SEEKING BATTLE CREEK: Clarkston, Holly, Rochester, Oxford matmen all hoping to land berth in Cereal City | North Oakland Sports

SEEKING BATTLE CREEK: Clarkston, Holly, Rochester, Oxford matmen all hoping to land berth in Cereal City

| February 14, 2012 | Comments (2)





Holly has accomplished something on the wrestling mats that it has not done before in school history this season: Win back-to-back Flint Metro League wrestling championships.


That was the first of many goals in the postseason for the Bronchos this season.


Ranked sixth in the state in Division 2, Holly (27-5) captured its eighth district trophy in the past dace last Wednesday and is now two wins away from another regional championship and yet another goal.


“If we can win the regiona,l that will be the first time that we have ever won back-to-back regionals. We have never been to Battle Creek in (consecutive) seasons,” admitted veteran Holly coach Don Pluta. “That is a goal of ours and we feel if we can wrestle well enough that we could have a chance.”


Holly is the sole ranked team at the Madison Heights Lamphere regional Wednesday and will wrestle the host Rams at 5:30 p.m. Redford Union and Warren Lincoln wrestle in the other semifinal.


Holly has won two regional championships in school history, the first time being in 2005 and then again in 2011. In both appearances in Battle Creek, the Bronchos lost in the the state quarterfinals. Last season, the Bronchos lost to Greenville in the Division 2 quarters, while Holly competed in Division 1 in 2005 and was knocked out by Utica Ford.


This year’s Elite Eight will take place at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena Feb. 24-25.


“That has been our goal all along,” said Holly senior Shawn Scott, who has over 200 career victories. “Last year we made it there but were knocked out the first day. This year we want to get back there and try to go a step further. And try to make it (to the Final Four).”


TOP HEAVY: Holly's Andrew Scott and the Bronchos will be heavy favorites at Wendesday;s Division 2 regionals at Madison Heights Lemphere and the sixth-ranked Bronchos are shooting for their third regional cronw in the past decade. File Photo

Holly is not the only team from the coverage area that is entertaining thoughts of making a trip to Battle Creek. Clarkston, Oxford and Rochester are all in Wednesday regionals and eying trips to the state tournament.


Clarkston (18-7) will be the underdog if it can face Hartland in the regional finals. The unranked Wolves will tussle with Birmingham Seaholm in the regional semifinals at 5:30 p.m. at Waterford Mott. Hartland, ranked fifth, will face Farmington Harrison in the other semifinal at 5:30 p.m.


“I know Hartland is favored, but if we can pull off a couple of upsets, than it is possible,” said first-year Clarkston head coach Derek Moskovich, who was an assistant for several years at Clarkston before taking last season off. “There are some weight classes where we lost to Hartland at the individual districts. If we can win some of those (swing) matches, then we might have a chance.”


Hartland has had Clarkston’s number in recent years, knocking the Wolves out in the regional finals each of the past two years, including 48-15 last season and 42-19 in 2010. The Eagles also knocked Clarkston out in the 2008 regional semifinals (37-24) and defeated the Wolves in the 2004 state semifinals (45-18).


Clarkston has been to the state tournament twice in the past decade, reaching the Final Four in both 2004 and 2007. The Wolves have reached at least the regionals in 10 of the past 13 seasons.


Clarkston was also state champs in 1991 and state runner-up in 1995, both in Class A.


Perhaps one of the toughest regionals in Michigan will be the Division 1 regional at Utica Ford Wednesday, which features three ranked schools.


In one semifinal, ninth-ranked New Baltimore Anchor Bay will meet up with seventh-ranked Oxford, while sixth-ranked Rochester will face upstart Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse. Both matches at 5:30 p.m.


A highly-anticipated match between Rochester and Oxford awaits in the regional finals if there are no upsets.


This is some new territory for Rochester, who has not reached the regionals since 1993 and has never made it to Battle Creek since the MHSAA adopted the team format in 1988. No current wrestler at Rochester was even born yet the last time the Falcons advanced to the regional round.


“We’re excited to be there, but I think the boys would love to wrestle Oxford and make it to Battle Creek for the first time,” said Rochester coach Frank Lafferty, who took over the Falcons’ program seven years ago after a long stint as a Clarkston assistant. “I don’t know much about L’Anse Creuse, so we can’t look past them. But we hope to have our full lineup on Wednesday and try to win our first regional championship. Oxford is going to be tough. They are wrestling awfully well right now. They will be tough to be beat.”


Oxford will have the upper hand in terms of experience if it can slip past Anchor Bay in the regional semis. The Wildcats have been a model of consistency since 1999, when it reached the Class B Final Four for the first time.


Oxford has made it to at least the state quarterfinals seven times in the past 14 seasons, won 11 districts in the same time span, won seven regionals and lost in the regional finals another time.


At the state tournament, the Wildcats lost to Lowell (35-21) in the semifinal in 1999, lost again to Lowell in the 2005 state quarterfinals (41-21) and has appeared in four straight Final Fours.


That string began in 2008, when Oxford reached the Division 2 state semifinals before falling to Eaton Rapids (43-16). In 2009, Oxford reached the D-2 state finals for the first time before losing to Lowell (35-20).


In 2010, Oxford was bumped up to Division 1 thanks to an enrollment spike and reached the semifinals before falling to eventual state champ Novi Detroit Catholic Central (35-25). Last season the Wildcats gained some revenge and captured its first state crown in the sport with a 26-25 win over then-top-ranked Catholic Central.

“We do have some experienced guys back from last year, but we also have several guys that are new starters,” admitted Oxford coach Brandon Rank, an assistant for five seasons before taking over this season. “If we are going to win our regional, then we are going to have to earn it. Last year we beat Davison in the district opener, and then we knew we were going to make a run, get the No. 2 seed and (likely) see Catholic Central in the semifinals. This year we are going to have to beat two ranked schools to win our regional. Last year we cruised through our regional.


“Do I think we can do it? Well, yes. We have a very talented team,” continued Rank. “But I’m sure Anchor Bay thinks it is their year and Rochester thinks it’s their year and we think it’s our year. But if we can face Rochester in the (regional) finals, that would be great for our league and Oakland County, guaranteeing at least one spot in Battle Creek. I expect it’s going to be a great match with them.”


Oxford was second and Rochester third at the Oakland County meet back on Dec. 17-18. Rochester upended Oxford, 37-29, in a dual meet on Jan. 12 and Oxford outscored Rochester, 265-216, at the recent OAA league meet to share the league crown with Rochester.


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