By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
A year ago, the Stillwater High School wrestling team had arguably its best dual of the season against Shawnee in a 44-27 rout, but that was with three experienced seniors.
This year it could be a different story.
Paul Wilson, Travis Morgan and Jase Deppershmidt won’t be stepping onto the mat when the Pioneers take on the Wolves at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Pioneer Fieldhouse. Instead, Shawnee will be the more experienced team, with a majority of last year’s lineup still intact.
“We beat Shawnee last year, which is a positive thing in our minds,” Stillwater coach Doug Chesbro said. “I looked at their lineup that they’ve already sent me and they have a ton of returning starters from last year. Yeah, we beat some of those kids, but if they’ve improved like they should have who knows what can happen. I have a lot of new kids in my lineup. We’re probably going to be favored at the lower weights, but we’re going to have to battle at the upper weights.”
Battling in the heavier weight classes is nothing new for the Pioneers. Stillwater squeezed out a win over defending Class 3A state champion Blackwell Tuesday thanks in part to a win by sophomore Cyntrell Carden in the 220-pound weight class.
“I expect this meet to be like a lot of the one we’ve seen so far,” Chesbro said. “I’m guessing we will be somewhere in the neighborhood of seven wins apiece and then it just comes down to who gets the most (bonus points) and who gives up the most.”
“We definitely feel like momentum is on our side right now,” Carden said. “It feels pretty good when you beat the defending state champs. We just have to carry that momentum into our next match and continue to improve on areas that we’re still working on.”
The Pioneers have the momentum after winning against the Maroons on Tuesday, but for some wrestlers Thursday’s dual will be the fourth match in six days. The Wolves, on the other hand, haven’t wrestled since their dual at McAlester Dec. 4.
“Kids are resilient and our kids are extremely so,” Chesbro said. “We’ll have a light workout (Wednesday). We’ll work on weights and talk about some of the mistakes we made (against Blackwell) and some of the things we need to improve on. Then we’ll just move on. I can’t spend three hours a day in the wrestling room with these kids because it will just kill them after a night like (Tuesday). Some of those kids left everything they have out there on the mat — they need some recovery time. That’s OK. We just take things slow and we know how to handle it.”
With a dual against Sand Springs also looming in the background, things aren’t going to get any easier for the Pioneers before the break. But if Stillwater can capture a couple wins, it should help spark them for the second half of the season.
“We’ve got two pretty tough duals ahead, but we’re looking forward to them,” Chesbro said. “We want to get those in the book, then go to Christmas and spend a couple weeks training, relaxing and getting well. Then we’re looking forward to the remainder of the season.”
The road might not be as easy as it was last year, but Stillwater’s confidence is peaking at the right time. The trick for Chesbro will be to use that confidence to his advantage.
“We do feel really good about where we’re at right now,” Stillwater freshman Kennedy Monday said. “We’re still working toward our goals, but we had a good weekend at Perry and we got another good win (Tuesday). A lot of our guys are wrestling really well and that helps because it sets us up to have a lot of success.”