East Central Fighting Cardinals
Tulsa, OK 74133
Record: 3-7 | Unranked
|vs Nathan Hale||L||35-36|
|vs Tulsa Memorial||W||60-14|
|@ Will Rogers||W||6-14|
| Ben Johnson
Booker T. Washington’s head-coaching vacancy didn’t last long. The Tulsa World reported that Brad Calip would be vacating his post as Hornets head coach for an assistant coaching job at Owasso on Sunday.
On Monday, Tulsa Public Schools is expected to formally announce Jonathan Brown as the Hornets new head coach at Booker T. Washington, according to multiple sources. Brown will be elevated from his current defensive coordinator role.
Calip leaves after going 32-15 during a four-year run as head coach. During that time, Booker T. Washington won the 2017 Class 6AIi state championship.
Brown is a former Booker T. Washington standout who graduated in 1994. He played college football at Tennessee and spent time during his professional career in both the NFL and Canadian Football League.
| Ben Johnson
Brent Marley worked tirelessly to circulate Andrew Crow’s game film. Rejoice Christian’s head coach wanted Crow, his star running back and defensive back, to receive the attention he was due.
It finally paid off Wednesday.
Crow’s accomplishments landed in the lap of Drew Hill, director of player personnel at the University of Oklahoma. From there, it didn’t take much time for OU to extend an invitation Crow’s way.
Now Crow will head to Norman in the fall, tweeting his commitment to the Sooners on Wednesday.
“After countless phone calls from several people, mainly Coach Marley, I was able to get my film, state and accomplishments in front of Coach Hill and the staff at OU,” Crow told Skordle. “(Hill) contacted me after, and we went from there.”
Crow will serve as a walk-on for the Sooners, but it’s the goal Crow had in place all throughout his senior year at the small private school in Owasso.
“Playing at OU has always been a dream of mine,” said Crow, who rushed for 2,620 yards and 48 touchdowns his senior year. “I can’t put into words how blessed I am to be able to play at such an amazing program, and I think I’ll be able to show my skill set and make an impression when the opportunity comes.”
All of it is pretty remarkable, considering a harrowing night Crow endured in November. During the week leading up to Rejoice Christian’s Class A semifinal matchup with Christian Heritage, Crow was in a car accident that left his vehicle totaled.
Crow was able to play, but the soreness was palpable throughout the entire game against the Crusaders.
“The car wreck was very traumatic, and I still can’t believe I walked away from the crash unharmed that night,” Crow said. “I just kept trusting God that if football was meant to be in my future then it would be and he provided.”
Crow will head to OU after helping the Eagles’ basketball team with the 2A state championship. But when asked to quantify where the OU commitment ranks, Crow said it stands in a category by itself.
“It’s hard to compare this one,” he said. “My teammates and coaches were always a huge reason for my high school awards. This is an amazing accomplishment, for sure, so I feel like it’s the cherry on top to finish out my amazing high school career.”
| Ben Johnson
No introduction needed. Here are the "expert" picks for state tournaments taking place this weekend. (Oh, and listen to the podcast while you're at it!)
Ben Johnson - Edmond Memorial: There are so many players to love in this field -- Putnam City West’s Rondel Walker, Sapulpa’s Camryn Dennis, Putnam City North’s Micah Thomas, Booker T. Washington’s Bryce Thompson and so many more. But Shane Cowherd is bringing a team with talent across the board. There’s a reason the coaches in the state have the Bulldogs as the top-ranked team, so I’ll side with Cowherd and Co. over Booker T. Washington in the finals.
Michael Swisher - Edmond Memorial: The Bulldogs snuck in after losing to Midwest City and squeaking by rival Santa Fe. They’ll play better this week and bring the trophy down south.
Whitt Carter - Booker T Washington: This will be a fantastic tournament filled with teams that can win it. But I’ll take the Hornets, as they have the experience in big games and are hungry for a title. They had to watch Memorial win two in a row in Class 5A and this year their get one of their own. Another side note, BTW’s Seth Hurd is my favorite and the most underappreciated player in the state.
Ben - PC West: Reckless abandon is what the Patrios will play with this weekend, just like they’ve done all year. Not a ton of big-time scorers for PC West, but last year’s runner-up will hoist the gold ball this year.
Michael - Putnam City West: No. 1 in Oklahoma. Nationally-ranked. Haven’t lost to a team from Oklahoma. Won’t this weekend, either.
Whitt - Putnam City West: They were right there last year and had their title taken in the waning seconds by Owasso. All they’ve done this year is go 23-1 with a loss to Skyline, TX and dominate the teams inside the state of Oklahoma. Their relentless style of play and approach will be the difference, as they finish on Saturday this time and cut down the nets.
Ben - Memorial: Boone twins. It’s that simple. The Chargers have been a dynamo in 5A with two straight titles and now going for a third. Northwest Classen is good, but can Davion Warden and Co. make it to the title game and then take down the Chargers? I don’t see it.
Michael - Memorial: Lenny Hatchett has Del City playing so well, but I can’t pick against Memorial. Neither should you.
Whitt - Memorial: Let’s all be honest, this is the easiest pick from any of the classes. Bobby Allison and gang are just on another level. The Boone twins will, once again, wow the crowds at the Mabee Center with their athleticism and impact on both ends of the floor. The Chargers get another one, sending Kalib and Keylan out with a bang.
Ben - Piedmont: Per usual, the 5A girls field is pretty much anyone’s for the taking. Rogers is dangerous, but then so is El Reno with Ashlyn Evans-Thompson leading the charge. Coweta is young but talented, and East Central is always a threat. But for this year, I’ll go with the Wildcats, led by Delanie Crawford (14.8 points a game) and Maci Attalla (13.6).
Michael - Piedmont: El Reno beating Ardmore at area put the bracket in a funk as it appears loaded at the bottom. Coach Carr’s team will emerge from that and then claim gold on Saturday.
Whitt - Ardmore: They suffered a surprising and tough loss to El Reno at the area tournament last week, but I think that may work to the Lady Tigers advantage by waking them up. This team rolled through the first part of the season, losing their first game in late January. Ardmore cuts down the nets and gets its’ third gold ball.
Ben - Kingfisher: Some unbelievable talent in this field -- Broken Bow’s Josh Jones (20.4 points per game), Central’s B.J. Jefferson (16), Elgin’s Conner Slater (16.3), Kingfisher’s Trey Green (17) and Heritage Hall’s Trey Alexander (24.8). And what’s scary is a lot of these teams will return a lot of talent next season. But for now, I’m zeroing in on a Kingfisher-Heritage Hall title game for a second straight year. This time the gold ball goes to Jett Sternberger, Matt Stone, Bijan Cortes and Co.
Michael - Kingfisher: I live in Kingfisher. I have to pay my bills. I have to pick the Yellowjacket. Oh, and they’re really, really good. And hungry. If they get by dangerous Elgin in the quarters, look out.
Whitt - Kingfisher: The class that everyone is excited for will take center stage at the Fairgrounds for all three days. Heritage Hall beat the Yellowjackets in the title game last year and are 26-0 this year. But the star-studded Kingfisher remembers that loss last March and will want revenge. They get it and send out their seniors with a second gold ball.
Ben - Anadarko: Top half of the bracket -- Holland Hall, Muldrow, Elgin and Classen SAS -- is STACKED. Again, STACKED. That’s part of the reason I went with Anadarko. The Warriors still have their work cut out for them, but I’m rolling the dice with Kaylee Borden (12 points a game), Averi Zinn and the rest of the Anadarko team to win its third gold ball.
Michael - Muldrow: Coaches tell me Classen SAS is as talented as they’ve seen in 4A in a while. And they’re young as they start three freshmen, a sophomore and a junior. That said, I’m going with Muldrow. Taylen Collins can match up with Littlepage-Buggs and Hannah Boyett can handle the pressure. And that’s just a semifinal. Don’t overlook Anadarko, either (it appears I am).
Whitt - Anadarko: A fairly wide open class, there are a handful of teams I could see winning it. I’ll go with the tradition-rich Anadarko, who beat one of the favorites, Classen, last Friday in the area finals. When the Lady Warriors get the press up and running, you better handle the pressure or things can unravel quickly.
Ben - Millwood: Kingston’s Jacob Germany is as good as it gets in this field, but I’ll side with the athleticism of the Falcons here. Give me Justin Wilson and Isaiah Williams and the rest of the Falcons.
Michael - Here’s hoping for a Kingston-Millwood final (all apologies to you other six). I’ve got personal ties to Millwood, so the fan in me is pulling for the Falcons all the way. The business side in me says Kingston won’t be denied.
Whitt - Millwood: I’ll take the Falcons to win the gold ball here. Several really good teams that you can pick here, including Kingston or Sequoyah on the other side. Ultimately, I think Millwood gets the winner of that eventual semifinal and beats them. Millwood has not lost inside the class this year and that won’t change this weekend.
Ben - Christian Heritage: Up from 2A, the Crusaders are still loaded. Tahlequah Sequoyah is probably the favorite, but I’ll side with Olivia Curtis and Rylee Langerman.
Michael - Sequoyah-Tahlequah: CHA has won the last two 2A crowns and is a sleeper, but this isn’t 2A and the Lady Crusaders aren’t as deep as they have been. Larry Callison rides into the sunset with another state championship.
Whitt - Christian Heritage: Another class with some big time teams, but I’ll take CHA to win another title as it took the jump up a class this season. They know how to win and ultimately get past Sequoyah in what would be an awesome semifinal. Side note, I am really picking my alma mater, the Sulphur Lady Bulldogs - in Toby Todd we trust.
Ben - Hennessey: Total guess here, so I’m siding with Hennessey, who -- along with Hooker -- has only lost twice this season.
Michael - Hooker: This is the most wide-open bracket in OKC, in my opinion. Any number of teams can win…and also get beat Thursday. Hooker is one of them.
Whitt - Dale: They are coming off a big win over Hooker last week to punch their ticket to the state tourney. They have played well inside the class this year, going 12-2, only losing to Cashion a month ago and Rock Creek back in January.
Ben - Dale: I’m programmed to believe that Dale wins everything when its in any state tournament field. Pirates win again.
Michael - Howe: No Cashion and no CHA this year, which have been Howe’s kryptonite the last three years. Dale is in the way, but Jalei Oglesby caps her stellar career with the gold ball.
Whitt - Latta: I’ll go with what many would consider a sleeper pick here, but give me the Lady Panthers. They are a long team and present a bunch of problems defensively. They will have to get past top-ranked Dale in the semis and it would be the rubbermatch between the two.
| Ben Johnson
Made a big podcast addition this week. Ben & Swisher are joined by the Oklahoman's Jacob Unruh.
Jacob & Swisher recap the highlights and the championship moments from the Class A & Class B state tournaments.
Then the guys break down the state tournaments from 2A through 6A. And of course, PREDICTIONS! (Most sure to go wrong, in Ben's case).
And as always, thanks for listening!
| Ben Johnson
State tournament wrestling is back. It's the weekend that every high school wrestler circles on the calendar. Now time to make predictions for every single weight class inside Jim Norick Arena.
Brackets posted here
106: Cruz Aguilar (Edmond Memorial): Spent his freshman season at Heritage Hall, where he finished second at 106 in 2017. Almost went with Owasso’s Jared Campbell or Sand Springs’ Brendon Wiseley, but opted for a Bulldog to win a title for the first time since Johny Hendricks in 2002.
113: Tucker Owens (Mustang): Finished second as a freshman last season at 113. A title for Owens would be the first for the Broncos since 2005 -- and only the second since 1999.
120: Zach Blankenship (Bixby): Has burst onto the scene as a freshman for the Spartans this season. Blankenship’s only loss of the season was to Sand Springs’ Seth Jones, when Bixby bumped Blankenship up a weight class for a regular-season dual. Blankenship is 27-0 at 120 pounds this season, including a dominant run through last week’s regional in Jenks. Nic Roller (220 pounds in 2016) won Bixby’s last state championship, but before him was Shane Roller in 1998.
126: Carter Young (Stillwater): Upended Yukon’s Studd Morris for the 106 crown in 6A last season. But he did it at Sand Springs. Now at 126, Young has potential obstacles in his way, like Broken Arrow’s Blazik Perez (27-9) and Bartlesville’s Laif Jones (last year’s 6A champion at 120). Should mention, Stillwater also has gone two years without a state champion. Young could bring that to a halt.
132: Reece Witcraft (Broken Arrow): Went from second at 126 with Coweta in 2017 to state champion last year with Broken Arrow at 126. Witcraft, ranked fifth in the nation on InterMat, pinned Choctaw’s Colt Newton in the finals last year, and this year it could be a semifinals matchup. The two didn’t clash at dual state, so a semifinal showdown would be the first in a year. The 132 field is loaded, for sure. Edmond Memorial’s Jackson Oplotnik (20-5), Mustang’s Keegan Luton (33-10) and Owasso’s Zeke Washington (34-4 and 6A’s runner-up at 120 last season) all share space on the top half of the bracket. Witcraft has been hobbled by a bum ankle, but he beat Washington 7-2 in the regional finals so there’s little doubt he’ll be ready to go in Oklahoma City.
138: Peter Rolle (Edmond Memorial): There was some personal anguish in making a selection here. So many qualified wrestlers in this field that it was hard to pick who might finish above the fray. Ultimately, sided with Rolle, because why not? The Edmond Memorial senior is 30-5, and he’s got Deer Creek’s Parker Wright (32-8) and Broken Arrow’s Blake Gonzalez (21-7) on his side of the bracket. Then there’s Mustang’s Cameron Picklo (41-3) and Ponca City’s Spencer Schrickram (39-2) on the bottom half of the bracket. This weight will be a gauntlet to get through.
145: Gabe Johnson (Choctaw): Went from not placing as a freshman at 106 in 2017 to a runner-up spot at 132 last season for the Yellowjackets. Lost in last year’s finals to Ponca City’s Dylan Schickram, 7-3. And another tough field awaits Johnson, including Edmond North’s Jaxon Randall (24-11) on Johnson’s half of the bracket. Then there’s Deer Creek’s Micah Lugafet (21-3), Enid’s Chance Davis (21-5) and Ja’len Hernandez (35-5) in the bottom half of the bracket. Would be Choctaw’s first championship at 145 since Jaryn Curry in 2016.
152: Drake Vannoy (Jenks): This one was tough to pick. Sand Springs’ Scott Patton beat Vannoy for last week’s regional crown, but Vannoy was last year’s champion at 152. A championship for Vannoy would be Jenks’ first back-to-back champion since Justin DeAngelis won in 2008 through 2010.
160: Tate Picklo (Mustang): Went 35-4 as a freshman en route to a second-place showing at 145 last year in 6A. Now Picklo is 40-0 and ranked 11th in the country at 160. Putnam City’s Rene Martinez might be Picklo’s biggest challenge in the field, and Picklo beat Martinez in an 18-6 major decision to win last week’s regional crown.
170: Zane Coleman (Choctaw): Ranked sixth in the nation and looking to join the four-timers club. After two suspenseful championships during his freshman and sophomore years, Coleman cruised to last year’s title at 170 by pinning Broken Arrow’s Bryce Mattioda in the first period. Coleman, an Arizona State signee, enters his final state tournament with a record of 145-8 -- and only two losses in the last two seasons. Coleman’s only loss this year was in the 170 finals of the Geary Tournament, when he lost to Blair Academy’s Peyton Craft.
182: JT Stambeck (Norman North): Narrowly missed out on the 170 finals last season after enduring a 3-2 loss to Mattioda. Enters this year’s state tournament at 29-1. Would be the Timberwolves’ first state champion since Levi Berry (160) in 2013.
195: Carson Savage (Deer Creek): Entered last year’s state tournament as the No. 4 seed out of the West at 182. This season, Savage is 35-2 and the top seed from out west. He’ll have to contend with a deep field, though. Broken Arrow’s Gavin Potter (last year’s champion at 195), Sand Springs’ Kaden Glass (31-9), Union’s Elijah Tomlin (36-7) and Mustang’s Judson Rowland are all contenders. Took Savage over Potter after Savage picked up a 9-2 win over Potter at dual state a couple of weeks ago.
220: Zach Marcheselli (Broken Arrow): Another wrestler in 6A aiming to be a member of the four-timers club. Marcheselli, ranked ninth in the country, has been on cruise control for most of the season. After guiding the Tigers to their first football championship, Marcheselli, a Texas Christian University signee for football, could add to his collection of hardware in a 220 field that could end up seeing a rematch of the east regional last weekend. Marcheselli knocked off Edmond North’s Jake McCoy 8-2 for the regional crown, and both appear to be on a collision course for the finals in Oklahoma City.
285: Noah Cortes (Broken Arrow): Jenks’ Caleb Orr beat Cortes for the regional crown last week, but it was a 3-2 decision in an ultimate tiebreaker. This could go any direction, including Choctaw’s Marquan Journey (33-6) and Yukon’s Ashton Aldridge (32-7) vying for the title. Last year, Cortes didn’t even make it out of the pigtail round of the state tournament.
Brackets posted here
106: Cameron Steed (Collinsville): Should come as no surprise that Collinsville has yet more freshmen contending for championships at the lower weights. This year it’s Steed and Jordan Williams (below) as favorites in their respective fields. Steed tech-falled Coweta’s Brody Gee, 16-1, in the regional finals and don’t see any reason to think he won’t do the same to anyone he comes across in Oklahoma City.
113: Jordan Williams (Collinsville): Previously ranked sixth in the nation at 106 pounds, Williams has been unbeatable at both 106 and 113 this season. And this is a weight Collinsville has controlled for several years in recent memory with four championships since 2013 -- Davion Jeffries (2013), Christian Moody (2014), Caleb Tanner (2017) and Rocky Stephens (2018).
120: Rocky Stephens (Collinsville): Turned a third-place finish as a freshman into a state championship last year at 113 pounds. Could be stream-rolling straight ahead to a solid showdown in the finals between Stephens and Carl Albert’s Jayston Cato (33-2).
126: Josh Taylor (Skiatook): Surprising turn of events at the east regional last week with Collinsville freshman Jordan Cullors knocking off Taylor, 2-1. But that loss for Taylor puts him on the top half of the bracket, and he avoids Tahlequah’s Jakob Lyons, who has routinely wrestled Taylor tough these past two seasons. Don’t be surprised if it’s a Taylor-Cullors rematch -- but this time for a state championship.
132: Caleb Tanner (Collinsville): Last year’s champ at 126, Tanner could put himself in position for a special senior year if he wins this year’s state championship at 132. It would be Tanner’s third state championship, and he would be a season away from joining Gary Wayne Harding and Will Steltzlen -- who both became four-time state champions at the 2014 5A state tournament.
138: Kobi Gomez (Altus): Someone other than a Collinsville wrestler will win a state championship in Oklahoma City this weekend. It just won’t feel much like it through the first handful of weights. Collinsville’s Connor Henson certainly has a shot at claiming the 138 crown, but I’m going with the reigning state champion here to win his second title. Could pave the way for two more special years for Gomez.
145: Gage Hight (Glenpool): It’s now or never for Hight. He’s knocked on the doorstep twice, but in back-to-back state tournaments he’s had to settle for second place. Last year, Coweta’s Ricky Turner who upended Hight, 3-2, in the finals after Hight had won the reginal matchup between the two. Durant’s Cody Hicks (32-3) and El Reno’s Jacob Catagas (22-3) are lurking, but surely it’s going to be Hight’s year.
152: Cougar Anderson (Skiatook): If the Bulldogs are going to challenge Collinsville for the team title, Anderson winning at 152 could be key. Anderson, a sophomore, is 35-0, and he’s on the same side of the bracket as El Reno’s Cole Thomas (28-3). Anderson was dominant last year en route to his first title, and expect him to be ready to roll in Oklahoma City.
160: Hunter Jump (Duncan): After second-place finishes as a freshman and sophomore at Lawton MacArthur, Jump picked up a title for the Highlanders last season at 160, and he did so in convincing fashion. Now at Duncan, Jump will enter a stout field that includes Skiatook’s Richie Lee (37-1) and El Reno’s Kord LaFoe (24-5). A title for Jump would be Duncan’s first since 2011 (Markwae Sanders and Justin Hughes).
170: Christian Maldonado (Lawton Mac): This is a wide open field. Maldonado was second to Coweta’s Talon Borror last season, and Maldonado is a week removed from knocking off Piedmont’s Braden Culp, 7-4. But Culp is more than capable to make a run at a championship. Same goes for Skiatook’s Hunter Hall. This is about as wide open as it gets.
182: Talon Borror (Coweta): In 2016, Lawton MacArthur’s Nick Mahan beat Borror in the 160 quarterfinals. Since then, Borror hasn’t lost inside Norick Arena. Borror stormed to titles in 2017 and 2018. He’s 35-2 and looking for a third title to cap his high school career. Standing in his way could be Lawton Ike’s Muhammad A Al Zeragi (23-1) and Piedmont’s Austin Cooley (28-2).
195: Cabe Dickerson (Altus): It was Piedmont’s Will Heindselman that knocked off Dickerson, 8-7, in an ultimate tiebreaker in last year’s state finals. It was a crushing end to Dickerson’s sophomore season, and then he followed it up with an elbow injury that’s limited him to 12 matches this season. But if Dickerson is a full strength, the 195 crown should be his to lose.
220: Korbin McLaughlin (Skiatook): This is could make things interesting late into the state tournament. If Skiatook is coming down to the wire against Collinsville or Piedmont for the team crown, the Bulldogs will need McLaughlin to pick up as many points as possible. McLaughlin has posted two fourth-place finishes, but if he captures a championship it could propel Skiatook to a title.
285: Josh Heindselman (Piedmont): It was a Heindselman party at last year’s state tournament with Josh (220) and Will (195) both capturing gold. Now Josh will aim for Piedmont’s second-ever title at heavyweight, despite being possibly the smallest guy in the field. Lawton Mac’s Montana Phillips is a two-time state champion, and he’ll be out for some revenge after getting pinned at 2:15 by Heindselman at last week’s regional tournament.
Brackets posted here
106: Eli Griffin (Cascia Hall): Ranked 15th in the country, Griffin is aiming for his second championship in as many years. In order for the sophomore to do so, he’ll have to navigate a field that looks a lot like it did in 2018. Returning as qualifiers at 106 are Tuttle’s Ashton Grounds (35-8) and Cushing’s Luke Ahrberg (31-3) -- and they share space in the top half of the bracket. One way or another, the finals in 106 will be extremely entertaining.
113: Garrett Steidley (Tuttle): After grabbing his first title as a sophomore last season, Steidley is a heavy favorite at 113. Steidley rolled through regionals last week, but he enters a field with some solid contenders from the east -- Sallisaw’s Kaleb Harris (25-6) and Mannford’s Wade Landrum (28-8).
120: Reese Davis (Tuttle): With some big wins under his belt as a freshman, perhaps none were bigger than his rally at dual state against Wagoner in the finals to keep the Tigers’ unbeaten streak intact throughout the entire weekend. That win was against Wagoner’s Braden Drake, and Davis breezed past Harrah’s Breaden Williams in the regional semifinals. Then he did the same against Heritage Hall’s Cole Allen in the regional finals. Davis could be hitting his stride at the right time as a freshman.
126: Thaddeus Long (McLain): This time there’s no Ryder Ramsey in Long’s way. Long was second to Ramsey at 126 last season, and before that he finished third at 106 for Union in 2017. If Long captures a title for the Titans, it would be the school’s first since Greg Hawkins won at 178 in 1977.
132: Ryder Ramsey (Tuttle): Picking up his first title as a sophomore last season, Ramsey entered the state tournament 36-9. Now he heads to Oklahoma City at 43-3 and another key cog in Tuttle’s deep lineup.
138: Val Park (Heritage Hall): Since 2012, the Chargers have produced 17 state champions, including Kaden Gfeller’s four-year run from 2014 to 2017. And while he might not join the four-timers club, Val Park has been a staple of consistency for Heritage Hall at the lower weights since teaming with Gfeller during his senior season in 2017. Park will be after his third title in as many years, winning previously at 113 (2017) and 132 (last season).
145: Brady DeArmond (Tuttle): Despite Tuttle being so utterly dominant across the board in 4A for quite some time now, last season’s state tournament felt a little off with Tuttle only claiming three state titles. And DeArmond was one that settled for third place after losing to Heritage Hall’s Carson West in the 145 semifinals. DeArmond enters a field that could pose some challenges, including Fort Gibson’s Cade Waltman, but DeArmond appears poised to snare his first title during his junior season.
152: Luke Surber (Tuttle): Elgin’s Jacob Butler dashed any hopes that Surber had of becoming a four-time state champion with a sudden victory win against Surber in last year’s 138 finals. Since then, Surber has been nearly unbeatable on the mat for the Tigers, including tournament titles at the MidCals in Gilroy, California, and an individual championship at the Geary Tournament in January. There are some quality wrestlers at 152 -- Cache’s Duncan Shafer (30-2), Bristow’s Anthony Bigpond (20-5), Catoosa’s Abel Perez (41-6) -- but good luck trying to knock off Surber this year.
160: Jacob Ahrberg (Cushing): It was a fourth-place finish for Ahrberg last year at 145, a year after not placing at 126. Now Ahrberg arrives in Oklahoma City at 23-0, fresh off a dominant run at the east regional in Catoosa. Madill’s Colt Crowson (26-5) could pose a significant threat to Ahrberg in the bottom half of the bracket, and then there’s Tuttle freshman Harley Andrews lurking in the top half. Also, a little surprising but a Cushing wrestler hasn’t won a title since 2014 (Gage Stallworth).
170: Dustin Plott (Tuttle): There might not be a better wrestler in the state right now than Plott, ranked third nationally and who has gone 88-1 over the course of his sophomore season and his current junior campaign. The lone loss was a 6-5 decision to Blair Academy’s Julian Ramirez in the Geary Tournament finals this January. Plott went fall-fall-major decision to win last year’s title at 160, so don’t be surprised this year with tech fall-fall-fall (or something impressive like that).
182: Gage Hockett (Cushing): There’s been a natural progression each year Hockett has been in the state tournament. As a freshman, he was third at 160 in 2017, and last season he finished second with a loss to Plott in the 160 finals in 4A. This season he returns to Norick Arena at 29-0 after taking down Cleveland’s Tyler Johnson (18-8) with an 8-5 decision in the regional finals. The winner between Anadarko’s John Mark Holton (29-6) and Oologah’s Landon Brown (30-6) could pose a threat to Hockett in the semifinals on Friday, though.
195: Carson Berryhill (Tuttle): A state champion as a sophomore in 2017, Berryhill lost to Heritage Hall’s Colton Denney in the 170 finals last season. But Berryhill bounced back in the fall by quarterbacking the Tigers to the 4A title, and now he sports a 37-1 mark (only loss to Mustang’s Judson Rowland at the Geary Tournament), heading into the state tournament. Berryhill has even worked his way up to 11th in the nation at 195. In Berryhill’s crosshairs in Oklahoma City could possibly be Poteau’s Nate Ulmer (32-1) and Cushing Eriq Simpson (34-2).
220: Luke Fortney (Bristow): Now a junior, the best Fortney has done at the state tournament was fourth at 195 last season. Now he’s 25-0 and coming off a solid weekend at regionals. He’s steamrolled his way to titles at the Chuck West Invitational and the Cushing tournament, and if Fortney can with a title he’d be Bristow’s first since 2007 (Kale Biggs at 160).
285: Griffon Williams (Madill): Guaranteed to not have a Tuttle winner here. It’s the one weight the Tigers didn’t qualify at. It’s a pretty balanced field that includes Wagoner’s Jaydn Marshall (31-12), Bristow’s Steven Marlow (23-7) and Blanchard’s Ryder Wiese (31-6). But this could be the year Madill wins its first individual title since 2003, when Brent Parkey picked up his third title in as many years.
Brackets posted here
106: Gabe Valencia (Perry): Finished fourth last year in his first crack at the state tournament. Now a junior, Valencia drops down a weight class and enters the final weekend at 44-6. At dual state, Valencia beat Marlow’s Case Rich, but the Outlaws will send Tyler Lawson (38-6) into the mix for a possible showdown against Valencia in the finals.
113: Ryan Smith (Perry): There’s a lot of quality depth at this weight, but none more superlative than Smith (43-2), last year’s champion at 106. Bridge Creek’s Kaden Smith (37-8) and Locust Grove’s Hunter Fitzpatrick (24-5) could make for tough semifinals draws, but Smith could be on a collusion course with Walters’ Remington White, the program’s only wrestler and a 2017 state champion. White to Plainview’s Jaxson Roney in the 113 finals, and it could be Smith standing in the way of only the second wrestling championship at Walters.
120: Alex Prince (Vinita): It was Perry’s Logan Smith -- the weight’s top seed from the east -- who pinned Prince in the final two seconds of their semifinal class at Perry last week. That leaves Prince (40-7) with a tough draw of Hinton’s Brian Pastrana (27-3) in the quarterfinals and possibly Smith (24-11) in the semifinals. If he advances beyond that, Checotah’s Luke Collett (28-6) or Newkirk’s Dayton Cary could be waiting in the finals. That’s quite a load for Prince in his junior season.
126: Kolton Smith (Bridge Creek): Two years in a row, Smith has watched while a Perry wrestler stood atop the podium. In 2017, Smith lost 7-4 to Perry’s Cale Betchan at 120, and last season Smith was on the wrong end of a 4-2 decision against Perry’s Cade Nicholas. And now, Smith enters as the top seed from the west after beating Marlow’s Anthony Orum (31-4) in the west finals. If a Bridge Creek wrestler wins a title this season, it would be the school’s first.
132: Dylan Avery (Perry): Now a junior, Perry will be after his second title in as many years. The field is deep at 132, though, with the likes of Sulphur’s Kolbe Madron (36-8), Marlow’s Jordan Taylor (42-5), Pawnee’s Wesley Scott (35-2) and Morris’ Kolby Adams (31-6).
138: Price Perrier (Pawhuska): Mike Perrier won a state championship at 136 in 1990. That’s Price’s father. Dax Perrior won a state championship at 160 in 2010. That’s Price’s brother. Price could be carrying on a family legacy with a title. But the field is a deep one. Plenty of candidates could snag the 138 crown -- Perkins-Tryon’s Ayron Lawson (30-7), Marlow’s Kobey Kizarr (43-4), Kingfisher’s Stone Snodgrass (29-8) and Salina’s Austin Wilkins (20-8).
145: Kolby DePron (Bridge Creek): Like his teammate, Kolton Smtih, DePron watched as a Perry wrestler celebrated a championship last year. As a freshman, DePron logged a second-place showing at 132. Now he’s the favorite at 145, despite plenty of qualified candidates -- Morris’ Ryan Allred (30-7), Geary’s Landon Holt (31-5) and Salina’s Brier Smith (46-3).
152: Hadyn Redus (Perry): A title would be Redus’ second in as many years. Redus pinned Little Axe’s Alec McDoulett in the third period of last year’s 138 finals, and sure enough, McDoulett is back in the same state tournament field as Redus again. Mangum’s Daelin Stacy (24-7), Pawnee’s Blake Skidgel and Comanche’s Gage Miller (33-5) all pose serious threats, too.
160: Cade Shrosphire (Checotah): The only state champion in the history of Checotah Public Schools will go for his second straight title as a senior now. This time the field is a tad deeper. Barnsdall’s Joe Smith (31-3) is on the top half of the bracket with Shrosphire, and Marlow’s Tyler Lavey (38-3) occupies the bottom half. And Shrosphire narrowly edged past Lavey in the regional finals, 3-2.
170: Bryce Carter (Sperry): The returning champion at this spot is Comanche’s Cade Cook (35-4), and he’s back as the top seed out of the west for his junior year. He could pair up with Jay’s Zach Coy (46-1) in the semifinals, and that could end up being a coin toss -- which is basically was when Cook beat Coy, 2-1, in last year’s quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Carter is up from 160 at this time last year, and he enters the state field at 33-2. And much like Tuttle’s Carson Berryhill, he’s going for the one-two punch of football-and-wrestling championships. And never count out Perry’s Jace Burdick (34-13), who finished second to Cook in last year’s 170 finals.
182: River Simon (Vian): Only two wrestlers have ever won state championships at Vian, and one just so happens to be Simon (2017 at 170; the other is Landon Decker in 2012). Simon, an Army signee, missed last year’s state tournament due to various injuries, and he hasn’t wrestled a full schedule to this point (only 22-1). But when he’s on the mat, he’s tough to beat. Sulphur’s Trey Kiser (36-7) is on the bottom half of the bracket, and he gets Vinita’s Zach Wattenbarger (43-3) in the quarterfinals. Then there’s Perry’s Kohl Owen (37-10), last year’s champion at 182.
195: Drake Barbee (Blackwell): What a story Barbee is. Endured a horrifying car accident two years ago, and now he’s back in the state tournament field as the top seed from the east. Barbee is 34-4 and he finished second at 182 at his last state tournament in 2017 -- when he wrestled for Stilwell. Already signed to wrestle at Arkansas-Little Rock in college, Barbee motored through the regional field, including a win by fall over Tonkawa’s Simeon Shepherd in the third period. The 195 field also features Little Axe’s Caeden Guthary (30-5), Hinton’s Denver Dahlenburg (29-3) and Perry’s Brandon Speikers (44-8).
220: Konner Doucet (Comanche): Already halfway to the four-timers club, Doucet, for the first time, enters the state tournament unbeaten in a season. He is 37-0 cruised through the regional tournament last weekend. Last year, he knocked off Sperry’s A.J. McEntire in the finals, 4-2, and as a freshman he was pegged as the 195 champion when Sulphur’s Dan Baker was disqualified in a controversial ending in extra time. Now Doucet is ranked sixth nationally at 220. Some of the others at 220 include Vinita’s Brodie Miller (39-6), Vian’s Cruz Partain (34-2) and Berryhill’s Nico Lopez.
285: Cooper Webb (Davis): Looking for his second straight title, Webb is 29-1 this season. He’ll have his work cut out for him against the likes of Geary’s Chase Merkey (33-3), Perry’s Teaguan Wilson (30-6) and Locust Grove’s Dalton Shatto (26-1). In fact, it was Webb who beat Shatto, 9-5, in last year’s heavyweight finals. Fun fact: Cooper’s brother, Conner Webb, won three titles for Davis from 2015 to 2017, and Cooper could still tie him with a championship this year and next.
**Photos courtesy of Austin Bernard/Owrestle.com
Have your own predictions or have feedback? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
| Ben Johnson
Union Public Schools is beginning the 2020-2021 school year with some significant news. The ninth-largest school district in Oklahoma, per overall enrollment, is slated to have discussions about removing the Redskins nickname it has had for decades.
The school made the announcement Monday -- six days into the new academic year -- that it will begin discussions into a possible new nickname on July 13 at the next district's school board meeting.
The district has addressed the nickname before, deciding to keep the current nickname back in the 2002-2003 school year.
The news comes on the heels of the Washington franchise in the NFL opting to consider a name change, after advertisers started to pull their funding until a new nickname was agreed upon.
In Oklahoma, three other school districts use the same nickname: Kingston, McLoud and Rush Springs.
Stay tuned for more updates.
| Michael Swisher
The Cashion and Perry boys’ basketball teams entered the 2020 playoffs in slightly different positions.
Cashion had just endured “hell week” almost unscathed. The Wildcats were tested mightily during the stretch and entered the playoffs with a sterling record and ranked second in Class 2A.
They were a definite favorite to reach the state tournament.
As for Perry? The Maroons survived their own mid- to late-season swoon to hit the playoffs on a roll.
However, they finished the regular season out of the top-eight in Class 3A, making their road to state - on paper, anyway - more challenging.
The Maroons had no trouble with Chandler in a 30-point district win, then held off a stubborn Prague squad in the regional opener.
The first big roadblock was No. 6 Community Christian in the regional championship on the Royals’ home court. The Royals were one of two top-eight teams that figured to stand between Perry and a spot in the state tournament.
Down big at halftime, Perry came back to win 54-47.
For those who didn’t know, now they did. Perry was a team with which to be reckoned.
Hight: We beat them at their place after being down 11 at halftime. I think that win gave us a lot of confidence.
Cashion wasn’t overly-inspired in its 14-point district win against Rush Springs, a team that pulled off the upset the night before.
That kept the Wildcats in the winner’s bracket for the regional opener.
For most teams sitting at No. 2 in the rankings, winning that Thursday game of a regional is an expectation more than an accomplishment.
That wasn’t necessarily the case in Cashion. Not since the 1996-97 season had the Wildcats advanced past the regional and into the area tournament.
That’s right. Twenty-three years.
A win in the Thursday winner’s bracket game would guarantee a spot in the area tournament and break that long streak. So, for Cashion, there was added pressure against Hobart.
And perhaps that pressure is why Cashion struggled early as Hobart led throughout the first quarter. However, the final three quarters belonged to Cashion in a 58-29 victory.
Hardaway: I think relief is a perfect word. I think for the coaches, more than the players, it was a big relief. I don't think the kids ever really thought about it more as just another team in front of them, but we as coaches knew how important that game was for us and our program to finally end the 20-plus year hex of the boys not making it to area. We had lost the previous three years on Thursday night, each time to really good teams: Carnegie, Regent Prep and Wewoka. We battled them tooth and nail, but just weren't good enough, and then had a really tough opponent waiting for us the next day, so to win that game was really big and really shouldn't be forgotten or taken for granted.
The Wildcats were headed to area. However, the regional championship game against No. 19 Mangum would decide if they were going into the area title game or into the consolation bracket. Mangum proved more than a formidable foe as it never backed down from Cashion and even led in the waning moments of the game. Somehow - like those brutal battles against Hennessey and Dale - Cashion emerged with a 63-61 victory.
Hardaway: They’re such a tough matchup for us, but, somehow, we just found a way to win.
The “upset” victory over Community Christian put Perry into the area championship game - and one win from state - for the second straight year. Adding to the deja vu was the fact the Maroons would be playing Millwood, the very team that blew them out in last year’s area championship.
This year, Millwood entered the game ranked No. 1.
Hight: Losing to Millwood the year before, I think, benefited us more than them. They remember beating us by 20; my guys also remembered that, but I think we felt like we could have played better and this time we didn’t look intimidated or scared of the moment. I felt really confident going into the game, probably more than I ever have in a big game. It wasn’t because I knew we would win, but just the fact I felt like we were playing to our capabilities and had a good week of preparation.
Cashion, meanwhile, was literally in uncharted territory considering the area tournament drought. The Wildcats were set to face No. 6 Minco for the area title at the Pioneer Cellular Event Center at SWOSU. Minco had reached the state semifinals the year before.
Much like the “hell week” and Mangum games, this was a battle. This one, however, didn’t see Cashion make the plays or catch the breaks near the end. Minco emerged 56-51 to win the area championship and advance to state.
Hardaway: We lost to a team almost our equals, one with similar personnel makeup, approach, etc, and they had just played a little better than us and they deserved to win. Our free throw struggles finally may have cost us and I was issued a technical foul with 2:11 left in the quarter and our team down four points while we were playing defense. Rightly or wrongly, a coach can’t get a technical foul at that point of the ballgame and I did. As I walked across the floor towards our locker room, I was afraid that maybe my ‘T’ might have cost us a chance to win the game, but as I made the turn down the hallway, my mind quickly turned to how to handle this locker room and our guys.
Hardaway had never been in this position as a coach: Lose the area championship but still have a shot to win Saturday and advance to state.
Hardaway: I have always thought about how I would and always sought advice from other coaches on how they handled the same situation. Before I entered the locker room, I had a quick meeting with my two assistant coaches to discuss the next 20-30 minutes and make sure the three of us were on the same page before talking to the team. It was going to go like this: Go in the locker room, and deal with Minco game, losing, why, how, etc. Try to get through whatever anger, sadness, frustration there was with that and then try to put it to bed as fast as possible. Once we were done, I told the team, ‘OK, we are done talking about Minco. You can be upset about it the rest of the evening and it should upset you, but by tomorrow morning, when you wake up, that’s out of your system. From that point, it has to be for us to win tomorrow and make the state tournament.
There were two surprises for Cashion: One was the fact the Wildcats were going to be playing Saturday. They expected to win Friday. The other was the opponent in the area consolation championship. Unranked Calera had just pulled off big upsets of Caddo and Mangum.
Hardaway: They were the typical tournament underdog that plays well when it matters most and was going to be bringing all the momentum in the world with them Saturday night.
While playing Calera was a surprise, what Calera did on the court wasn’t going to be one. Hardaway made sure one of his assistants scouted all the area teams and even had a former assistant taking some notes throughout the three previous area boys’ games. After the Minco discussion in the locker room, coaches provided a quick briefing on Calera. Still, Hardaway hadn’t yet seen Saturday’s opponent. After the grueling late-night game and the 90-minute bus ride home, he got to work.
Hardaway: At about 4 a.m., after watching a couple of games, I was confident we were the better team, but weird things can happen on Saturday night of area and that’s always a little scary. But I did come across the idea of running an old zone defense that we had not run at Cashion in years. Once I felt like we could defend them, I was able to go to bed.
There was another reassuring feeling for Hardaway.
Hardaway: I had a sense with our guys, that no matter what, they were not going to lose twice in the area tournament. It didn’t matter who we played.
On Saturday afternoon, the team made some final preparations before leaving once again for Weatherford.
Hardaway: We were also closely following Garber’s Class A state championship game that was being played that afternoon. They are a program that their coaches and players are good friends of ours. We beat them in their tournament earlier in the season, but we were openly rooting for them as they won their state championship game (against Arapaho-Butler) in double-OT. As we watched them, we were probably all subconsciously thinking that could be us next week. If they could do it, so could we!
But first, Calera.
Hardaway: I could tell our guys were calm and confident and I knew on the way to SWOSU we were going to win, but you still have to play the game.
The Wildcats did just that - and it was never really a game. The celebration was on early as Cashion won 61-26.
Hardaway: We played great defense throughout. We weren’t great offensively for two quarters. We couldn’t catch or make a layup for stretches for whatever reason. We won by a big margin, which was both great and odd because you just always think an area finals game would be a tight one. We celebrated on the floor and in the locker room. It was a lot of fun watching our players enjoy that experience.
One of Hardaway’s grandfathers - Fabian Cambron - frequently makes the trek to Oklahoma from Kentucky to catch his favorite coach’s big games. He was one of several family members on hand for Hardaway’s big moment.
Hardaway: I really enjoyed having my family there! Hugs and congrats from my wife and kids, my parents and my grandfather were very special. I loved watching our players celebrate with their teammates, parents, family and friends.
Nobody wanted the celebration to end. SWOSU essentially made it.
Hardaway: We were there so long, they basically shut the lights out on us, but oh well. We were going to state. It was the first time that Cashion boys had gone to state since 1996.
Perry’s area experience was every bit as meaningful, but not nearly as drawn out. Standing immediately in the Maroons’ way was top-ranked Millwood, the team that essentially embarrassed them in exactly the same spot the year before. Perry didn’t recover and lost the Saturday game as well and missed out on a trip to state.
This year, however, the Maroons were more than read. They never trailed and maintained a slim lead the entire first half.
Hight: I felt like the longer the game went along, the more the more our guys realized: “Hey, we can win this.”
The lead grew to double digits in the second half. The Maroons kept their lead despite Drake having to sit for about a five-minute stretch. Ultimately, Millwood had to start fouling. Goldberry went 11 of 13 from the line and finished with 22 points. Drake went for 23 points and 18 boards.
Hight: I don’t think I really felt like “oh man, we have this” until about 15 seconds were left and we went up six points.
Perry emerged victorious, 69-61, and was headed to the state tournament for the first time since 19-FOREVER!
Hight: It was almost hard to believe. When I came to Perry, that was one of my biggest goals. It took 11 years, so I know how hard it is to get to that point...to even give yourself a chance.
A Perry alumnus, Hight was well-versed on the difficulty of even being in a position to go to the state tournament.
Hight: My second year of coaching in 2007-08, I was one win away at Mulhall-Orlando and then I didn’t get that opportunity again until last year. So over the years, I have appreciated how hard it is to even get to area, much less the state tournament.
The coach knew it wasn’t just about him.
Hight: This group of kids and seniors deserved it. We are not the most athletic or physically dominant team. We have to do all the little things right and these guys did that for me and each other.
Perry fans are accustomed to visiting State Fair Arena during the latter part of winter. However, it’s always been to cheer on the wrestling team. Now there was another reason to go.
Hight: Being a Perry graduate, our town, community and alumni really have supported Perry basketball. We had great support at games and people were excited. It made me proud to do something for those people.
And then there’s the support system at home.
Hight: My family. My wife was proud of us and it was just great to see her smile after the game because she knows how bad I wanted to get to the state tournament. And my kids, they have grown up on a school bus, sitting on the bench since they could walk, and spending hours and hours just watching practices. So having my son on the team and being able to see him on the floor and being able to contribute in the biggest moment of my career was awesome.
All of that culminated in the moments after the final buzzer at Western Heights High School.
Hight: The best part of the whole thing was getting announced as area champions, taking what would be our last team picture and the celebration in the locker room. Then, in the lobby of Western Heights gym, there were hundreds of family members and fans there to congratulate the team and take pictures, etc. It was an awesome feeling, I bet I received over 200 texts that night. I didn’t go to bed until 4 a.m. because I didn’t want the night to end.
| Michael Swisher
It’s official now.
The 2020 All-State football game will take place after an agreement was signed Wednesday between the Oklahoma Football Coaches Association and Oklahoma Baptist University.
OBU’s Crain Family Stadium in Shawnee will be the host site when All-State selections from East take on those from the West at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 25.