It was supposed to be a tune-up to the showdown on Thursday night. It was viewed as a precursor to possibly Tahlequah’s second dual state tournament berth in school history.
It ended in heartache.
Tahlequah, ranked seventh in Class 5A, was the favorite to challenge 5A No. 3 Shawnee for the District 5A-6 crown later this week. Skiatook had other plans.
The Bulldogs — not even in the top 15 in 5A — fought back from a 15-point deficit to prevail at the TMAC, 39-33, on Thursday night, crushing virtually any chance Tahlequah had of reaching dual state in February.
“We came up a little short,” Tahlequah coach James Rappe said. “...I’ve got some exceptional wrestlers on this team, but the fact of the matter is five, six, seven guys can’t carry 14.”
In the end, Tahlequah’s seven victories weren’t enough to match Skiatook’s seven match wins. The Tigers posted only three wins by fall while Skiatook won all but one of its matches by pin.
Still, though, it came down to the matchup at 285 to decide the winner.
Tahlequah’s Joseph Tucker needed to score a major decision, a technical fall or a fall for the Tigers to prevail — with the Tigers trailing 36-33. But it didn’t happen.
Despite tying the match up at 4 late in the third period, Tucker was taken down by Skiatook’s Gavin Hall with 3.7 seconds left with Skiatook’s bench exploding in celebration.
Skiatook coach TJ Vaughn had a simple message for Hall before he took the mat.
“Don’t get thrown in a headlock,” Vaughn said. “Even if he loses there, we will still come out on top because of criteria. We just didn’t want to give up any bonus.”
That’s what Tahlequah lacked most of the night. Aside from Tate Medlin (120 pounds), Mitch Sellers (145) and Hestin Lamons (160) scoring wins by fall and Jax Easter (132) winning by forfeit, the Tigers took three points at a time. Wrighter Weavel (126), Zech VanFleet (138) and Reese Davis (170) all won by decision for the Tigers.
“It came down to bonus points and they scored more bonus points than we did,” said Rappe, whose team dropped to 6-2 overall and 1-1 in 5A-6. “They capitalized in situations where we had inexperienced guys out there, and they were able to bonus and bonus big.”
Skiatook started the dual with two wins by fall at 106 (Matt Schnorrenberg) and 113 (Braden Pilgram) to claim an early 12-0 advantage. Billy Beyen’s win by fall at 152 was Skiatook’s only win in the middle weights, before the Bulldogs pieced together four wins to close out the dual.
“We had two seniors at the end,” Vaughn said, “and they came through clutch for us.”
Now Tahlequah faces the task of regrouping before Shawnee arrives on Thursday night.
“This does cloud whether or not we have an opportunity at dual state, but nothing is over until it’s over with,” Rappe said. “Shawnee is coming here and just because they’re here doesn’t mean they’re going to steam-roll us. We may very well take it to them. We’re wrestle tough and see what happens.”