The Panther wrestling program has been blessed the past few seasons with a plethora of young talent. And with the regional tournament finished and in the books, it seems that this year is no exception.
Four Panther wrestlers had their tickets punched for this year’s state tournament and of those young men, three are underclassmen.
Caleb Hawes, and Marlon Houston are both sophomores and making their second trip to the big show. Hawes won the consolation side of the bracket by finishing third and Houston brought home the silver medal with a tough loss in the finals to his opponent from Blackwell.
Both boys spoke of the benefit of knowing what is in store for them this time around.
“I had no idea what to expect,” said Hawes of his first trip to the state tournament. “This year I understand it better. I know what to look forward to and what to focus on. Coach Wilson did a really good job of preparing us for it last year, but some things you just have to see for yourself.”
Houston voiced similar sentiments.
“I understand the level of conditioning that is required for the state tournament,” he said. “Last year it was all so new.”
Hawes will face Finn Higgins from Heritage Hall. Hawes’ opponent has a season record of 26-1.
Houston, as a second place finisher, will face Tyler Adams from Perry. The Maroon senior has a season record of 19-9.
The lone senior of the group is John Brown. While Brown is not new to wrestling, he is however finishing his first complete season as a high school wrestler. And what better way to end his senior campaign than with a third place finish at the regional tournament.
“I wish I wouldn’t have quit those other years,” said Brown. “I’m kicking myself now for not sticking it out and wrestling my entire career here at Barnsdall. Coach Cole always told me that one day I’d be sorry for quitting and not listening to him, now I know he was right.”
The fourth member of the squad to qualify was Lane White. Anyone who has watched White compete this year shouldn’t be surprised that the freshman had a great showing at a very tough weight. White qualified for the biggest tournament of his life with a fourth place finish.
“Lane did an outstanding job this year,” said Shawn Wilson, wrestling coach. “He had a great tournament and beat a lot of tough kids. And he did it by hard work, both in practice and during the tournament.”
White will meet Trent Williams, a senior from Perry. Williams has a compiled season record of 31-9.
The state tournament will held on February 24 and 25 at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds Arena in Oklahoma City. Wrestling will begin at 10:30 a.m Friday.