SAPULPA — Michael Lopez’s high school wrestling career was over, then it wasn’t.
The 126-pound senior from Piedmont assumed he’d watch Thursday’s All-State wrestling match as spectator, but as it turned out, he took it in from a much different perspective.
Lopez received a call from PHS wrestling coach Erik Ford Wednesday afternoon. The West team’s 126-pound wrestler had dropped out, freeing up a late opening for Lopez.
“That was one of the biggest surprises of my life,” he said.
There was just one problem. Out of season and in the middle of his summer, Lopez was overweight and needed to shed six pounds in about 24 hours.
“I went and got some sweats and T-shirts and went up to the old wrestling room and ran for two hours,” he said. “Then I took a little break for an hour and ran some more.”
Lopez wasn’t sure he could make it.
“I was pretty scared,” he said.
He did make it, though, just in time to wrestle for the West team against the East’s Hunter Youell of Owasso, a state semifinalist in 6A last season. Lopez took an early shot from Youell, but recovered to scrap out a 3-1 win to help the West to a 25-14 victory in the dual.
Lopez said in retrospect the early shot from Youell was just what he needed to settle into the match.
“He came out there with a hard club and it shook me for a minute, but then I got everything under control and started wrestling at my own pace and wrestled my match,” he said. “Getting that early shot gave me a better feel for how hard he was going to wrestle.”
Lopez’s wrestling career isn’t over now. He’ll wrestle in college at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in Miami next season.
“It’s a great opportunity. I went up there and toured the college and everything is really nice,” he said. “The coaches really know what they’re doing up there. It’s going to be fun. I can’t wait.”
That wasn’t at the front of his mind late Thursday night. With his teammate and fellow All-Stater Brody Largent standing just a few feet away, Lopez chose to reminisce about his career in Piedmont instead.
“I’ll never forget the bus rides from freshman year, the teammates I had sophomore and junior year and how close I grew as a family to them,” he said. “I had good times and I had bad times. We won and we lost, but we were always a family. It’s a great memory to have.”
Now, Lopez has one more memory to take with him.
“It is perfect. Coming over here was just icing on the cake,” he said.