SOUTHFIELD — Southfield High wrestling coach Vernon Burden called it the best compliment he’s received from another wrestler on an opposing team.
During the course of the year, an opponent wrestled two separate grapplers from the Blue Jays’ roster.
“At the end, he asked, ‘Do you have a 130-pounder that isn’t good?’ That was a testament to say that we can put guys in our lineup whether they’re varsity or JV, and they’re going to wrestle tough,” Burden said. “That makes me proud that we have 28 guys we can send out to two tournaments and do well.”
The Blue Jays finished the season 19-4 overall and 4-1 in the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division, which is tied for first in duals.
At the Blue tournament, which also included teams from the OAA Gold, Southfield won it outright, giving it the overall championship.
At the tournament, Southfield had all 13 wrestlers place and 11 finished in the top four.
“Even when guys were losing in the semis, they wrestled back tough,” Burden said. “Teamwise it was a very successful season. What we say is that we added another banner to our wrestling room.”
Senior captain Antonio Echols said the title was especially important to him since the squad finished third last season.
“We felt that we worked hard for it and did everything we could for it, and we came through for the win. Everyone went six minutes and did their job,” he said. “I felt like it was my job as a senior to push my team as hard as I could to win it this year.”
Southfield’s team portion of the year came to a close in districts Feb. 9 at Farmington High. The Blue Jays lost to Farmington High 39-26. In the semifinal, Southfield avenged a loss from earlier this season and beat Livonia Stevenson 41-30.
“Overall we wrestled tough. We still gave up more pins than I would have liked, but we still had guys show up and have great nights,” Burden said.
The strength of the Blue Jays comes in their mid- and upper-weight classes.
Against Stevenson and Farmington, from 152 pounds to 285, the Blue Jays won 11 of their 12 matches in those weights.
“The top of our lineup has been a gauntlet for teams,” Burden said. “You run through those matches and come out on top, you deserve to win. Against Farmington, they didn’t just come out on top in those matches, they came out unscathed.”
Burden’s attention is now on the individual portion. The Blue Jays qualified two wrestlers to the regional level in Echols at 215 and DaJon Raheem at 189.
The duo will try to qualify for the state final, something Echols just missed doing last
season after losing in overtime at his regional.
“I promised myself that I’d work as hard as I can in practice every day to get to The Palace,” he said.
Catch the Blue Jays in individual regional action Feb. 18 at Saline High. For the starting time of the tournament, contact the host school’s athletic director.