By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
It’s been a question that’s been on Stillwater High School wrestling fans’ minds since the season opened. How will the Pioneers replace two state champions in the 220-pound and 285-pound weight classes?
After nearly a month of competition, Stillwater coach Doug Chesbro is finally starting to see the results he had been hoping for.
“I feel comfortable with the kids I’m putting out there on the mat,” Chesbro said. “Do I feel comfortable that we’re going to win (close matches) every time? Absolutely not. As soon as I start doing that, then they’re going to get that feeling from me and I can’t allow that to happen.”
It hasn’t exactly been easy to replace guys like Paul Wilson and Travis Morgan. Stillwater has needed to rely on inexperienced wrestlers like sophomores Cyntrell Carden and D.J. Peckham to fill those shoes.
“It’s pretty tough to follow someone like (Wilson),” Carden said. “I just want to be kind of like him because he was a state champ. It would be nice to be somewhat like him and do what he did. I think we are starting to step in and fill that void.”
When it comes to the lighter weights, few teams in the state are better than Stillwater. But Chesbro knows that most the duals this season will come down to how many heavier weight class wins the Pioneers can pick up — or at least avoid giving up bonus points.
“We know we’re probably going to get six or seven wins right off the bat with guys like Kennedy (Monday), Joe (Smith) and Kaid (Brock),” Chesbro said. “Like it has been for most of the season, where we’re going to win or lose a match will be in those heavier weight classes.”
Stillwater typically needs just one win from those heavier guys to lock up a dual victory, but Carden says that it does add a little pressure knowing that it might come down to his match.
“We know that we’re going to win a lot of matches because of those guys, but we still have to try and not put yourself down,” Carden said. “There’s always a little pressure when you know your team needs either a win or not to give up bonus points. You just have to wrestle your best and hope that you can do enough to help your team get a win.”
Along with youngsters like Carden and Peckham, the Pioneers have also relied on the experience of Cody Knight to help lead Stillwater at times this season.
“The fact is we’re very young in those upper weights,” Chesbro said. “We need guys like Cody (Knight) to step up and show their senior leadership in those tough matches. We’re still working on a lot of things, but we still have a lot of time to work on their skills before their careers are over.”
It has been a struggle at times — especially early in the season. But after facing some early adversity, Chesbro feels that his team is headed in the right direction as far as being a complete team.
“It is tough on them, but the thing that we’re always looking for is will you stick it out?” Chesbro said. “Will you take those lumps along the way and continue to be part of the program and part of the team until you get your opportunity to win? D.J. Peckham hasn’t won at home yet, but he’s got his first win under his belt. You have to throw a dog a bone every once in a while and you have to give them that opportunity. They will come if you stick around and continue to compete.”
Carden says he has no plans of giving up wrestling any time soon, hoping to follow in Wilson’s footsteps and one day become a state champion. But even if that doesn’t happen, the future certainly seems bright for Stillwater wrestling.
“I hope that I’ll have something in my future with wrestling and I’ll probably be pretty good at it,” Carden said. “Any time you follow a state champion like (Wilson), people are always going to compare you to him. I just have to be my own wrestler and not worry about trying to be like him. If I can win a state championship, that’d be great. He did it as a senior, so hopefully by the time I’m a senior I’ll be in the same situation he was in.”