Southfield is ready to hit the mats for the 55th annual Oakland County wrestling tournament, set for next weekend.
The two-day, 39-team tournament concludes with the championship rounds Saturday, Dec. 20, at Lake Orion High School. Qualifying rounds take place Dec. 19 at two locations – Southfield and Lake Orion.
The top eight wrestlers from each of the 14 weight divisions at both sites advance to Saturday’s championship round. Admission is $5 both days.
State power Novi Catholic Central is the five-team defending champion.
Southfield paced all Eccentric-area teams last year with a 15th-place finish and three individual placers. Bluejays head coach Tim Conley hopes to be just as productive at this year’s meet.
“We have quite a few kids back – I think we have eight – from last year’s team who scored points at the county meet, so hopefully we can improve on that,” said Conley, also the school’s head football coach who is fresh off another strong season which included a trip to the Division 2 state semifinals.
“We were in the middle of the pack last year, but this is a bigger meet,” he added. “We’ll see how some of these individual kids can do. We have a pretty athletic team from top to bottom.”
Southfield figures to be led by seniors Makene Culpepper (heavyweight) and Alias Broadnax (119-125 pounds) and junior Jake Brock (145-152 pounds).
Culpepper, a lineman on Southfield’s OAA White Division tri-champion football team, was a state regional qualifier as a sophomore. Brock, who transferred from Groves as a freshman, is in his second varsity season.
“We are really looking forward to a strong season from Jake Brock because of the amount of time he put in during the off-season,” Conley said. “He’s one of those kids who just doesn’t stop wrestling. He’s aggressive, fun to watch and is providing a lot of leadership in the practice room with his attitude and how hard he works.
“We think Makene is one of the better wrestlers around and he should have a real good season for us,” he added. “He just had a real good football season and is weighing a few football offers right now. He should do well on the mats this year.”
Broadnax, a tower of strength for his size, is one of the team’s most improved wrestlers.
Seniors Christian Daniels (160 pounds), Anthony Springer (189), Kris Mangum (215) and Terrance Works (103) are other top wrestlers. Sophomore Max Doggett (171) is also making headway on the mats.
Southfield will compete this winter in the OAA White Division. Conley believes his team will be a much better dual-meet squad than tournament team because of its overall depth.
“I think we have a strong lineup,” said Conley, who has 65 kids in the program right now. “I think right now our team is built for dual meets because we can fill all the weight classes. But we’ll see how some of these kids can do.”
Trophies will be awarded to the Oakland County team champ and the runner-up. Plaques will be given to individual weight class champs and medals to the next five finishers. Two MVP plaques will be handed out to the most outstanding wrestlers in the lower (103 to 140 pounds) and upper weight (145 to heavyweight) classes.
At last year’s Oakland County meet, Birmingham Seaholm placed 20th, Birmingham Groves was 28th and Ferndale 30th.
The 55th annual Oakland County Wrestling Championships take place next weekend. Following is the pertinent information (Eccentric-area teams in italics):
WHAT: Oakland County Wrestling Championships
QUALIFYING ROUND: Friday, Dec. 19, at Southfield and Lake Orion high schools with 4 p.m. starts. The top eight wrestlers in each weight division at both locations advance to the championship round
CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND: Saturday, Dec. 20, at Lake Orion High School with 9 a.m. start
ADMISSION: $5 per person each day
SCHOOLS AT SOUTHFIELD: Brandon; Lakeland; Catholic Central; Clarkston; West Bloomfield; Hazel Park; Birmingham Seaholm; Orchard Lake St. Mary’s; Southfield; Ferndale; Novi; Farmington Harrison; Birmingham Groves; Royal Oak; Berkley; Farmington; North Farmington; South Lyon East; Pontiac
PSCHOOLS AT LAKE ORION:Bloomfield Hills; Walled Lake Central; Oxford; South Lyon; Troy; Holly; Rochester Hills Stoney Creek; Waterford Mott; Rochester Adams; Rochester; Walled Lake Northern; Auburn Hills Avondale; Walled Lake Western; Lake Orion; Milford; Waterford Kettering; Pontiac Notre Dame Prep; Rochester Hills Lutheran Northwest; Madison; Troy Athens