Tahlequah Daily Press

TDP Sports Blog

March 1, 2014

Harding driven by one loss this season

The rest of the 138-pound wrestlers in Class 5A can blame Fredy Stroker for Gary Wayne Harding’s nonstop determination this season.

Stroker of Bettendorf, Iowa, is the lone wrestler to beat Harding — a senior at Collinsville — this season, in a 7-5 decision in the championship match of the Kansas City Stampede. Since then, Harding conjures up thoughts of that loss and it motivates him all over again.

“That’s kind of been motivation the rest of the year,” Harding said. “I don’t want to feel like that again.”

He hasn’t even come close to feeling like that since.

“I think about it every day,” Harding told the Tahlequah Daily Press in a recent interview. “I hate losing.”

Harding returned to Oklahoma and has been on a tear ever since. Now he’s after his fourth straight individual championship at this weekend’s Class 5A state tournament.

So far at this year's state tournament, Harding has posted easy victories over Piedmont's Reece Henry (15-0 technical fall) and Durant's Jared Woods (fall at 0:38).

Once his high school career comes to a close on Saturday night, Harding will head to Stillwater and wrestle for Oklahoma State, where he hopes to obtain his ultimate goal.

"Dreams are falling into place, kind of," Harding said of signing with OSU. "More than anything, ya know, all the hard work is paying off. And the ultimate goal is becoming a national champion, and that's the place for my ultimate goal of becoming a national champion."

In Harding’s high school career, all he’s known has been winning. He’s claimed individual championships, and along with his Collinsville teammates he’s claimed four dual state titles and three state tournament championships. Now the Cardinals are after their fourth team title this weekend.

"It's been a blast," said Harding, whose club owns a 135 to 103 lead over Lawton MacArthur heading into the finals at State Fair Arena.

"That's of course what every body wanted from the start. But at the same time, we didn't look too much ahead. It's been about working hard for one thing and work hard for the next, and everything has kind of fallen into place."

The best part about all of his high school success is the fact that Harding’s been able to share it with his dad the whole way. Wes Harding has been in the coaching corner as Collinsville’s coach since Gary Wayne stepped on the mat as a freshman.

"It's not just him coaching me — there's a bond there," Gary Wayne Harding said. "It continues when we go home...and I wouldn't have it any other way."

It’s been a pleasure for Wes Harding, too.

"I've been coaching him since he was five years old, so it's been a great ride for me to be able to coach him and to go all over the United States," Wes Harding said. "It's been a great ride, but I think he's ready to go to Oklahoma State next year and go to another level."

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TDP Sports Blog

Ben Johnson has been the sports editor at the Tahlequah Daily Press since 2009. He's a Broken Arrow native and a graduate of Oklahoma State University. He's also an avid fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs.

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