By Evan Grice
Before the start of the Deer Creek Invitational tournament this past weekend, Piedmont coach Erik Ford had said this marked the beginning of the toughest part of the season for his team.
After Saturday night, it was clear his No. 6 ranked Wildcat wrestlers are more than ready for any challenge that comes their way.
Fueled by five first place finishes combined with several other top-five results, the Wildcats had more than enough momentum to hold off host Deer Creek and walk away with the team title at the Performing Arts and Athletic Center in Edmond.
“Anytime you can bring home five individual winners from a tournament, you can call it a success,” Coach Ford said. “Overall we wrestled well the entire weekend. We had an aggressive mentality, and were always looking to score points in any position in every match.”
Perhaps the most dominating performance of the tournament by the Wildcats came in the 132 pound weight class, where Piedmont swept the top three places in the division.
In an all PHS final, it was Alex Cardenas getting the better of teammate Wyatt Lewis while Michael Brown claimed third to pad Piedmont’s standing near the top.
“It was a very exciting feeling, like a sense of accomplishment,” Cardenas said about wrestling his teammate in the 132 pound finals. “We were pumped knowing we did our jobs to secure the 132 pound weight class for our team. Overall, it was a great weekend and a great way to kick off the regular season tournament schedule for all of us.”
Michael Lopez also had a strong finish in the finals at 120 pounds, as he claimed a technical decision at 14-0 to earn the championship.
“I feel like we represented Piedmont extremely well this weekend,” Lopez said about the team’s performance. “This win gives me a big confidence boost going forward and I’m ready for anything.”
While Reece Henry was able to walk away as champion in the 138 pound division, his victory wasn’t secure until he was able to gain a pin fall with 12 seconds left in the final period.
Blane Culp and Brody Largent were also able to walk away with first place finishes at 170 and 182 pounds respectively.
Culp along with his fellow football teammates Dryden Abla, Matt Capshaw, and Kade Sparks were all competing in their first tournament of the season. Capshaw finished in sixth at the 220 pound division, while Abla claimed third at 195 pounds. Both Abla and Capshaw fell in the quarterfinals in their respective weight classes.
“The football guys looked good considering they don’t have their wrestling shape yet,” Ford said about his football wrestlers. “Kade wrestled well but just came up short of medaling this weekend. Dryden, Blane and Matt all wrestled extremely well also.”
“For their first competition of the year, were proud of the way they went out and competed. Now we just need to get our lungs and our legs in shape to go a full match.”
Steven Sharp was another Wildcat wrestler to make the finals in the 106 pound division, but he was forced to settle for second place after being defeated by Deer Creek’s Tanner Cole.
Jacob Tyler finished in third place at 152 pounds, while Juan Guerrero claimed fifth overall at 220 pounds, while Francisco Lopez claimed second at 145 after being defeated by Deer Creek’s Sean O’Brien in the finals.
Last Thursday, the Wildcats faced a tough opening dual of the season on the road against No. 1 ranked Tuttle, the defending state champions in Class 4A.
Tuttle ultimately proved to be too much on the night as the Tigers won the dual 47-15.
Piedmont found itself in the thick of the dual at 13-12 after five matches, but when Tuttle claimed six straight victories, the lead was expanded to 41-12.
Brody Largent, Francisco Lopez and Dryden Abla were the only Piedmont wrestlers to claim victories on the night.
“We had some competitive matches against Tuttle, but we just weren’t as tough as we needed to be late on to win,” Ford said. “Overall though, it was a good test for the kids and showed us where we need to improve. We mainly need to attack more and look to score more points.”
Piedmont will be back in action On Jan. 3-4 at the Cushing Invitational tournament before its next dual against Del City on Jan. 7.
Two days later the Wildcats will travel to Carl Albert for a dual against the Titans, before hitting the road to go to the Geary Invitational tournament on Jan 10-11.
A dual against Plainview will follow on Jan 16 before district duals will take place from Collett Fieldhouse on Jan 16.
Just one week later, the Wildcats will be hosting Geary in a dual before hosting the Piedmont Invitational wrestling tournament which will take place Jan. 23-24 throughout Piedmont.