OKLAHOMA CITY — D.J. Hendrickson ended a frustrating weekend for Piedmont’s wrestling team at the Class 5A State Tournament with a dominant victory that helped the Wildcats exit on a high note, after PHS entered 10 wrestlers, but placed only two.
Hendrickson, who missed most of the season after breaking his ankle in the preseason, earned a 9-1 major decision over Ryce Haymaker of Collinsville in the third place match at 138 pounds to become one of two Wildcats to place. It was a solid end for the team and Hendrickson, who battled back after a narrow one-point defeat in the semifinals Friday.
Hendrickson, a senior, took an early 5-0 lead after a take down and three near fall points against Haymaker, then held on, admitting he never got into his best shape after the injury.
“I busted my butt everyday to get here and make my family proud,” Hendrickson said. “I have to score first to win matches because I’m not in great shape. I was able to do that today.”
Head coach Erik Ford said it took toughness for Hendrickson to finish strong despite his team struggling to gain traction at any time through the weekend.
“He’s really talented and he’s a really good wrestler,” Ford said. “The fact that he was able to gather himself after we’d lost tough match after tough match, speaks to how driven he is. I’m really proud of him for responding like that.”
Earlier in the day, Hendrickson pinned Coweta’s Bryan Ford after trailing in the third period to guarantee a spot on the podium. Hendrickson, who transferred to Piedmont from Western Heights after winning an individual state title with the Jets as a junior, says now it’s time to look forward to wrestling in college.
“Now it’s time to move on to bigger and better things,” he said.
Logan Chappell, meanwhile, took fourth at 113 pounds after after losing a narrow 7-6 third-place match to Xavear Cullors of Collinsville. Cullors scored a reversal in the last 10 seconds of regulation to overcome Chappell’s 6-5 lead. Still, Chappell, a sophomore, placed at state for the second straight season.
“It doesn’t feel good right now,” Chappell said of placing fourth. “But later on it’ll feel good. The hard work is there, I just have to get better.”
Chappell was seconds away from taking third, but couldn’t hold off Cullors, who managed to sweep behind him for a reversal in the final seconds.
“That’s a lot of motivation to work harder in the offseason and during the season,” he said. “It’s a good experience getting to come here.”
Ford said Chappell’s weight class did him no favors this season.
“His weight class was a snake pit. There were five or six guys that were really tough,” he said. “He battled all weekend and I’m really proud of him.”
As a team, Piedmont’s weekend didn’t go as planned. Top seeds Mitchell Lance and Tyler Banks were upset and failed to place while Wyatt Lewis, Aria Mazroy, Kade Sparks and Michael Brown went 1-2.
“We really couldn’t get anything going. None of our guys fired off like we wanted them to,” Ford said. “That’s just part of it and hopefully we’ll learn from it with the guys coming back.”
Next season, the Wildcats return four of the 10 wrestlers that made it to state.
“For them to get the experience, hopefully we’ll be better off down the road for it and it’ll breed a lot of success for those guys,” Ford said.