Oxford moves on in Division 1; Dundee goes for another title
Mount Pleasant – 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.
“We didn’t win a single meet my first year,” McDevitt said. “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 stubble at first.”
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,” McDevitt said. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without a solid youth program.”
Fourth-seeded Oxford defeated No. 5 Hudsonville 40-28 Friday in the Division 1 quarterfinals at Central Michigan’s McGuirk Arena.
Since Oxford’s lowly days of the early-to-mid-1990s, Oxford has won 14 districts in 21 years, captured 10 regional titles, advanced to the state quarterfinals 10 times in a 17-year span, reached the 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 Division 1 in 2010.
“What’s special about all of this is that all of the coaches and everyone involved is on the same page,” McDevitt said. “There are no egos in our coaching staff. We are all here for a common cause.”
Oxford (24-8) will face top-seeded Hartland (32-1) in the 10 a.m. semifinals on Saturday.
There is an expectation when it comes to wrestling at Dundee. The tradition-rich town near the Ohio border doesn’t lose much on the wrestling mats.
In fact, since the Michigan High School Athletic Association adopted the team state tournament format in 1988, Dundee has reached at least the state quarterfinals in 22 of 28 years, including 14 straight seasons the Vikings have won a regional championship and reached the state quarterfinals.
Competing in Class C-D, Division 3 or Division 4 dating back to 1988, Dundee has captured eight state titles, claimed six state runner-up trophies and lost in the semifinals five other times.
“I think there is some pressure,” Dundee coach Tim Roberts said. “When you live in a town like Dundee where winning is expected of you, the goal is always try to get to the team state tournament and try to win a state title. We have been very successful at doing so over the years. We have the dedication from everyone involved in order to get here almost every year. That hasn’t been easy.”
Dundee, the top seed, downed Delton-Kellogg, 63-13, on Friday to advance to its 20th semifinal in a 28-season span.
The Vikings (19-0) will continue its chase for perfection and will face fifth-seeded Whitehall in the state semifinals and hope to claim its ninth overall title.
Whitehall coach Cliff Sandee and his staff read plenty of posts on social media about how Dundee and Richmond could meet up in the state semifinals this year.
It’s understandable since the two state powerhouse programs were matched in the Division 3 finals each of the last six seasons, including last year’s 26-24 decision won by Richmond.
Sandee’s Whitehall crew made sure that projected matchup won’t happen this season. Trailing 29-9, Whitehall (26-1) won the final six matches, which included a 28-0 run, to upset fourth-seed Richmond 37-29 in Friday’s D-3 state quarterfinals at CMU.
“We saw the posts. We saw that Dundee had to beat Richmond in the semifinals this year. We made sure that Richmond didn’t get there,” said Sandee. “We used all of those posts as motivation.”
Fifth-seeded Whitehall advanced to its third Final Four in six seasons. The Vikings have not reached the state finals since 1984 — and are one win away.
“We have a resilient bunch of kids. They don’t give up,” noted Sandee. “I love these kids. I am a 34-year-old coach and those kids are my backbone and we there with me when my father passed. I wouldn’t want to coach another group of kids.”
Whitehall will face Dundee at noon Saturday with the winner facing either No. 2 Remus Chippewa Hills or No. 3 Lake Fenton in the finals.
“Dundee is very good. We have the utmost respect for that program,” added Sandee. “But I think we’re pretty good, too. We’ll be ready for them.”
Pine River wins
Last year the disappointment for Leroy-Pine River couldn’t have been greater.
After tying Manchester 33-33 in the 2015 Division 4 state quarterfinals, the Bucks (26-4) lost out on the eighth criteria tie-breaker.
Pine River got over the hump this season, stunning No. 2 seeded Decatur, 35-34, in the Division 4 quarterfinals on Friday.
In the final 152-pound match, Joe Ringling posted a 4-2 decision over Decatur’s Elijah Luth for the final three points and the difference maker in sending the Bucks into their first semifinals.
“I felt a ton of pressure,” said Ringling, who is 43-12 on the season and an individual state qualifier as well. “This is the first time we have ever won this (quarterfinals) match. It was one of the biggest wins of my career.”
“We have been here several times before, but we have never been able to get over the hump to get to Saturday,” said Leroy-Pine River coach Tim Jones. “Last year to lose ti Manchester by criteria and to not have that many returnees back on varsity and to be able to get here and finally get to the semifinals. It’s amazing.”