By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
When the word "statement" was thrown at Doug Chesbro following Tuesday's 48-16 dismantling of powerhouse Perry, the top-ranked team in Class 3A, he couldn't help but beam.
Not one to put the cart before the horse, the Stillwater High coach knew exactly what this sports journalist was getting at. And this time, he gladly followed down the rabbit hole.
"I think we're the No. 1 team in north-central Oklahoma. I think we can claim Payne County, Noble County and Kay County," Chesbro said. "We've beaten two teams in Kay County, we've beaten everybody that there is here in Payne County and then the one team in Noble County. ...
"When you beat a Sand Springs by 30, and a Perry by 30, and a Cushing by (22), when you start putting numbers up like that then people start paying attention to you. We've got kids that can win and we've got kids that can bonus points when they do."
It's at testament to what Stillwater High wrestling has become this year.
The Pioneers are a highlight of former — and likely soon-to-be repeat — state champions. And on Tuesday, they went toe-to-toe with another program that could claim the same.
It's because of that, glimpses of grandeur swirl around the Stillwater wrestling program.
SHS wrestling has had great athletes in recent years, but it goes back to when four-time state champion Chris Perry led the wrestling room that the Pioneers could claim to have a great team. But even then, there was still greater — in 2006, when Stillwater slipped to runner-up behind Ponca City.
With a handful of legitimate state title contenders, Stillwater is showing signs of potential in a wrestling-crazed region.
In all the years Oklahoma State wrestling coach John Smith has been in Stillwater, he couldn't recall a time that two storied wrestling programs at the peak when head-to-head in the regular season.
"Any time you've got two teams within 20 miles that are ranked No. 1, it's pretty exciting. It's exciting for the wrestling fans in this area," said Smith, who was in attendance to watch his son, Joe Smith, wrestle for the Pioneers. "Historically, this area has been pretty strong over a lot of years."
This clash of titans is exactly what the area and the state needs to reclaim the glory days of wrestling. Having arguably one of the greatest wrestling programs in the country in Perry battling a resurgent Class 6A program bodes well for the sport — as the several hundred in attendance Tuesday can attest.
What those fans saw, albeit a shellacking by Stillwater, is potentially two future state champions getting to showcase their talents on the same mat, mano y mano.
"Now it comes down to state tournament time and if we can rise to the occasion," Joe Smith said following the win. "I think we can. I think we will do well."
Jason Elmquist is sports editor of The Stillwater News Press. He can be contacted at email@example.com.