By BEN JOHNSON
HULBERT — Bryson McGowan will step onto the wrestling mat in Oklahoma City trying to win a state title for himself. He’ll also be trying to keep a McGowan family tradition alive.
McGowan, a sophomore at Hulbert, will enter the 195-pound field at the Class 3A state tournament at State Fair Arena in search of his first individual championship at the varsity level. If he tops the podium on Saturday, he’ll be halfway to his father’s total.
In 1978 and 1979, Mickey McGowan won state championships at 115 pounds in Class 2A. Now, Bryson McGowan is out to catch his dad — and hopefully pass him two years from now.
“I’m going to try and one-up him,” Bryson said. “That way my kid will try to one-up me and we’ll have a four-timer.”
For Mickey, having his son make the state tournament is special enough, regardless of how Bryson fares this weekend.
“It’s great,” he said. “Everything else now is icing on the cake.”
Bryson picked up a state tournament berth by finishing third in last weekend’s regional tournament in Berryhill. He said just making it to the final weekend of the season makes him realize how old he’s getting.
“This is the stuff that dad pulls out to show me,” Bryson said. “I’m like, ‘dang, I’m finally getting these medals. Now I’m going to show my kids and grandkids when I get old.’”
What makes Bryson’s trip to Oklahoma City that much more special is knowing that Mickey will be in the corner of the mat as Hulbert’s coach.
“There’s a special connection there that a lot of kids don’t get to have,” Bryson said. “My dad is always over there [in the corner]. He’s always got my back and looking out for me. Maybe he gets a little too angry sometimes because I’m his baby boy, but I know he’s got my back.”
While being Bryson’s biggest supporter, Mickey is also that much more critical of Bryson. Or at least that’s what Mickey claims.
“I’m probably harder on him than anyone else,” Mickey said. “But you have to keep it in check about what goes on and what doesn’t.”
Having Bryson in the state tournament also means Hulbert will be represented in central Oklahoma after not having anyone qualify last season.
“In 30 years, I’ve only had two years where I didn’t qualify someone to go,” Mickey said. “I don’t like that at all. You want to go to the Big House, and see how good you can do.”
In the first round on Friday, Bryson will take on Perry’s Bo Montez, who finished second to Heritage Hall’s Ethan Walker at the west regional in Kingfisher. During the regular season, Montez finished fifth at the Cushing tournament, fourth at the Yukon tournament and second at the 4+4 tournament in Stillwater.
Bryson knows he’ll have his work cut out for him. But he also has confidence that he can beat Montez.
“He’ll be ready,” Bryson said of Montez. “He’ll be gunning for it.”
Mickey foresees Bryson beating Montez and finishing anywhere from first to fourth.
“We’ve got a great chance to win it, because there’s not much difference between the top four wrestlers,” Mickey said of Bryson, Walker, Barnsdall’s Caleb Hawes Vian’s Cale Mays. “The Walker kid, the Hawes kid, Mays and Bryson, any four of them could place, and it just depends on who’s on their game and who’s got it in their mind that they’re going to do it.”
In addition to catching up with Mickey’s state titles, Bryson — who finished second to both Hawes (at the Inola tournament) and Mays (at the Maverick Conference tournament) during the regular season — will also be after Hulbert’s first state championship since Mike Perez won the 125 crown in 2010.
“It’s kind of a funny story because he used to live with us,” Bryson said. “He was like my brother...and that’s another reason why I’m better now. He used to kick the tar out of me. He would not let up on me. It made me better, though.”
Class 3A — 195 pounds
Bout 1: Ethan Walker (Heritage Hall) vs. Justice Jones (Newkirk).
Bout 2: Jody Green (Blackwell) vs. Cale Mays (Vian).
Bout 3: Caleb Hawes (Barnsdall) vs. Tyler Morelock (Hinton).
Bout 4: Bryson McGowan (Hulbert) vs. Bo Montez (Perry).
Bout 5: Bout 1 winner vs. Bout 2 winner.
Bout 6: Bout 3 winner vs. Bout 4 winner.
Bout 7: Bout 5 winner vs. Bout 6 winner.
Bout 8: Bout 1 loser vs. Bout 2 loser.
Bout 9: Bout 3 loser vs. Bout 4 loser.
Bout 10: Bout 8 winner vs. Bout 6 loser.
Bout 11: Bout 9 winner vs. Bout 5 loser.
Bout 12: Bout 10 winner vs. Bout 11 winner.
Notes: This year’s 195-pound field is full of wrestlers that placed at last year’s state tournament. Walker is last season’s champion at 195 pounds. Hawes finished as the state runner-up at 182 pounds, losing to Nathan Dowell of Newkirk. Also at 182 last season, Mays came in fourth after a 3-1 loss to Heritage Hall’s Finn Higgins in the consolation finals. ... All the schools in the 195 field have had at least one wrestler win a state title. The school currently in the drought is Hinton, which hasn’t had a state champion since Jason Moxley (215) won in 1999.
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