at the end,” McDevitt said. “So we asked the boys, ‘what can we do differently?’ and we talked about not getting pinned at some places and picking up some bonus points at other places. And not only did we do those things but we exceeded them, and I think it really helped the kids to know what their job is going into a dual meet, instead of just wrestling.
“We knew Clarkston had a very good team and we knew their strengths were through the middle and lower weights,” McDevitt continued. “We talked a lot in practice about weathering their storm, limiting their points, and letting our big guns up top score us the bonus. We not only did a good job of weathering their storm but we actually snuck out with a few wins in there too, that we hadn’t got (against Clarkston) before.”
Two such matches according to McDevitt were at 125 and 145. Collin Campbell had lost to Clarkston’s Connor Ryan the last time out, but grabbed a 6-5 win this time at 125. Peter Economou didn’t get out of districts at 145, “so his win was a big help,” McDevitt said about the back and forth 12-10 win over Tyler Slating.
“I got taken down right away but I was able to push through it,” Campbell said. “In the third period I was still down 3-0, I think, but I feel I stayed mentally tough, came through with a takedown, had to cut him to get another take down and rode it out for the win. I was pretty comfortable by then our team would get the win.”