Blake Skidgel’s past two years have swept him off his feet.
The recent Pawnee High graduate said he’s gotten to the point where he is simply “going with the flow.”
And the flow of late has been fast, but filled with moments a decade in the making.
When Skidgel won a state wrestling championship as a junior in 2020 – a few weeks before sports were halted for the pandemic – it was a moment of shock even for him.
The 2021 News Press All-Area Wrestler of the Year had been wrestling since kindergarten with the small, youth wrestling program in Pawnee. He said by the third-grade, he was already being sent to train with the high school wrestlers.
And it all culminated with that first state title – which was also the first for a Pawnee wrestler since 2014.
But that was just the beginning for Skidgel.
A few months later, with an Oklahoma state title to his name, he began to send out recruiting tape – including to nearby powerhouse program Oklahoma State.
“Coach (Tyler) Caldwell had called me and talked to about some stuff, and said they’re interested,” Skidgel said. “We’d been kind of talking a little bit and then the day before signing day, I got a call from Coach Caldwell and he said, ‘We’d like to have you on the team. If you want to do it, just sign the papers.’
“And I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it!’ I’d dreamed of wrestling at Oklahoma State my whole life. It was just a dream come true.”
So he signed with the top college wrestling program west of the Mississippi, and instantly the expectations were even greater.
He headed into this past season with more pressure and more targets on his back – a defending state champion, he moved up a weight class from 160 to 170 and was now a Cowboy signee. And he knew it, too.
But as will be expected of him at Oklahoma State – as with any Cowboy wrestler – he didn’t succumb to those pressures.
In fact, he found something else that could motivate him to be better.
His junior season wasn’t perfect – he had one loss on the year. So he ensured there was no blemish this year, despite another potential hurdle no wrestler had experienced prior to this past year.
Skidgel admitted making his senior season an even bigger gauntlet was the pandemic.
After leading the Black Bears’ football program to a spot in the state quarterfinals, he said they had just one week of wrestling practice before it was shut down due to a COVID outbreak and had to quarantine until late December.
So his already short window to go from training for football to getting into wrestling shape was cut even shorter.
“The season was just cram-packed together,” Skidgel said. “It was just bam, bam, bam. So fast-paced. It was just really hard to get into shape that quick.”
After everything he’s worked through the past two years, he is now taking on the task of being in the Cowboy wrestling room.
He recently moved onto the Stillwater campus to begin training with the wrestling team. And he will be entrenched in weight classes with NCAA qualifiers and All-Americans – with the nearest weights to his recent high school class being 165 and 174.
But instead of going in with a goal of expecting to unseat those starters, he has a more philosophical approach to joining Oklahoma State wrestling.
“I like to think of it like building Legos,” Skidgel said. “I just want to keep building and adding Legos to my skill set. That’s my mentality whenever I go in there.”