BY DAN STICKRADT
BATTLE CREEK — When it comes to the postseason, Oxford’s wrestling program sure has a flair for the dramatic.
The Wildcats, the defending state champions in Division 1, have made a living off a late-night rallies, and did so again on the big stage Friday night.
Oxford, which was ranked seventh in the state and had the No. 6 seed at the state tournament, rallied back from a 24-15 deficit with five weight classes go to post a 28-27 victory over third-ranked and third-seeded Davison.
“We just keep battling,” said Marty Giannola, who defeated Davison’s Ryan Thick, 8-3, in the final match of the day at 160 pounds. “We like the third period. We’re in great shape. We knew we could get (their wrestlers) if we went to the third period.”
Oxford won four of the final five weight classes, all which ventured into the third period. Noah Cantera (135), Rocco Borg (140, major decision) and Jacob Peasley (152) all won their matches to bring Oxford to within 27-25.
Davison’s last win came at 145, where Patrick Rooker prevailed with a 9-5 victory.
“We have kids that will outwork opponents if we’re in the third period,” said Oxford coach Brandon Rank. “We lost some matches early in the year that I don’t think we should have lost. But we’re winning them now. I think the difference is that we have a lot of experience on this team and it showed. Some of those guys are seniors and they outworked (their opponents).”
Oxford, which is now making its fifth straight Final Four, also defeated sixth-ranked Rochester in the regional finals nine days earlier in a similar fashion — winning the match on the final weight class.
The Wildcats (19-5) will face second-ranked and undefeated Brighton (40-0) in the state semifinals at 11:45 a.m. Saturday, also at Kellogg Arena. Fourth-ranked Temperance Bedford and top-ranked Novi Detroit Catholic Central will meet in the other state semifinal.
Davison defeated Oxford 42-18 in the season opener and the Cardinals also defeated the Wildcats in the season opener last season. Oxford gained its revenge on Davison in the district finals last season and again in the state quarterfinals this year.
“I’m not sure why we were ranked where we were. We’re here to defend our championship,” admitted Oxford coach Brandon Rank. “I think we’re better than the No. 6 seed. I just told the boys to go out and there and wrestle with a chip on their shoulder. They battled.”
The Wildcats are making their fifth straight appearance in Battle Creek and eighth in 14 years. Oxford led 15-3 early, which included back-to-back pins from Prescott Line (215) and Zach Wood (285).
Davison stormed back to win five straight weight classes, aided by a pin from Charles Smith (112) and a technical fall from Justin Oliver (125). The Cardinals, who have claimed six state titles and one state runner-up in the past dozen years, could not find the swing points needed to knock out the defending state champs.
“We just didn’t get it done,” said Davison coach Roy Hall. “Oxford is a very good team and they were able to come back on us. IT was a great high school wrestling match.”
171: Jordan Crooks (D) d. Matt Anger 5-2; 189: Liam Logan (O) d. Trevor Thomas 7-5; 215: Prescott Line (O) p. Jake Ellis 0:45; 285: Zach Wood (O) p. Dakota Powers 3:40; 103: Lincoln Olson (D) maj. dec. Daniel Curtis 17-6; 112: Charles Smith (D) p. Collin Campbell 0:33; 119: Derek Humphrey (D) d. Edwin Schlickenmeyer 5-3; 125: Justin Oliver (D) tech. fall Kyle Hill, 16-1; 130: Dominic Russ (D) d. Mike Wlilits 9-7 (OT); 135: Noah Cantera (O) d. Mathew Wilder 5-3; 140: Rocco Borg (O) maj. dec. Matthew Wilder 5-3; 145: Patrick Rooker (D) d. Wesley Maskill 9-5; 152: Jacob Peasley (O) d. Ty Wildmo 8-2; 160: Marty Giannola (D) d. Ryan Thick 8-3.
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