Tahlequah Daily Press

February 27, 2014

Chasing crowns

Hulbert's Bryson McGowan in hot pursuit of wrestling state championship

Sports Editor

— bjohnson@tahlequahdailypress.com

Bryson McGowan is a three-sport athlete at Hulbert High School. In the fall, he throws on the pads for football, and the springtime offers up some time for track.

But both pale in comparison to wrestling in the winter months. It's McGowan's bread and butter; it's what consumes his life during the offseason — especially during the summer months.

All the practice and preparation make weeks like this possible. As a junior, McGowan will make his second straight appearance at the Class 3A state wrestling tournament while going after a individual championship.

"It means everything [to me]," McGowan said of the prospect of winning a title at 220 pounds. "It's all I've worked for for a very long time, and I'm ready go go take it."

McGowan's quest to become Hulbert's first state champion since Mike Perez (125 pounds) in 2010 starts Friday in the first round against Madill's Judge Hartin, who is 20-10 on the season. McGowan admitted that he didn't have much information on Hartin, just that everyone in the eight-man field is worthy of winning a state championship.

"Anyone at the state tournament, you can't take lightly," McGowan said.

Entering the state tournament at 29-0, McGowan is coming off a weekend where he coasted to a regional tournament crown. In the finals, he coasted to a 9-0 major decision victory over Blackwell's Dayne Thomason.

But despite the dominance at the regional tournament in Pawhuska, McGowan made sure to mention how that's not the top prize to be had this season.

"It feels great, but it's not the ultimate goal," McGowan said. "That's this week."

In Oklahoma City last year, McGowan finished third at 195 pounds. His only loss was to Barnsdall's Caleb Hawes — the eventual state champion — before closing the state tournament with two consecutive wins for the bronze.

That experience at State Fair Arena taught McGowan a lot.

"I'm going in this time knowing that I can do this and my biggest opponent is myself," he said. "It's not gonna be easy but I've done everything I can do to win."

As for bumping up a weight class to 220 this season, McGowan said he feels quite comfortable there this season.

"The moving up to 200 was just natural," he said. "Everyone asks me what weight I'm gonna be at next year, and I always just say, 'I'm not sure, let's see what I weigh then.' I also feel bigger, stronger and healthier at 220."

Now McGowan is ready to put all those intangibles to work this weekend in central Oklahoma. The hardest part is focusing on anything else this week.

"It's definitely tunnel vision," McGowan said. "This is what I've worked for my whole life."