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James Rappe has been a fixture in the Tahlequah wrestling room for the past six years. Starting this winter, he’ll be the face of the program.

Rappe was named as Tahlequah’s head wrestling coach on Monday, replacing Brandon Benson and becoming the Tigers’ fifth coach in the past six seasons.

“I was very excited to get the position,” Rappe said, recalling the moment when he was told he got the job.

Rappe, who graduated from Muskogee High School in 2001, takes over as the varsity coach after manning the junior high coaching spot under Benson. Overall, Rappe has been involved with the Tahlequah wrestling program for the past six seasons.

“Most of the guys in the program have wrestled for me in junior high or little league,” Rappe said. “I really believe it’s going to be a smooth transition, because the kids have known me as their coach for the last six or seven years.”

But does Rappe consider the upgrade from junior high to varsity a concern?

“I feel very confident to take the role on,” he said. “I’ve worked for guys that had a lot of experience, and I bring some skills to the table that should benefit the kids.”

Returning for the Tigers in 2012-2013 will be Class 5A state qualifiers Mitch Sellers, Dayne Whitehorn and Hestin Lamons. Both Lamons and Sellers — two-time state qualifiers — will both be juniors next season.

“We will have a good team coming back next year,” Rappe said, “but we have a long ways to go to get to a state championship level. Right now, we have some guys that can compete for individual titles.”

Dr. Shannon Goodsell, superintendent of Tahlequah Public Schools, put his stamp of approval on Rappe being named the head coach.

“We think he’s going to do an outstanding job,” Goodsell said. “He has a proven track record of establishing a winning program.

“He has a wealth of wrestling expertise in coaching abilities that he’s bringing to an already-established wrestling program. We’re happy to have him as our wrestling coach.”

Rappe said his primary goals are to create a solid little league program and compete for a dual state berth every season.

“We have kids coming through now to where we should compete for dual state every year,” said Rappe, who takes over a team that qualified for dual state for the first time under Benson in 2011.

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