By: Daniel Stickradt
WRESTLING: Oakland County champion Oxford thinking big again as one of state’s premier D-1 teams
BY DAN STICKRADT
OXFORD — Paul McDevitt remembers the days when he took over the Oxford wrestling program a little more than two decades ago.
Back then, Oxford was a Class B school and known for its powerful football and boys track and field teams. It was 1994-95 and Oxford wrestling was…well…not very good to say the least.
“We didn’t win very many meets back then,” recalled McDevitt, a 1988 Holly High School grad who has served as head coach or assistant coach for 22 seasons. “The next year we were able to win a district though. We didn’t have a winning record, but we won a district. We came a long ways the first couple of years. It was a struggle at first. I remember at our banquet one of the moms made us a cake that said district champions on it. At the time, we thought it was a big deal.”
While McDevitt took over the high school and middle school programs in Oxford, longtime community wrestling enthusiast Doug Meyer helped launch a youth program, which has been the backbone of Oxford’s wrestling program ever since the mid-1990s.
“Doug was very instrumental in helping us build a solid base,” said McDevitt. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without a solid youth program.”
Oxford is coming off a respectable 24-9 campaign which saw the Wildcats reach the Division 1 Final Four at Central Michigan University’s McGuirk Arena. Oxford has reached the state quarterfinals 10 times since 1999 and reached the state tournament in eight of the last nine years, missing only in 2013.
The Wildcats have also won or shared 10 straight league championships between the Flint Metro League and Oakland Activities Association Red Division, which the school joined in 2010-11. From 1998 through 2016, Oxford has not finished lower than fourth place in league competition and has won 11 league titles over the last 18 years.
Additionally, since Oxford’s lowly days of the early-to-mid-1990s, Oxford has won 14 districts in the last 18 years, captured 10 regional titles, advanced to the state quarterfinals 10 times in an 18-year span, reached the state semifinals seven times, finished as the state runner-up twice (2009 and 2012) and captured a Division 1 state title in 2011.
The Wildcats moved up to D-1 from D-2 in 2010.
“What’s special about all of this is that all of the coaches and everyone involved is on the same page,” said McDys evitt. “There are no egos in our coaching staff. We are all here for a common cause.”
Oxford — which hopes to join Novi Detroit Catholic Central, defending state champion Hartland, Davison, Brighton, Clarkston and Grandville as schools in the state title chase this winter — returns 11 wrestlers that were regular starters last season. Plus, the Wildcats have plenty of depth at numerous weight classes should anyone suffer any injuries.
Oxford, 7-1 on the young campaign, also captured its first Oakland County Championships title since 2000 on Dec. 16-17 and is again ranked in the D-1 top 10, coming in at No. 4 in the 1-1-17 rankings by MichiganGrappler.com.
Oxford has finished in the top 10 at the county meet ever year for nearly two decades— and in most years finished in the top five.
“Last year we had a ton of injuries early in the season. We were forced to put a lot of young guys in there. I guess that turned out to be a blessing in disguise because we still lost in the semifinals to Hartland with all of those young guys,” said McDevitt. “Now we return a bulk of the team. We did lose two guys to Division I college programs that placed at the state meet, but we have most of the team back plus depth.
“We have a very good sophomore class and some quality seniors,” added McDevitt. “We have high expectations with this group. We had six sophomores placed at the county and two of them won. Overall, I think we had 12 placers at the county (out of 14 weight classes). That is a huge confidence boost.”