By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Less than a week ago, the Stillwater High School wrestling team was riding high on the wave of momentum. The Pioneers finished second at the Larry Wilkey Invitational in Jenks and were looking to continue that strong second-half start with duals against Enid and Ponca City.
Now Stillwater is left picking up the pieces and just hoping to stay somewhat competitive as they face Ponca City at 7 p.m. Thursday on the road.
“Saturday night I would have told you that we were flying high and there was no stopping us now,” Stillwater coach Doug Chesbro said. “But things happen like that. You can’t dictate injury, you can’t do anything about illness and you can’t do anything about kids being 17-year-old kids. These things happen. ... I guess in a way that makes the whole thing exciting because you really never know what to expect and you never know what’s coming down the road. You have to train your team to be resilient — to be able to fight through adversity.”
Stillwater may be down a wrestler or two — possibly even three if 106-pound freshman Kennedy Monday isn’t healthy enough to go — but Chesbro said those expectations don’t diminish just because the Pioneers are lacking some of their big guns.
“We have some kids that don’t always get an opportunity to shine because so many of those kids that I have are truly powerhouses in the state at their weight class,” Chesbro said “I have kids that are in the wings that could be full-time varsity wrestlers for a lot of different teams in the state so that’s a luxury for us. Mason Mefford is one of them. Mason is a sophomore that’s been behind those guys for basically his entire high school career and now is getting an opportunity to show what he can do.”
Mefford earned a 12-4 major decision over Enid’s Gabe Farias in the 120-pound match Tuesday as the Pioneers beat the Plainsmen 42-28. Now he’s going to be asked to step up even more against a more experienced Ponca City team.
“The last couple of years we’ve been able to hold them off and win two straight, but they’re better than they have been the last two years,” Chesbro said. “This is the best team they’ve had in three or four years — they’re loaded. They are a lot like the other teams that we’ve competed against. They’re tough in the upper weights, where we sometimes struggle. But not only do they have some strong upper weights, they are solid in the lower weights too.”
Making things even more challenging for the Pioneers, Stillwater will be without state qualifier Benny Teegarden — who will likely be out for a majority of the next month after suffering an injury against Enid’s Billy Grothe Tuesday.
“It was a big hit to the team to see Benny go down like that,” Chesbro said. “Benny is a well-liked kid on the team that has a lot of respect from kids on the team and from people around the state. ... It hurts in a lot more ways that just having a quality wrestler on your team when you lose somebody like Benny.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to get King (Williams) back from his injury and bump him up to 126 to take Benny’s spot and then go ahead and leave Mason Mefford in the lineup at 120. Even though we’re losing some quality points there, we’re still putting quality people on the mat. I’ll put up Mason Mefford against anybody out there and I’ll put up King Williams against anybody out there and take our chances. I’m not concerned about some big drop off. I just have to get people to where they need to be to give them the best chance to have success.”
Sometimes it’s not about winning or losing — even against a rival like Ponca City. And while a victory over the Wildcats could send Stillwater’s confidence through the roof, just being able to tread water during the rockiest waves of the season could pay off in the end for the Pioneers.
“I can’t guarantee that we’re going to be as competitive as we would have been a week ago or as competitive as we would be a month from now,” Chesbro said. “We’re not at our full strength and that’s going to make it tough to make a show, and that’s OK. If we were going to have a lull sometime during the season, I’d rather it be now than a month from now. ... We’ll keep our head above water and we’ll keep swimming. Hopefully in a month from now, everybody will be back to where they need to be and we’ll be able to get back to where we were and where we planned to be all year long.”