Oxford’s secret to success in the highly-competitive world of high school wrestling is really no secret at all.
Wildcats consistently pin and win on the mat because of the foundation laid by Oxford Youth Wrestling Clubs (OYWC).
“Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are,” said Paul McDevitt, who coached the varsity team for 22 years and led the grapplers to a state championship in 2011.
Founded in the early 1990s, OYWC serves as a “feeder program” for the high school level by taking kids ages 4-14 and giving them the knowledge, skills and experience they need to eventually succeed in the big show.
The proof is in the pudding.
OHS varsity wrestlers “have been in the state tournament, in the quarter finals or better, for nine out of 10 years,” McDevitt said.
“Our high school program has had a lot of success. A lot of that has to do with the club and the kids getting exposed to (wrestling) at a young age. By the time they get to high school, they have a distinct advantage over many (other) kids.”
McDevitt, who has served as club director since 2008, is looking for a fresh crop of young wrestlers for the 2017-18 season, which runs from December through mid-March.
There are three clubs – novice for ages 4-6, youth for ages 6-12 and competition for ages 8-14. All experience levels are welcome, from beginners looking to learn the ropes to veteran wrestlers hoping to challenge themselves and enhance their techniques.
“It’s a fun way for kids to get great exercise and make good friends,” McDevitt said.
Registration and the first practice for the novice club will be held on Monday, Dec. 11 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at OHS.
The youth club is scheduled to conduct its registration/first practice on Tuesday, Dec. 5 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the high school.
Registration and the first practice for the competition club is set for Tuesday, Dec. 5 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at OHS.
One of the biggest benefits to kids participating in an individual sport like wrestling at a young age, according to McDevitt, is they learn one of the most basic lessons in sports and life in general – “you don’t win all the time.”
“They learn there’s always a winner and there’s always a loser, and not to take it too hard (when they’re beaten),” he said.
McDevitt noted “it’s a little harder to learn humility” once a wrestler reaches high school age.
The kids also learn how to face an opponent one-on-one, in front of a crowd, without letting fear and anxiety defeat them before setting foot on the mat.
“It takes a while to get over nerves,” McDevitt said.
Wrestling techniques and life lessons aside, kids who participate in OYWC have a good time.
“There’s no high stakes. It’s all for fun,” McDevitt said. “Our coaches are fantastic. They just make it a lot of fun. We mix in a lot of games with the skill (building).”
“If it was just hard, competitive wrestling all the time, it wouldn’t be fun, especially for the younger kids. We try to (have) something for everybody,” he added.
As for parents, OYWC exposes them to wrestling and allows them to become accustomed to seeing their children compete in such a physical sport.
“It’s really tough as a parent to watch your child go out there,” he said.
McDevitt enjoys the “strong family-type atmosphere” that OYWC builds as kids, parents and coaches spend time attending practices, participating in tournaments and traveling.
“These kids grow up together,” he said.
For more information about Oxford Youth Wrestling Clubs and registration fees, please visit www.oxfordyouthwrestling.com.