Piedmont senior Kade Sparks’ motivation was simple. His team needed him.
So with No. 7 Piedmont clinging to a 30-21 lead against No.5 Deer Creek with three matches to go, Sparks went to work.
After tying the match at two to force extra time, his escape in triple overtime vs. Deer Creek’s returning 132-pound state placer Dayton West helped cinch Piedmont’s thrilling 39-24 win over the rival Antlers.
“I sucked it up and told myself I needed to win this match for the team,” Sparks said of what drove him to win the grueling 8-minute match with West. “I decided when I went down that last period that I was going to give it my all and wasn’t going to lose.”
When Sparks broke free, the crown inside Piedmont’s high school gymnasium erupted. The momentum carried Fisher Johnson to a surprising pin at 138 pounds that gave the Wildcats the win with one match remaining.
“Kade wrestled really well and showed a lot of heart,” head coach Erik Ford said. “After that the crowd got loud and Fisher steps out there and seals it up. We really rode the momentum.”
Sparks’ winning escape overshadowed his work in the second overtime — of the sudden death variety — to hold West down for the full 30 seconds.
“It was pretty hard. He was strong,” Sparks said of holding on to West, whom he’d never wrestled before. “Every time he got up I tried to put him back down.”
Ford never doubted Sparks, but there was a time in second overtime he wasn’t sure how Sparks managed to keep hold of West.
“Six minutes is long enough, you increase it to eight and a half and that’s quite a workout,” Ford said. “He had lock on his leg right in front me and I don’t know how he did it. I think he just had his fingertips locked. That was big time to gather the strength and hold on.”
It was, without a doubt, a career night for Sparks.
“I think that’s his biggest win,” Ford said.
Aria Mazroy, Logan Chappell (Tech Fall), Wyatt Lewis (Fall), Fisher Johnson (Fall), Michael Brown, Tyler Banks and Cayden Banks (Fall) all won for Piedmont.
Even the Wildcats that lost did their part. Freshman Mitchell Lance fought 120-pound returning state champion Tanner Cole of Deer Creek to a 7-2 decision, and although he didn’t win, kept Cole from bonus points the Antlers needed.
“That was huge and our guys realize how big of an effort that is,” said Ford. “We minimized what they did and maximized our opportunities.”
The win capped off a perfect 4-0 mark against Deer Creek for this year’s senior class. Something’s that not lost on Sparks at all.
“That means a lot. I was just wrestling for my team and my fellow seniors,” he said. “I knew they’d leave it all on mat and I wanted to do the same for them.”