For the second time in as many seasons, Piedmont’s wrestling team will take nearly its entire 14-man lineup to the Class 5A State Tournament, which begins Friday and continues through Saturday at State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City.
Of the 10 Piedmont wrestlers who qualified at regionals in Del City last week, each forged his own unique path to Oklahoma City.
Wyatt Lewis (160), Logan Chappell (126) and Mitchell Lance (132) are making return trips to state, though Lance’s way back was anything but ordinary. The sophomore qualified with a second place finish at regionals despite wrestling with a fractured ankle suffered four weeks prior.
“To see how hard he competed even though he’s completely out of shape and has no business being out there was impressive,” head coach Erik Ford said. “It’s a testament to his will-power and his toughness.”
Then there was 220-pounder Josh Heindselman, who was Piedmont’s lone regional champion. The sophomore won his 11th overtime match of the season in the finals to improve to 34-4 overall and in the process won his 24th consecutive match.
“It’s pretty impressive. He’s used to wrestling those 9-minute matches by now,” Ford said. “Going forward I think it’s great for him that he’s been in a lot of tough matches.”
The most pleasant surprise for Piedmont was freshman 113-pounder Bo Hardy coming from an unseeded position at the regional tournament to reach the finals and take second. On his way, Hardy defeated a pair of wrestlers which he’d gone a combined 0-5 against previously this season.
“We’ve known all year that Bo was talented and a really good wrestler,” Ford said. “We knew if things started to click for him that he’d have a good chance.”
Hardy, who is 21-14 on the year, said his confidence grew after he pulled his first upset.
“I started putting things together and wrestling a little bit better,” he said.
Ford said seeing 170-pound junior Hunter Johnson take fourth and qualify was also a bonus. Like Hardy, Johnson said he knew he had a chance after winning his first match.
“I could tell after that that I was wrestling well,” he said.
Other first-time qualifiers included senior Dylan Meador (195), junior Will Heindselman (182), junior Fisher Johnson (152) and senior Mason Moser (138).
Now, Piedmont will prepare to put together one more strong weekend to close out its season.
“We started talking about changing gears mentally on Saturday night and not just being happy that we’re there,” Ford said. “We want to put our sights on that next level, which is winning matches at the state tournament.”
Piedmont will enter the tournament as the only team guaranteed to leave with a trophy. The Wildcats were named Class 5A academic state champions this week and will be honored as well as pick up their hardware during the state tournament Friday at 4:45 at State Fair Arena.