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From High School Underdog to College All-American: Anthony DesVigne’s Unlikely Journey

He didn’t step on a wrestling mat until the eighth grade and never placed in the state tournament during an undistinguished high school career.

And still Anthony DesVigne opted to join one of the most successful college programs in the country as a walk-on, knowing the odds were stacked against him ever being more than a practice partner.

But persistence, an unwavering work ethic and steady improvement has turned the Central Oklahoma senior into an All-American and the 174-pounder looks to cap his fairytale story with a national title in the NCAA Division II Wrestling Championships that unfold Friday and Saturday in Wichita, Kan.

It’s been a long voyage filled with many pitfalls and moments of self-doubt, but DesVigne stayed the course and is finally reaping the benefits.

“I played every sport growing up and wrestling was the last one I tried,” said DesVigne, who grew up in Riverside, Calif. “Once I got to high school I decided to stick with wrestling, even though I didn’t have the success that a lot of guys did.”

DesVigne’s family moved to Edmond when he was a senior and he finished his prep career at Edmond North High School, qualifying for the state tournament as a 145-pounder. And that was going to be the end of his wresting career.

Anthony was staying in Edmond to study in UCO’s world-renowned forensics program and North assistant coach David James – yes, the same David James who led the Bronchos to 12 national titles during a legendary 34-year career from 1982-2016 – encouraged Anthony to join Central’s wrestling team.

“Coach James got me Coach (Todd) Steidley’s number, so I called him up and just walked on,” DesVigne said. “It’s been a battle. I wasn’t too sure what I was getting myself into at the time, but once I did it I said I’m gonna stick with it.”

Improvement came in small increments, but DesVigne kept plugging away and his progress was steady.

Anthony redshirted his first year in 2018-19, wrestling in several open tournaments at 149 pounds, then went 11-12 while competing at 157 and 165 the following season.

That 2019-20 season is when DesVigne realized he might actually have a chance to succeed on the college level.

“My redshirt freshman year at National Duals our ’65 pounder got hurt and so I bumped up to fill in for the next dual,” DesVigne said. “I was wrestling like the…

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