After best finish ever at Oakland County event, Groves wrestling hitting its stride

By: Mike Moore | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 9, 2017

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BEVERLY HILLS — He knew it was a good day, but just how good remained a mystery.

After arriving home from the Oakland County wrestling event last month, Birmingham Groves coach Joseph Jones realized “good” was an understatement.

“We went to that event healthy and with a full squad for the first time all year,” Jones said. “That was key.”

Groves scored 57 points and placed seventh overall in the field, its best finish in school history.

“I think it shows how far we’ve come as a program,” said senior Colin Takata. He won the title in the 145-pound class, becoming just the third Groves wrestler ever to win at the event. “At the same time, we have a squad that can compete at a higher level. It’s been hard to prove yourself on the mat in the past here, where now we have guys going out there and battling. That’s more important.”

Takata was hardly the lone Falcon to make noise, either.

Damon Dunbar was third in the 119 class, while Khalid Ford was second at 130 and Micah Mydloski was sixth at 135.

“I think, with more kids coming back into the community, we’re getting more of those athletes in this area who are interested in the sport,” Jones said. Groves’ previous best at the event was a 10th-place finish. “We have more kids now who want to take part in the wrestling program.”

Which only fuels the objective for the rest of the season — take what happened at the Oakland County event and parlay it into a year to remember.

“It’s been a progression,” Jones said. “We had eight freshmen join the team two years ago. This summer, these guys dedicated themselves to wrestling. Last March, when the season ended, these guys were in the gym working. They dedicated themselves to getting better. This room has gotten tougher. There is more competition for spots now.”

Numbers are also up.

Six “pretty good” freshmen joined this winter, only adding to the overall depth the Falcons are working with.

“There’s a very different feel to this team,” Takata said. “My first two years, I think we were happy to get a guy to the second day of counties or districts. Now we expect to get four or five to states. It’s a change in tone in this room where we have kids who love the sport. It makes things more fun, for sure.”

With the momentum from the county meet to guide them, Jones said there’s plenty of optimism as to what the rest of the year may hold, especially in terms of qualifying wrestlers for the state event in early March.

Takata and Dunbar have solid chances to get to states, while Nathan Campbell (152), Jacob Smith (160), Dan Llope (189) and James Henry (215) can all make a case as well, according to Jones.

“We still have a lot of work to do, and I still think we can grow this team,” Jones said. “We have some tweaking to do, some improving of techniques. It’s really a focus on the basic things right now. We’re on the right path, though. The room is so competitive. There’s energy. This is really the first time in a long time I have kids not here just to be part of the team, but they want to get on the podium at the end of the year.”

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