James Oosterom’s performance at the state wrestling championships was one of the feel-good stories of the 2018-19 season.
Oosterom dropped down a weight from 285 pounds to earn a fifth-place Division II medal at 220 in his state debut. The next chapter began as soon as he stepped off the medals podium.
Sparked by his success, Oosterom set his goal high for his senior season: he isn’t accepting anything less than making the 220 final this weekend.
“(Placing fifth last year) just fueled my flame to go all of the way,” Oosterom said. “I’m grinding as hard as I can in practice. I want to be on the top of that podium.”
Port Jervis’ last state champion was Jason Jones in 2001. Matt Parlier, Steven Butler and JD Zitone are the school’s last state finalists in 2009.
Oosterom’s path to the finals won’t be easy as the seventh seed. If Oosterom (35-2) defeats Bolivar-Richburg’s Tyler Smith (50-3) in the round of 16, second-seeded Karl Bouyer of Clarke could be waiting in the quarterfinals. Bouyer pinned Oosterom in the second period at the state Division II Duals in January and placed third in last year’s state tournament.
Oosterom’s only other defeat came to top-seeded Jeff Crooks of Cobleskill-Richmond by fall in the state duals. Crooks finished fourth at 2019 states.
“I had a lot of things not go in my favor that day,” Oosterom said of the state duals. Oosterom started the season with 31 consecutive wins, including his second title at the Christmas City tournament in Bethlehem, Pa. “My face was all messed up. I had a huge bandage over my eye. In practice, I had taken a kid down and he bounced off the mat and hit my head and split it wide open. That's all healed up now.
“I'm focused now and I'm just ready to get after it.”
When Oosterom wasn’t helping Port Jervis to the state Class B football semifinals as a lineman this past fall, he was still getting a workout. Offseason practices and tournaments, and an intensive camp at Edinboro University last summer were all geared for Oosterom to take that next step.
“The only two guys that he's lost to all year are other guys that placed in the tournament last year,” Port Jervis coach Eric Hartmann said. “He knows he needs to right now fine tune what he does offensively. If he can do that, he's going to be in the finals. He's on a mission to take care of business.”