For the first time in the history of the program, the Wildcat wrestlers will be making an appearance at dual state. Piedmont qualified for dual state by virtue of beating Cushing, Mannford and Tecumseh on Tuesday night in Mannford. Dual state will be held at Cushing on Friday, Feb. 8.
“We wrestled really well,” Coach Erik Ford said. “Well, that is an understatement. The guys were pretty incredible. They went out and laid it on the line and it worked out for them. It was fun, that’s for sure. It was a lot of fun.”
The Wildcats drew Cushing for the first dual at district. The Tigers came into the district duals with a No. 3 ranking.
The dual started with Jesse Lopez (106 pounds) beating Blake Burden by decision to give the Wildcats an early 3-0 lead. Michael Lopez lost a close 6-2 decision to Daniel Hood in the 113 lbs. match but that match gave Ford a lot of confidence.
“We knew we had to go wrestle our best,” Ford said. “We draw weight and 106 was drawn. That the normal weight you want to start with. If we start at 106, we have a chance because of the momentum we get from those guys. We started off with a win and then Michael Lopez had to wrestle a defending state champion. At that point, you’re out there doing a job for your team and your job becomes not to win but to keep the score down and keep them from scoring any bonus points. He last 6-2 to a returning state champion, so we were 3-3 after our first two matches. On paper and in my head, I had us down 6-3 but when Michael did that, I knew our kids were there to fight.”
Piedmont reeled off three straight victories to turn that 3-3 tie into a 16-3 Wildcat advantage. Coulton Parker (120 lbs.) scored a major decision over Austin Walsh. Alex Cardenas (126 lbs.) won by decision over Levi Murray and Reece Henry beat Mason Roberts by fall.
Cushing won the 138 lbs. match when Ricky Ahrberg beat Francisco Lopez by fall.
The next five matches swung all of the momentum to the Wildcats.
Shelby Miller (145 lbs.) beat Jacob Miller by decision, Chase Biggs (152 lbs.) beat Peyton Carmin by decision, Blane Culp (160 lbs.) beat Ryan Moline by decision, Dryden Abla (170 lbs.) won by injury default and Brody Largent (182 lbs.) beat Daniel Rowell by decision. The five match swing put the Wildcats up 35-9.
Juan Guerro (195 lbs.) lost by fall to Trevor Hubble. Kaleb Richter (220 lbs.) and Matt Wyatt (heavyweight) both won by forfeit.
“Cushing is one of those teams that year in and year out is in dual state,” Ford said. “We got put in their district because they were the favorite to go for those two years and we were just kind of thrown in there with them. Our kids are improving on a day-to-day basis. We’re better today than we were yesterday and we were better yesterday than we were last week. Even though we beat Cushing in the first dual, everybody responded to what their job was and they knew it wasn’t over when we stepped on the mat against Mannford. We were happy to beat Cushing but we had to go out and compete against Mannford too.”
The dual against Mannford started at the 113 lbs. weight class with Michael Lopez. He beat Steven Cole by a decision to give the Wildcats another early 3-0 lead.
Parker lost to Kaleb Furr by decision to tie it up at 3-3.
The Wildcats again put together five straight victories to get a comfortable lead. Cardenas beat Tristan Sunday by decision, Henry beat Austen Schell by fall, Francisco Lopez beat Brandon Case by technical fall, Miller beat Tristan Bryant by fall and Culp beat Tyler Moore by fall.
Tyler Frailey beat Abla by fall to stop the Wildcats’ streak of wins but Piedmont won five of the last six matches to put away for good.
Largent defeated Seth Garner by decision, Darryl Burns (182 lbs.) beat Luke May by fall, Jon Carter beat Guerro by fall, Richter and Wyatt both won by fall and Steven Sharp ended the dual with a decision win over Willie Griffen.
With the dual state berth in hand, Piedmont went up against Tecumseh. The Wildcats won eight matches by forfeit. Thomas Cohrs (120 lbs.) beat Tyler Contess by fall, Daniel Hausam beat Cardenas by a major decision, Henry beat Lupe Deleon by fall, Francisco Lopez beat Austin Trout by fall and Jesse Lopez beat Matt Holcomb by fall.
“Mannford had beaten us last year,” Ford said. “And then we were throttled by Cushing. A lot of kids on this team remember that feeling. They hated that feeling and they didn’t like dealing with me after it was over. They really stepped it up tonight.”
Earning a trip to dual state is a huge step for the Wildcat wrestling program. The fact that state takes place on the gym floor of a team they beat to get there makes it just that much sweeter.
“Dual state will be Feb. 8,” Ford said. “It’s the week before our regional tournament. The great thing about it? We’ll be getting to wrestle at dual state in the Cushing gym and they will get to watch. It’s a bit of poetic justice.”