Tahlequah wrestlers will have the fortune of having their home locker room at their disposal this weekend. But Tahlequah coach James Rappe doesn't necessarily see that as an advantage at this week's Class 5A regional tournament at the Tahlequah Multipurpose Activity Center.
"It's still pretty neutral," Rappe said. "We just have the extra burden of wrestling on our home mats."
However, Rappe said he wanted to bring postseason wrestling to Tahlequah to pay homage to his seniors, Hestin Lamons and Mitch Sellers.
"I really wanted to host regionals because this is special group this year," Rappe said. "This will be my first year with a group graduating that I've been with all the way."
One of the non-seniors set to do battle on Friday and Saturday is Reese Davis. At 160 pounds, Davis doesn't foresee a huge advantage to wrestling at home, but he does expect a few more fans than the ones who follow Tahlequah on the road.
"We will have a lot of fans," Davis said. "And no one wants to lose at home, so it brings out something that's not always there."
Davis, a junior, enters the regional after posting three top-two finishes at tournament this season. He won individual titles at 160 pounds at the McAlester and Pryor tournaments, and he finished second at 170 pounds at the Bristow tournament. The only time he wasn't in the top two was when he placed fifth at the Carl Albert tournament.
"I've been wrestling tough all year and Carl Albert just wasn't my weekend," he said. "I just have to wrestle solid and get points where I can."
With Sellers and Lamons at 145 and 152 pounds, respectively, Davis has solid examples to go off of before he steps onto the mat.
"Mitch and Hestin have been my peers," Davis said, "and I just try and keep up with their state performances."
Both Sellers and Lamons figure to pick their fourth state-tournament berths weekend. And Rappe doesn't see it playing out any differently.
"Mitch should be strong. He should be the No. 2 seed behind (Collinsville's Will) Steltzlen," Rappe said. "But he should be ahead of Pryor's (Kelvin) Grubbs since Mitch won the last matchup.
"Lamons should be the clear-cut No. 1 seed. His only loss was to (Jenks' Austin) Eades — who is a state champion."
Also vying for state-tournament spots for Tahlequah should be Zech VanFleet (132), Wright Weavel (126), Joseph Tucker (285) and Paul Sargent (138), who has been shoulder problems for the second half of the season.
"It's not going to be cake walk," Rappe said.
Davis knows that and says he's ready to give it a go.
"I'm excited for regionals," said Davis, whose team hasn't wrestled a dual or a tournament since Feb. 1. "I'm just ready to wrestle."
Class 5A wrestling - regional storylines
- Collinsville continues to roll: Since 2011, the Class 5A wrestling world has revolved around Collinsville. The Cardinals continue to dominant and that's not likely to change this season. Collinsville wrapped up another dual state title last weekend and will now put its sights on a fourth straight team title. Despite having Davion Jeffries transfer to Broken Arrow, Collinsville still returns Christian Moody, Jacob Findley, Will Steltzlen, Gary Wayne Harding, Ryan Haymaker and Keenan Priddy on this year's team.
- O'Brien set to return at Edison: After blowing out both of his knees last season, Aaron O'Brien has returned at 126 pounds this season. And he's performed as though he's never been hurt. O'Brien coasted to the Coweta tournament title and will likely enter the regional tournament as the No. 2 seed behind McAlester's Donald Cannon. O'Brien missed the Pryor and Bishop Kelley tournaments because of the flu.
- Shawnee surging in 2014: Shawnee had six wrestlers qualify for the state tournament in 2013, but not a single one of them finished in the top four of their weight class. Don't expect that to happen this season. The Wolves, district champions in 5A-6, have Matt Daniel, Thomas Shepard, Walker Smith, Gage Humphrey and Ryan Goodfox back this season, and several figure to be around on the second day of the state tournament. But, first things first, Shawnee will compete at this weekend's regional tournament, where it'll likely be the biggest threat to Collinsville's regional reign.
- Could be a quiet weekend for East Central and Miami: Last season, both Miami and East Central had state champions in Eli Hale and Mark Carter, respectively. This season, both will be lucky to qualify a wrestler for the state tournament. East Central's other state qualifier last season, Josh Herman, also graduated with Carter. Miami had five state qualifiers in 2013, but one (Dalton Whitlock) is back this season.
Class 5A regional - wrestlers to watch
- Hestin Lamons (Tahlequah): After two straight third-place finishes at the state tournament, Lamons appears poised to stand atop the medal podium at the state tournament. At 152 pounds, Lamons has only been beaten this season — by Jenks' Austin Eades, a former state champion.
- Mitch Sellers (Tahlequah): Like Lamons, Sellers has made numerous appearances at the state tournament but hasn't won a title. Sellers finished fourth at last year's state tournament. This season, he'll be at 145 pounds.
- Christian Moody (Collinsville): At 106 pounds last season, Moody rolled to a state championship as a sophomore. Up to 113 pounds this season, Moody has been solid, but has beaten twice by Sand Springs' Dalton Fix.
- Donald Cannon (McAlester): As a junior in 2013, Cannon knocked off Collinsville's Jacob Findley to win a state title at 120 pounds. And Cannon has continued to stay on a roll this season.
- Will Steltzlen (Collinsville): Now a two-time state champion, Steltzlen will go for his third season. As a sophomore, he won at 138 pounds, and in 2013, he won 132 pounds. Now as a senior, Steltzlen is up to 145.
- Gary Wayne Harding (Collinsville): At 138 pounds, Harding is going after the most prestigious title in Oklahoma — a four-time state champion. This season, Harding has lost only once — to Fredy Stroker of Bettendorf (Iowa) in the finals of the Kansas City Stampede.
- Cole Pacheco (Deer Creek): A two-time state champion, Pacheco moved up from 145 to 170 last year to win the title over Collinsville's Zach Abkemeier. Now Pacheco is at 182 and will likely be the No. 1 seed at the regional tournament.
- Brice Inbody (Bishop Kelley): Also in the 182 field, Inbody has been on a roll this season after finishing third at state in 2013. An Inbody-Pacheco final is likely on tap for Saturday night.
Class 5A wrestlers descend on Tahlequah for regional tournament
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