Oxford wrestler heading to Freshman Nationals
● By Steven Hoffman
Brandon Sheffield, a freshman at Oxford Area High School, will be heading to Virginia Beach, Virginia to compete in the Freshman Nationals from April 1-3.
Sheffield enjoyed a sensational rookie season at Oxford, compiling a 36-6 record with 23 pins. He won districts in the 120-pound weight class and came within one victory of earning a trip to states. Sheffield said that he is looking forward to the challenge of competing against other elite freshman wrestlers.
“I have heard that it's a great tournament,” he explained.
It should be no surprise, given his early success in the sport, that Sheffield is dedicated to wrestling. He trains year-round, and plans to compete in tournaments throughout the year.
“Wrestling is a very disciplined sport,” he explained.
Brandon's father, Brandon Sheffield, is a retired professional boxer who holds a black belt in both kickboxing and Tang Soo Do. He has been running Team Defiant in Oxford, training people in boxing and martial arts. So Brandon grew up understanding the commitment that it takes to train for a sport like wrestling.
Brandon started wrestling at the age of eight. He is blessed with tremendous athletic ability, and he said that many wrestling skills come naturally to him. He liked wrestling right from the start.
“It was really just a natural thing,” he explained. “I tried boxing and I didn't like that as much as wrestling.”
He also tried football for one year, but he decided to concentrate his efforts on wrestling. His mother, Danielle, said that Brandon has always preferred wrestling over team sports, and he has worked hard to get better at the sport.
Brandon works with coaches from Oxford Area High School and Team Defiant. He credited those coaches—Scott Gold, Ben Young, Rob Beighley, Lau Palade, and Jarrett Hostetter among them—with helping him improve as a grappler. Brandon said that with the quality of coaching that he receives, he wasn't surprised that his freshman year was so successful.
“I knew that there were some kids who were going to be better, stronger, or have more experience,” he said. “But I expected it to go pretty well.”
No one would have predicted that a freshman would score 36 wins in the fiercely competitive 120-pound weight class. Brandon gained valuable lessons on the mat as the season went on. He lost one hard-fought match to Gunnar Fuss of Harry S. Truman School in the closing seconds of the match.
He dropped two different matches to Brett Kaliner of West Chester Rustin, once during the regular season and once in sectionals. They were two close matches—one was decided by a score of 9-7, and the other was settled by a score of 4-1. When they faced off for the third time in districts, though, Brandon emerged victorious with an 8-2 win. He was the recipient of the Outstanding Wrestler Award at districts, which ranks as one of his personal highlights for his freshman season.
He also proved himself to be a selfless teammate during the Oxford wrestling season. He could have wrestled at 126 pounds throughout the year, but competed at 120 pounds instead because it was what was best for the whole team.
His parents are proud that their son has a good approach to the sport and is gracious in victory and understands how to handle losses.
“When he loses, he loses with grace,” Danielle explained.
Brandon has already had some incredible wrestling experiences that many successful high school wrestlers don't have in four seasons. For example, in 2015, he traveled to Romania to compete against wrestlers from Romanian and Bulgarian teams. He faced off against much more experienced wrestlers, which helped him understand what it would take to compete at the next level.
After the Freshman Nationals, Brandon intends to keep a very busy wrestling schedule throughout the rest of 2016. He will be competing in the Ironman Duals on April 9, and the Disney Duals will take place later in the summer. He also has events lined up in Gettysburg and North Carolina. During some of these events, he may have as many as ten matches. It adds up to a lot of experience on the mat that will show during his sophomore, junior, and senior years for Oxford. His goal is to move up several weight classes by his sophomore year—he could wrestle at 145 pounds next year, although 138 pounds could be the more likely scenario.
Sheffield said that his ultimate goal before he graduates from Oxford is to place in states. He would also like to join the exclusive group of grapplers who have earned 100 career wins at Oxford, continuing the school's proud wrestling tradition.