EAST WHITELAND >> There is a new energy around Oxford this season, most likely evoked by the mixture of a strong veteran core and an influx of talented youngsters.
The expectations have grown around the program, but as Great Valley revealed, Wednesday night, the Hornets are not quite where they want to be, yet.
Each team won seven bouts, but the Hornets tallied more bonus points and opened their Ches-Mont American Division slate with a 41-33 road win.
After going down 10 points, freshmen Cannon Hershey (106 pounds), Ben Smith (113) and junior Kevin Quin (120) delivered falls to put Oxford (1-0 division, 5-1 overall) up for good.
"I was waiting awhile to get back to the beginning, where our strong suit is," Oxford Scott Gold said. "We expect to do well and I've been encouraging the guys to go for pins and score points. We know we're going to be outnumbered most nights, but our guys bumped around well."
Oxford regained the lead on a pin by Will Johnson (182), only to see it evaporate just as fast when it gave up a forfeit at 195.
It was there, Great Valley made its move. The Patriots sent out Tyler Humphreys out at 220, and he produced a quick pin. Ethan Seeley, the Pats' usual 195-pounder, bumped up to 285 to face Sam Blevins. Seeley scored the only takedown in the first period and held off Blevins and his major size advantage for a 3-1 win that gave Great Valley its 10-point lead, and Seeley his 99th career victory.
"Ethan giving up all that weight and being successful gave us a shot," Great Valley coach Mike Semar said. "We're trying to get him as much competition to get him ready for the postseason. ... Ethan is not worried about (100 wins). That's just a number to him. It's obviously a goal to get 100, but he just wants to get better and be ready and minimize any doubt heading into the postseason."
Hershey put an end to any Patriot momentum with a second-period fall. Smith was more efficient, getting the slap of the hand in 26 seconds, and Quin capitalized with a third-period pin while nearing a tech fall.
Two bouts later, sophomore Cooper Johnson (132) clinched the dual with a pin via the cradle.
"The energy they bring is always good," Quin said of his younger practice partners. "They're always in good spirits and we always push each other. We just want to make each other better, understanding it'll help for competition."
There is a little less than a month until Oxford travels to West Chester Rustin, winners of five straight American Division championships. A lot can happen between then and now, but the Hornets are hoping everything will be on the line in that final divisional dual.
"We're taking it one match at a time," Gold said. "Hopefully by the time we meet Rustin we'll be wrestling better and we'll both be undefeated."
The Patriots picked up wins by Charlie Sita (126) and Keefe Thornton (138) in two of the final three matches to carry a little mojo.
"We thought we had a shot at eight wins at most, but for it to be 7-7 in matches, we're happy with that," Semar said. "We knew we would be in trouble down low with how talented they are there. For us to compete with the team that finished second at the Ches-Mont (Championships), you have to give credit to the kids who work hard. Our guys were excited for the challenge of wrestling a good team, and we're lucky to be in a league with a lot of good competition that makes us better."