By BEN JOHNSON
James Rappe has coached at nearly every level in the Tahlequah wrestling program. Tuesday night, Rappe will have ascended to the apex.
Rappe will make his debut as the Tigers’ varsity coach when Tahlequah hosts Miami at the TMAC at 6 p.m.
As for the transition from being the junior high coach to the varsity coach, Rappe said it’s been seamless.
“It’s been really smooth,” he said. “...It’s been as smooth as I could have hoped for.”
Rappe worked his way up through the ranks on the Tahlequah coaching chain. He started off as the elementary coach while also serving as a varsity assistant. And for the last three seasons, he’s led the Tigers’ junior high program.
His ascension in the program lends itself to a unique characteristic: he’s coaching basically the same wrestlers he started off with during his days as the elementary coach.
“A lot of these guys I’ve had since they first put wrestling shoes on,” Rappe said. “I’ve had the opportunity to coach them all the way along, so I have a lot of emotion tied into it.”
Headlining Rappe’s team this season will be Mitch Sellers and Hestin Lamons, both juniors who are two-time state tournament qualifiers. Providing depth for the Tigers will be Zech VanFleet, Wrighter Weavel, Trent Patrick, Reese Davis, Dakota James, Rusty Ballard, Wesley Rivas and Tate Medlin.
“I’m thinking we’re going to have some kids that have big years,” Rappe said. “VanFleet could have a big year. Weavel should surprise some people this year and Paul Sargent, a move-in from Del City, wrestles with a lot of tenacity.”
Against Miami, Tahlequah will have to deal with a Wardog team led by recent Oklahoma State signee, Eli Hale. Jason He and Steven Boyd.
“Miami is going to be tough,” Rappe said. “They are good in the mid and low weights. We just have to nail them down when we have a chance, and we have to win by falls and not give up bonus points.”