Dakota tops Oxford in wrestling quarterfinals

The Cougars won seven of the last eight bouts

By: Timothy Pontzer | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published February 23, 2018

KALAMAZOO — With a strong finish, Macomb Dakota punched its ticket to the Division 1 state semifinals for a second straight year.

The Cougars rallied from deficits at 15-6 and 19-12, capping a comeback over Oxford High Feb. 23 by winning the last five bouts of the contest to prevail 34-19.

"When you're in an arena like this everything is loud and there's a lot of pressure," Dakota coach Ed Skowneski said. "These kids are young, they're teenagers, so virtually anything can happen. But knowing I have those guys on the back end made me feel pretty good."

Large contingents from both sides packed the stands inside the Wings Event Center. Holding the No. 3 seed in the D-1 bracket, the Cougars improved to 30-2 on the season.

With the match starting at the 130-pound weight class, Dakota jumped out to a 6-0 lead via  decisions by senior Connor Casey (130) and junior Andrew Barrett (135). Oxford responded with three straight major decisions and a victory to go up 15-6. 

Dakota junior Eli Andary (171) and senior Layne Malczewski (189) each won their matches for six total points, but a major decision for Oxford at 215 put the Wildcats up 19-12 with five bouts remaining.

Senior Rahmi Khalil earned a pin at 285 to start Dakota's comeback, followed by a decision for sophomore Brendan Ferretti (103) and a pin by freshman Brock Prater (112). Junior Nick Alayan earned a decision at 119 and junior Justin Tiburcio earned a major decision at 125 to close out the day.

"We had a strong finish but we also started off really well," Skowneski said. "Casey had a big win, and it's always good to get that first win. It kind of bubbles from there, and a lot of guys came through today."

A team captain, junior Dustin Solomon was proud of his club's effort. Solomon fell 5-3 in his match at 160. After his loss, the Cougars won seven of the last eight bouts.

"It's really nice but we've all been working hard this year for this," Solomon said. "It's nice to come up with a win after we were down like that. I had full confidence in the team, especially our lower weights. They are able to take control and dominate, and they got it done for us."

The Cougars advance to face Brighton High at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 24 in the semifinals. Brighton is responsible for one of the two blemishes on Dakota's season, topping the Cougars by 11 points earlier this year.

Brighton topped Hartland High 30-29 to advance. On the other side of the bracket, Detroit Catholic Central beat Hudsonville High 67-0 and Davison High bested Westland John Glenn 28-25.