Conferences victories are often over-valued by high school coaches in all sports. The same could even be said for winning at the Maverick Conference Tournament, which starts today and will run through Saturday.
But where wins at the Maverick Conference Tournament at the Hughes Event Center in Wagoner will matter will be in seeding meetings at regional sites before postseason wrestling begins in late February.
“At some weights, this tournament is important for us for seeding purposes at regionals,” said Keys coach Travis Kirby, who will have five wrestlers competing at the varsity level at the Maverick Conference Tournament.
Same goes for Brad Jones’ wrestlers at Sequoyah.
“Hopefully we can find a win against a tough kid,” Jones said, “which will help us in regional seeding.”
Hulbert will join both Keys and Sequoyah as three Cherokee County teams in the conference tournament. Rounding out the field will be Wagoner, Checotah, Fort Gibson, Jay, McAlester, Okmulgee, Poteau, Quinton, Sallisaw, Stilwell, Talihina, Vian, Cleveland, Greenwood (Ark.) and Van Buren (Ark.).
For Hulbert’s Bryson McGowan, a little redemption is afoot after coming short in the 195-pound championship match against Vian’s Cale Mays last season at the Maverick Conference Tournament in Stilwell.
“It’ll be tough,” said McGowan, who will be at 220 pounds at this year’s tournament. “But I’m looking forward to some tough matches.”
Seth Fritts — who was Keys’ first-ever state qualifier for the Cougars last season — missed last season’s Maverick Conference Tournament due to a knee injury. This year, he’s healthy and will wrestle at 160 pounds this weekend.
But to Fritts, the Maverick Conference Tournament is just another tune-up before the Class 3A regional tournament.
“This weekend is really just another tournament,” said Fritts, who is coming off a first-place finish at the Carman Classic in Pawhuska last weekend. “Nothing matters until regionals. That’s when everything starts to count.”
Both Jones and Kirby know regionals is when all the chips are on the table, so a solid performance this week could enhance both team’s chances of getting more state qualifiers.
“We get to see a lot of different teams from different classifications,” Kirby said. “Some weights will be tough, and some not so tough. So it’s a great tournament to go compete at before regionals.”
Said Jones: “It will definitely be a good tournament with competition all around, something we need to see before we get to regionals.”