January 11, 2012 - It was a match-up of two of the top three Division I wrestling teams in the state when Oxford and Novi Detroit Catholic Central collided at Oxford High School Wednesday evening.
When the final buzzer sounded, Novi DCC cruised to a 49-13 victory over the Wildcats.
"There is a reason why they are the number one team in the state, (and) we found that out last night," varsity head coach Brandon Rank said in an interview on January 5.
Oxford fell behind 9-0 early would only get as close as 9-6 before DCC began rolling, building up a 27-9 lead after the 152 pound weight class.
The lead would stretch out to 43-9 before senior Prescott Line cut it to 43-13 following his 11-0 win.
Rank noted DCC returned six state finalists, four all-staters and the number one ranked 103 pounder in the state.
"That's a pretty powerful lineup, and we got some young kids in our lineup and that showed," he said. "We have some kids to our lineup that are new to the line-up...there is going to be a learning curve there, but we are going to need to close that gap faster than we ever have."
According to Rank, it was strong third periods by DCC that turned the tide in each DCC win. "The first two periods we were pretty even, maybe in some of those we gave up too many first takedowns and let them gain momentum," he said.
"There were a lot of close matches in there, and they got them all," he added. "They got them all last year, and we learned from that and we bounced back at the end," he added.
Despite the loss, Rank saw some "places where we were a lot closer to them."
"We saw some match-ups that we are going to see again, and we are pretty excited about it," he said.
"In all honesty, we certainly let three of those get away from us, and that is one of those things that now our kids have seen these kids, we've gone head-to-head and stood there and fought with them for six minutes," he said. "It's one of those things where you get hit like that and you step up or you don't, and I know these kids will step up."
Rank knows they will have to go through DCC again in order to repeat as state champs.
Oxford squared off twice against DCC last season, losing 36-17 in January before winning 26-25 in the state final showdown.
"So at this time last year we were at about the same place, but right now we have to put the Catholic Central meet behind us. We start league competition next Wednesday (Jan. 11), and we open up against (Farmington Hills) Harrison and Rochester,," he said.
The Wildcats traveled down to Catholic Central High School on Saturday, Dec. 7 to compete in the Catholic Central Invite.
Oxford finished fourth during the Invite. Catholic Central won the Invite, followed by Davison in second and Hudson in third.
"We are seeing it start to kind of come together for the first time all year...we looked better from every position," Rank said.
"After the loss to DCC, we sat down and talked about some things, and one of those things was outworking your opponent, working for six straight minutes. The kids responded well...and it paid off," Rank added.
Junior Rocco Borg (140) and Line (215) won their respective weight divisions.
Edwin Schlickenmeyer (119) and sophomore Mike Willits (130) finished second, while senior Kyle Hill (125) and junior Marty Giannola (171) finished fourth.
Other finishers for Oxford include senior Noah Cantara (fifth; 135), sophomore Wesley Maskill (seventh; 145), junior Liam Logan (seventh; 171) and Zack Wood (seventh; heavyweight).
Rank was very impressed by Willits performance throughout the day. "He finally got over the hump. He beat the number two ranked kid in the state," Rank said. "He wrestled hard all day; I think he finally turned that corner and is really putting himself in a position to be a force in the state this year."
Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.