By BEN JOHNSON
Skipping right past typical coach-speak, Tahlequah coach James Rappe opted for hyperbole prior to the start of the 2013-2014 wrestling season.
“I fully anticipate this season to be one that people will talk about for years to come,” he said.
And thus the bar has been set for the Tigers.
Luckily Rappe returns a strong contingent from last year’s team that sent four wrestlers to the Class 5A state tournament. Reese Davis (138 pounds) and Hestin Lamons (145) both finished third at the state tournament, while Mitch Sellers (132) was fourth. Paul Sargent did not place.
Combining those four with Zech VanFleet and Colton Wright ------ who returns from a leg injury that forced him to sit out his junior season ------- has Rappe conjuring up high expectations for the Tigers this year.
“I anticipate this to be a great year for Tahlequah. We will have a lot of familiar faces in our line up with a few new additions,” he said. “The key for our success this year is to continue to grow as a team. If we are going to be able to successful those support guys are going to be the key to it.”
However, the weights that each will wrestle at are still in up in the air.
“Currently, we are still looking at possible lineup scenarios,” Rappe said. “The fans can expect to see the usual suspects such as Lamons, Sellers, VanFleet, Davis and Wright in the lineup. However, their roles will be changing throughout the season in order to get matchups we want for the team to be successful.”
Tahlequah’s chances of making it to dual state this year are also enhanced with all three district duals ------- against Skiatook, Shawnee and Bishop Kelley ------- taking place in the TMAC this year.
“I believe that this year should be a successful one not only from a Dual Team stand point but with the boys returning we should be able to make some waves in the tournament rankings as well,” Rappe said.
Wrestling notebook: Keys to feature strong lineup
Keys sent its first-ever wrestler to the state tournament last season. Now the Cougars have a bigger goal in mind this year: a district title.
“The district title is a team goal of ours, so yes it’s a realistic possibility,” Keys coach Travis Kirby said. “but it’s not our main goal, it’s a goal that we have to accomplish to reach our ultimate goal.”
In order to reach dual state for the first time, Keys will have to claim a district crown in District 3A-7. Also in the district is Sperry, Salina, Inola, Sequoyah, Hulbert and Jay — who most consider as the favorite.
In Keys’ favor this year will be the ability of filling out a full lineup card every night. Headlining for the Cougars will be guys such as Seth Fritts, Brent Gladd, John Haeberle, Kenneth Brown and Christian Hemmerich.
“Are all guys that I feel like are going to standout in their weight classes this year,” Kirby said. “There very well could possibly be several others who will make an impact as well. It all boils down to each one doing their part and putting in the work that it takes.”
Other area notes
• Leading the way for Hulbert this season will be Bryson McGowan, who is slated to wrestling at 220 pounds. McGowan finished third in the Class 3A state tournament as a sophomore last year. The Riders will also be after the District 3A-7 crown with a full lineup this season.
• Sequoyah coach Brad Jones expects to have a strong pair on the mat this season.
“William Tiger is expected to have a good year for us. He'll be competing at 126 this year. This will be his first full year to wrestle if he stays healthy,” Jones said. “Damon Davidson, who will be competing at 132, will be expected to have a good year. He has missed qualifying for the state tournament by one match two years in a row.”