By Evan Grice
There was plenty to celebrate for the Piedmont wrestling team this past weekend in Del City, and there could be even more happening this weekend in Oklahoma City.
At the regional tournament held at Del City High School, the Wildcats qualified eight wrestlers for the state tournament, and in the process finished fourth as a team overall.
Steven Sharp (106), Coulton Parker (120), Michael Lopez (126), Alex Cardenas (132), Reece Henry (138), Francisco Lopez (145), Blane Culp (170), and Brody Largent (182) will all have the chance to wrestle for a state title after punching their tickets to the big dance this weekend.
Matches will begin Friday morning at the State Fairgrounds Arena, with the finals happening on Saturday.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these kids,” Piedmont coach Erik Ford said. “These guys have been the core of our lineup all year long, even though they all haven’t been in the lineup at the same time. To get all eight of them in the state tournament is a big deal for this program.”
“I hope these guys embrace the opportunity and the situation,” Ford added. “The ones who embrace the moment are the ones who are going to be successful. We want them to prove they belong and I believe they are going to get it done.”
Steven Sharp earned his place in the state tournament by making it to the regional finals at 106 pounds, where he was defeated by Briar Adams from Lawton MacArthur 6-0. Sharp (23-9) will be the two seed out of the west, and will meet Dillon Prutch (28-5), the three seed from the east out of Coweta High School in the first round.
Coulton Parker also made it to the regional finals at 120 pounds, but fell in a close match against Cole Powers from Lawton MacArthur by a score of 3-1. Parker (23-5) will also be the two seed in his bracket, and will meet Bryce O’Conner (21-7) from Shawnee in the first round.
“My bracket is pretty stout just like any of the other brackets at the state tournament,” Parker said about the field at 120 pounds. “I’m planning on wrestling aggressively and going after the win in the first round. The most important thing is going out there and remaining calm and treating this like any other tournament.”
Michael Lopez earned his way to state by virtue of the consolation finals, where he ultimately fell 4-2 to Garrett Chappell from Carl Albert. Lopez (22-7) will be the fourth seed at 126 pounds and meet the top seed from the east in Donald Cannon from McAlester (34-1) in the first round.
“My bracket is going to be very difficult,” Lopez said, “I’ve got the returning state champion in the first round but I’m ready for anything. Even if I do lose my first round match, I’ve got another one to move on to and make sure I put myself in the semifinals.”
Alex Cardenas also earned his way to state through the consolation finals, but he also was defeated, with his loss coming against Shelby Greeson from Noble by a 5-3 score. Cardenas (28-11) will also be the four seed in his bracket at 132 pounds, and will meet Dakotah McGarrah (29-11) from Collinsville in the first round.
Reece Henry (31-9) lost a close 3-2 decision in the consolation finals at Del City, and will be the four seed at 138 pounds, where he will meet Gary Wayne Harding (41-1) from Collinsville in the first round.
“My first round match is probably one of the toughest I’m going to have,” Henry said. “I’ve just got to worry about one match at a time and not lose focus.”
Francisco Lopez (31-12) earned the runner-up spot at regionals at 145 pounds, and will meet the three seed from the east in Jason Tiger (17-10) from Shawnee in the first round.
“I know my first round match is winnable if I wrestle like I know how to,” Lopez said. “In the second round, I’ll be meeting a three-time state champion if I make it, which is going to be tough. Last year the lights got me nervous and I couldn’t keep my breath after the first round. I’m planning on changing that this year and wrestling better.”
Blane Culp was the only Piedmont wrestler to win a regional title in Del City, and will be looking to make the finals after a third place finish at state last year. Culp (28-3) will be meeting Josh Arnold (23-15) from Collinsville in the opening round.
“My first match is against a kid I’ve already beaten once this season,” Culp said. “I know though that he’s going to come out scratching and clawing and ready to wrestle. You can’t ever overlook the first round. The entire bracket is going to be tough. We’ve all been preparing hard this week and I feel very confident that I’m wrestling my best right now.”
Brody Largent (37-9) claimed third place at regionals in Del City, and will be facing Brice Inbody (34-2) from Bishop Kelley in the opening round in the 182 pound bracket.
“My first round opponent is very defensive, so I’m going to have to try and open him up a little,” Largent said. “The state tournament is just another tournament. You have to stay calm and can’t let the nerves get to you out there.”
Coach Ford added every weight class in which his wrestlers are in, there’s a road to where they can place in state.
“The biggest advantage is probably just where we ended up,” he said. “Having four guys in the finals at regionals puts us in a good spot.”
“If we can win the matches we are supposed to win, then we should be able to have a handful of guys place at state.”