HULBERT — Bryson McGowan stood in the middle of the wrestling mat and flexed his muscles. Just a little playful boasting at the end of a heated contest inside Rider Fieldhouse.
McGowan and the Hulbert Riders knocked off Keys 54-30 in a District 3A-7 opener for both clubs on Tuesday night. The Riders broke a 30-30 tie with 24 unanswered points to claim Cherokee County bragging rights.
“That’s a good win — a good way to start a season,” Hulbert coach Mickey McGowan said. “We had five first-year kids out there, and it was better than what I (expected).”
Outside of a forfeit by Keys at 220, Hulbert earned 18 of its final 24 points with falls that took no longer than two and a half minutes. Wyatt Cain (182 pounds) broke the 30-all deadlock by pinning Keys’ Jace Dry at 2:21, and Gabe Scott (195) followed with a victory by fall at 1:30 over Bailey Armer.
McGowan — who finished in third place at 195 pounds at the Class 3A state tournament last season — polished off the night by breezing past Keys’ Ryan Garcia with a pin within the first 60 seconds of the match.
Not a bad way for Mickey McGowan’s club to start the season, despite his insistence before the district matchup that he doesn’t worry too much about duals.
“Winning these and winning the ones on the final day of the state tournament, there’s a lot of difference,” Mickey McGowan said. “That’s what we’re going to work for.”
While Hulbert improved to 1-0 and Keys remained winless with one loss, there were some fireworks along the way. And it all centered around Keys’ Seth Fritts, who was set to wrestle up at 170 pounds.
Both Mickey McGowan and Keys coach Travis Kirby had a heated conversation over who was going to wrestle at 160 and 170 for both clubs. Instead of both clubs taking a forfeit at either 160 or 170 so that Hulbert’s Anthony Howard could wrestle Fritts, Keys forfeited at 160 and Hulbert returned the favor by forfeiting at 170, giving Fritts six points but also giving him the night off at the same time.
Fritts checked in to wrestle and walked to the middle of the mat where his arm was raised in victory. But all he could do was walk off the mat while looking across the gym at Mickey McGowan while saying, “are you serious?”
“We came out here to wrestle and do things the right way,” Kirby said. “...We showed up here today to hook up and ready to go. I don’t want to say anything about them, but you saw what happened.”
Mickey McGowan explained his reasoning.
“You have your option of your odd and even matches, and they were supposed to send out their guy at 60 first,” McGowan said. “...They had to make a move and they didn’t have enough guys to do all that moving without being caught.
“I wasn’t going to send another first-year kid out against Seth; he’s too darn good.”
Without wrestlers at 106, 160 and 220, Keys was already down 18 points before the dual started. But the Cougars rallied from an early 24-0 deficit to pull even through 10 matches. Dillon Stanley (152), John Haeberle (145), Brent Gladd (138) and Cameron Jumper (132) all won by fall and suddenly Keys was in position to start the season on a high note.
Yet, it didn’t happen.
“We just need to get better,” said Kirby, who was without his 170-pounder Kenneth Brown against the Riders due to a back injury. “We may still have a shot at the district. We’ll just have to see what happens.”
Up next for Hulbert will be a home dual against Muskogee on Thursday night. On the same day, Keys will continue in district competition with duals against Salina and Class 3A No. 8 Jay at Salina High School at 2 p.m.