February 29, 2012 - There will be no back-to-back state titles for the Wildcats wrestling program as Detroit Catholic Central won the finals rematch in convincing fashion, 47-9.
Oxford’s Kyle Hill dominates an opponent at the state tournament in Battle Creek. (click for larger version)
Catholic Central won 11 of 14 matches. The closet the Wildcats would get was 6-3 after three matches. The next six matches would go Catholic Central's way as the Shamrocks built up a 32-3 lead.
Junior Rocco Borg, senior Prescott Line and sophomore Edwin Schlickenmeyer scored victories for the Wildcats.
"The kids went out and competed," varsity head coach Brandon Rank said. "A couple spots we we're overmatched, and hopefully that makes them hungry. We certainly want to be back there and we want to win another state title. That is going to be our goal henceforth."
"Once you (have won a state title), it is a real bitter pill to swallow to accept anything other than that," Rank added.
Despite losing in the finals, Rank was very pleased with how well his team, especially his juniors and seniors, responded to adversity throughout the entire tournament.
"Even though we were going in there as a sixth seed, our main goal was going there defending a state title," Rank said. "We went out there defending it, it was ours until it was taken. Our seniors, along with our juniors, who will be leaders next year, they really, really impressed me," Rank said.
The highlight of the tournament for the Wildcats was their opening round, come-from-behind victory over Davison.
Rank called the 28-27 victory "gritty."
The Wildcats trailed Davison 24-15 with five matches left. Senior Noah Cantara got the comback started with a 5-3 victory over Matthew Miller, who entered the match as the number two ranked wrestler in the state in the 135 lbs. weight class.
Borg then delivered a 12-2 major decision victory over Thomas Garty, cutting Davison's lead to 24-22.
"If he had not major-decisioned, we would have gone into a tie and there would have been a tie-breaking situation," Rank said. "He showed some leadership and stepped up and that was a big, big impact weight class for us."
However Davison won the next match to go up 27-22, setting up senior Jacob Peasley and junior Marty Giannola to provide the heroics the Wildcats needed.
Both Peasley and Giannola would respond with convincing victories. Peasley won 8-2 over Ty Wildmo, and Giannola defeated Ryan Thick 8-3.
"He finished it off with one heck of a win," Rank said. "It was like the state finals last year. Everyone went crazy. It was awesome."
Rank was most impressed with the crowd support provided by the many Oxford fans who made the three-hour trip.
"Being in competition and looking up and seeing those people drove three hours across the state, knowing full well we were going against a Cardinal team that beat us by 38 earlier in the season, and they are willing to be there with us and witness a big, big come-from-behind victory, that says a lot about our program, our parents, our fan support," Rank said.
"That is one of those things that sometimes when you get mixed up in the hub-bub of wrestling competition and whatnot, you forgot how much those people around you really care," he added. "I think that was one of the big things that helped us come through that. Our fan section was going crazy and our kids thrived off that. They fed off that energy and went out there and were able to pull some upsets and beat some kids they lost to."
The Wildcats took the momentum they gained from defeating Davison and steamrolled #2 Brighton 52-13.
"We went out there and won matches that on paper nobody thought we could win and the score really reflected the effort the kids put in and the belief in themselves," Rank said.
Senior Kyle Hill started the match with a major decision. Brighton would make it a one-point meet a match later, but the Wildcats got on a roll, stretching their lead to 29-7 after victories by Borg, sophomore Wesley Maskill, Giannola, Matt Anger and junior Liam Logan.
Oxford would win 11 matches during the semi-final meet.
Rank said he is "proud of the performance the boys put in" this season.
"When we graduated seven seniors...our biggest concern was who was going to step up and fill those shoes," Rank said. "We found kids that did that. It took half the season; it was a process. We had some guys really grow into the wrestling and become major, major contributors."
"I like to think that the things we are teaching them in practice are more than wrestling lessons. They are life lessons," Rank continued. "Those things really shone through this weekend – perserverance, the effort, the energy level."
Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.