By Andrew Glover and Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
It’s been a year full of the highest of highs and lowest of lows for the teams in and around Stillwater. One thing is certain, Stillwater established itself as Titletown, USA in a year that sports fans will not forget any time soon.
Just in case you did forget, here’s a little list of the top 10 sports stories from 2012 to jog your memory.
10. Perry’s wrestling reign ends
The Maroons dominated the wrestling mat as they won eight-straight Class 3A state titles. All that came to an end on Feb. 25 when Perry finished in a distant second to Blackwell, 150-112.
The Maroons got championships from then-senior Matt Manley in the 126-pound weight class, Jamaree Swan in the 120-weight class. Trent Williams lost in the 145-pound weight class and David Thomas lost in the 160-pound weight class.
“The boys are kind of down in the dumps. It’s going to take some time to get over,” then-first-year coach Ronnie Delk said. “ ... We’re going to win again. We’re going to come back and win that title back next year.”
9. Josh Holliday named new OSU baseball coach
A tumultuous baseball season filled with the highs of Andrew Heaney winning Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and the lows of outfielder Gabe Weidenaar’s drug bust meant it was time for a change.
As it turns out a familiar face will be pacing the dugout of Allie P. Reynolds Stadium this spring when the Cowboys take the field.
Oklahoma State hired Stillwater native Josh Holliday as it’s next baseball coach. Holliday — who is the older brother of St. Louis Cardinal outfielder Matt Holliday — previously worked under his father, Tom, as an assistant at Oklahoma State before both were let go after the 2003 season.
Since then, Holliday has been an assistant at North Carolina State, Georgia Tech, Arizona State and Vanderbilt. He’s guided seven of those teams to the NCAA Tournament and three teams to the College World Series, including Vanderbilt in 2011.
Holliday’s recruiting presence is well-known throughout the country and it appears that Cowboys baseball is on the path back to prominence.
“We are obviously very excited to welcome Josh back home to Stillwater and Oklahoma State,” Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder said. “He has seen Cowboy baseball from just about every angle possible. He grew up at Allie P. Reynolds Stadium and was a terrific student-athlete at Stillwater High School. At OSU, he was an all-conference player and an Academic All-American and is a former staff member. He will bring the enthusiasm, energy, and a competitive fire that comes with being 35 years of age.
“He has built a strong national reputation over the years, and I expect him to be on the job as soon as the press conference is completed.”
8. Weeden, Blackmon drafted in the first round of NFL draft
Senior quarterback Brandon Weeden and senior wide receiver Justin Blackmon helped Oklahoma State win its first Big 12 championship and Fiesta Bowl. On April 26, both players were rewarded as they were selected in the first round of the NFL draft.
Blackmon was selected fifth by Jacksonville who swapped picks with Tampa Bay. The receiver was excited to join his new team.
“It just goes to show you that anything can happen,” Blackmon said. “It’s a dream come true.”
Weeden was selected later at 22 by the Cleveland Browns who traded picks with Minnesota. OSU coach Mike Gundy said Weeden wins games.
“In the head-to-head battles with all these other quarterbacks in the draft, he made plays and won those games,” Gundy said.
Both players started for their respective teams. In 15 games, Blackmon caught 58 passes for 786 yards and scored four touchdowns. He had a career performance in an overtime loss to the Texans with 7 receptions for 236 yards and a touchdown.
Weeden completed 57 percent of his passes for 3,385 yards with 14 touchdowns to 17 interceptions. The former Pokes quarterback threw for more than 300 yards in three games, including a career-high of 364 in a 20-17 victory over the Raiders.
7. OSU men’s golf misses national tournament
With a national title in cross country, a WNIT championship and the school’s first BCS bowl win, Cowboys fans had a lot to cheer about in 2012.
But for all the history that was made at Oklahoma State during the year, there’s one piece of history that the Cowboys would much rather forget.
For the first time in program history, the Oklahoma State men’s golf team failed to advance to the NCAA championship — snapping a 65-year streak that dated back to 1947.
The Cowboys finished eighth out of 13 teams, 14 shots shy of the fifth-place cutoff.
6. Three Stillwater High wrestlers win state
The Pioneers had plenty of hardware to bring home from the state wrestling tournament as three wrestlers won state championships.
Freshman Joe Smith became the first Stillwater freshman to win a state title in five years with a pin of Yukon’s Boo Lewallen. The victory also capped an undefeated season.
“It was probably one of the best feelings I’ve ever had,” Smith said. “I put a lot of work in this year and I expected nothing less than to be a state champion.”
Senior Paul Wilson won the 220-pound weight class and Travis Morgan won the 285-pound weight class. The Pioneers finished third.
5. Stillwater’s Noah Gade wins state cross country
Four years ago, Stillwater’s Noah Gade set a goal for himself — to be the best runner in the state of Oklahoma.
Gade took some detours — using unconventional training for high school students and even skipping some meets — but in his senior season he finally achieved that goal.
For the first time in 22 years, Gade brought the individual state cross country title back to Stillwater with a time of 15:30.84. He became the eighth Pioneer to win the title and first since Tyler Echelle accomplished that feat in 1989.
“I knew it was the last chance for me,” Gade said after the meet. “Essentially it was this year or never. ... It means a lot to me. It’s a perfect way to end my cross country career at Stillwater High School. It’s just been awesome.”
Gade continue to compete at the national level, finishing 36th at the Foot Locker National cross country meet in San Diego — becoming just the second Oklahoma to ever compete in the meet.
4. Frontier girls win state in basketball
The Lady Mustangs have an established winning streak in softball. Last March they found themselves on top of the basketball world. Frontier beat Kiowa in the quarterfinals 52-48 at Southern Nazarene University. The Lady Mustangs continued their run at the OKC Fairgrounds with a 54-35 thumping of Copan. In the finals, Frontier edged Okarche to claim the title.
3. OSU women win WNIT
A season that started in tragedy ended in triumph for the Oklahoma State women’s basketball team.
Four months after a plane crash took the lives of coaches Kurt Budke and Miranda Serna — along with alums Olin and Paula Branstetter — the Cowgirls rose from the ashes of tragedy to claim the first WNIT championship in program history.
“It’s a feeling that words can’t describe,” Oklahoma State guard Tiffany Bias said. “It’s hard to explain. There’s so many emotions going through your head. You’re just happy. You have a smile on your face because you know you’ve done it for a team and our whole community.”
Toni Young scored 25 points en route to the tournament MVP honors, while Bias recorded a double-double with 17 points and 11 assists but neither was the star on that night.
Instead, Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell asked Shelley Budke — widow of Kurt — to cut down the final strands of the net.
She did so with tears in her eyes and one finger pointed to the rafters in Gallagher-Iba Arena as a salute to her late husband.
“We wouldn’t have had it any other way,” Littell said. “She’s been a rock for us, the way she’s come to the games, supported the Cowgirls, and been there for these kids, and been there for the coaches. I commend her for that. I don’t know how she’s done it sometimes.”
2. OSU men’s cross country wins 3rd title in four years
The Cowboys cross country team was looking for redemption after finishing runner-up in last season’s championships. That’s exactly what they got as they won their third title in the last four years.
“It’s a heck of a lot better,” coach Dave Smith said. “It’s just one place better, but it’s an eternity in feeling.”
Oklahoma State had three runners finish in the top 25, earning All-America honors. Tom Farrell finished ninth 29:26.3), Shadrack Kipchirchir finished 18th (29:43) and Joseph Manilafasha finished 24th (29:48.8).
Shane Moskowitz had a solid finish as OSU’s fifth runner to help clinch the team title by more than 60 points over defending champion Wisconsin.
“Shane did a great job. He’s come a long, long ways from where he was his freshman year and last year,” Smith said.
1. OSU wins the Fiesta Bowl
Oklahomans are no stranger to wild Fiesta Bowl finishes — see Boise State.
But in a season in which everything seemed to go Oklahoma State’s way, the Pokes’ first BCS bowl berth proved to be no exception.
In a game in which Oklahoma State never led in regulation — tying the game at 38-38 on Joseph Randle’s 4-yard run with 2:35 left in the fourth quarter. Stanford had a chance to take down the Cowboys but kicker Jordan Williamson missed a 35-yard field goal at the end of regulation and 43-yarder in overtime.
Oklahoma State’s Quinn Sharp — who was still haunted by the miss at Iowa State — put that miss behind him and drilled a 22-yard game-winner, giving Oklahoma State its first 12-win season in school history.
The win also ignited the college football world’s call for a playoff system.
Oklahoma State fans will get their wish in 2014, when a four-team playoff will take place.
Stillwater volleyball returns to state
OSU athletes have run-ins with the law
Stillwater girls swimmers finish second at state
Glencoe boys basketball goes to state
Stillwater baseball goes to state