By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Typically, the Stillwater High School wrestling team only gets a couple of days to plan for a tournament. Nearly a week after six Pioneer wrestlers punched their ticket to Friday’s state tournament in Oklahoma City by finishing in the top four at regionals, Stillwater coach Doug Chesbro is hoping that extra time pays off.
“You have a week to train and you know exactly who you’re going to compete against,” Chesbro said. “The pairings are all set. You know what their records are and what they placed in the other regional, and you kind of see where you fit in. People start planning and saying, ‘What do I have to do, who do I have to beat and where do I fall in the consolations if I’m unable to advance.’ It’s kind of a neat thing. There’s a week of planning that goes into this. It’s a little bit different than most tournaments, but I expect our kids to go in there planning on winning.”
The Pioneers did their fair share of rolling around on the mat this past week, but going up against so many familiar opponents the focus this week has been more on those opponents than worrying about technique.
“If you’re getting ready to compete against a kid that you’ve struggled with in the past or you know you might struggle with, it might start to wear on you as the week goes along, but at the same time it does prepare you,” Chesbro said. “You know exactly what you’re going to do, unlike other tournaments where you have to wait and see who you’re going to wrestle. We know exactly who they are.”
It isn’t just their opponents that Chesbro is trying to prepare his team for this week — it’s also the thought of wrestling in front of thousands of people at the State Fair Arena.
While wrestlers like Joe Smith, Kaid Brock and Benny Teegarden have been to state before, this will be a first-time experience for three wrestlers — freshman Kennedy Monday and Chase Lane and junior King Williams.
“Shoot, I worry about nerves getting to me,” Chesbro said. “It’s a big deal. Our sport, high school wrestling, this is what it all boils down to. This is it. You train for a long time for two days of action. All the things that we’ve done up to this point, it all boils down to these last three matches.”
It may be a new experience, but it isn’t like Monday and Lane haven’t been in similar situations before. And with Smith, Brock and Teegarden having already been there, that only helps the Pioneer trio prepare for state.
“It means a lot because they’re no strangers to the big stage,” Chesbro said. “To a certain extent Kennedy Monday is not either and Chase Lane was a junior high champion also. It’s not like it’s a huge surprise going in. But it does help having a couple of kids who have been there and placed at state on your side.”
The Pioneers have been dwelling on the state tournament for the past week — some perhaps even dreaming about standing atop the podium when it’s all said and done.
Through all the planning and preparation that has gone on — including some long, difficult practices earlier in the week — there is a sense of pride and excitement filtering out of the Pioneers’ wrestling room.
“I think the kids are more anxious to get it started than nervous,” Chesbro said. “We’ve had a couple good days of practice and you can tell that they’re all excited about state. They all have smiles on their faces and they’re having fun. I told them the other day at practice how proud I am of them. It’s just the best feeling in the world to know that they have done something correctly and now they’re about to reap the rewards.”