Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

February 20, 2014

Tiger takes aim at state spot

bjohnson@tahlequahdailypress.com

Sitting idly by as a sophomore last season, Will Tiger had to watch as Sequoyah came up empty at the Class 3A regional tournament. The Indians left Berryhill without a single state qualifier for the 3A state tournament.

This year, Tiger can take matters into his own hands when Sequoyah wrestles at the Class 3A regional tournament at Pawhuska on Friday and Saturday.

“I’m pretty excited to wrestle in the regional tournament because I haven’t got to since my freshman year,” said Tiger, who will be at 126 pounds for the Indians.

Tiger, a junior this year, said having to sit out for his sophomore season because of ineligibility — due to Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association restrictions — has driven him to succeed this year.

“Missing last season,” he said, “is my biggest motivation to place at the regional tournament to have a shot at state.”

No one is hoping for Tiger’s spot at the state tournament more than his coach Brad Jones.

“Wrestling is everything to Will,” Jones said. “He has dedicated a lot of time to the sport and has the right focus to get the job done, but so do a lot of other kids in 3A.

“Missing last year was devastating to him, [and] it was for the coaches as well.”

Tiger will be out to replicate his tournament performances so far this season. Tiger — in five tournaments — has won two titles (at Inola and Cleveland) while mixing in a second-place finish at the Maverick Conference Tournament in Wagoner. However, at the Tuttle tournament, Tiger was merely fifth, and he didn’t finish in the top four at the Carman Classic in Pawhuska.

“I’ve learned you can’t win them all,” Tiger said. “But every loss has given me just that much more experience and has gotten me ready for the regional tournament.”

And based on some of that competition, he should be more than ready for the regional tournament. In the Maverick Conference finals, Tiger lost to reigning 5A state champion Donald Cannon of McAlester, and at the Tuttle tournament, Tigers’ two losses were against 4A state qualifiers last season — Harrah’s Ryan Rutherford and Cushing’s Mason Roberts.

Those who figure to be standing between Tiger and the state tournament this weekend will be Pawhuska’s Taylor Priest and Briar Stopp of Newkirk. Stopp was a state champion at 113 pounds last season.

“I have to go out and wrestle the way I know I can,” Tiger said. “[I have to] limit my mistakes and pull a couple of upsets.”

Jones’ analysis was much the same.

“We believe he’s ready to go,” Jones said. “And we’re thinking about a few key opponents we have to beat in order to put ourselves in the right position.”

And what about if Tiger can prolong his season and advance to the state tournament?

“It would mean a lot to me,” Tiger said, “because I have never wrestled in a high school state tournament.”

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