OKLAHOMA CITY – The Stillwater High wrestling team won its first state championship in seven years, thanks to its highest number of individual titles in school history.
Stillwater won six of its seven final matches en route to a team title Saturday night at Jim Norick Arena. The Pioneers scored 159 points to easily beat runner-up Mustang, which scored 139.5 team points.
“I’ve believed it since the very first day in August when I put all of these guys on a scale, looked at who we had and what we could do,” SHS wrestling coach Ethan Kyle said. “Kudos to them for sticking with it and being as consistent as you could possibly be, and doing it under these conditions has been amazing.
“The support staff around us from our coaches, who just pour their heart and soul into it, and their families, who are unbelievable. It’s what we thought we could do, but it’s hard to do in life. There are a lot of moving parts, so it was good.”
This year’s title marks the Pioneers’ first team state championship since 2014. Five Pioneers won titles that year.
Winning individual titles this year were Sam Smith (106 pounds), Cael Hughes (120), JJ McComas (126), Carter Young (138), Teague Travis (145) and Anthony Ferrari (160). Angelo Ferrari finished runner-up after losing in ultimate tiebreaker.
“I don’t know what they put in our sandwiches before the finals, but it worked,” Young said.
Two other SHS seniors were state placers in their final state tournament. Cade Nicholas (132) and Brett Black (220) both finished fourth, each losing their respective third-place match by fall. They each went 2-2 on the day.
Kyle was pleased with how his wrestlers performed, especially when they were expected to win their weight classes in addition to scoring points for a team championship.
“Like I said Friday in the hotel, we don’t have to be heroes, we need to take care of our own business,” Kyle said. “Somebody will step up and maybe go where they weren’t supposed to, but we just have to go do what we do every day. We set a high standard with our training and our lifestyle, and we hold people accountable. So, that takes the pressure off of you at the end of the season. You don’t have to make some kind of miraculous jump.”
A pair of SHS championship matches were key toward the team title, as the Pioneers were squared off with a Mustang opponent. The second of those was the 160 finals match between Anthony Ferrari and Mustang junior John Wiley.
Anthony Ferrari trailed 1-0 after the second period, but scored an escape point early in the third period before scoring a takedown that turned into a pin seconds later. He pinned Wiley with 0:40 left on the clock.
“That was my second time wrestling that kid, and the last match went into overtime,” Anthony Ferrari said. “It felt great to get that pin. I knew I was going to pin him as soon as I locked up that cradle.”
Wiley ended the season with two losses – both coming from his Pioneer opponent. Anthony Ferrari said he had extra motivation for his match, which began seconds after he saw his younger brother lose in the ultimate tiebreaker.
“I was pretty pissed after seeing that,” Ferrari said. “I was ready to go out there and take it out on the mat.”
Anthony Ferrari’s win likely locked up the team title. It was the last of the Pioneers’ individual championships, and although Mustang had four more competitors in the finals, the loss at 160 was its second loss in the finals.
The SHS victory over Mustang in the finals came at 120. SHS sophomore Cael Hughes remained undefeated on the season and in high school with a 5-3 decision over Tucker Owens, who was a two-time state champ.
“It’s really important to me, because I put in a lot of hours training and to see it pay off out here is a really big deal to me,” Hughes said. “There was a lot of pressure when you’re a freshman state champ, but this was a really big deal. I’m a sophomore and I wrestled a senior. It was a big deal to win that and keep on track to become a four-time state champ.”
One of Hughes’ goals is to become a four-time state champ. After winning the 106 title a year ago, that dream became a possibility, and it added extra motivation for him.
“It fuels me,” Hughes said. “I’m probably not expected to win that match, but that means I can go give it my all and put everything on the mat and not worry about it.”
Stillwater began the finals by winning six of the first nine weight classes. The first of those was Smith, who beat Broken Arrow’s Christian Forbes by a 6-0 decision. Smith scored an escape and a takedown in the second period before a second takedown locked up the win in the third period.
“It feels good that all of my hard work paid off,” Smith said. “I think I did well and kept extending the score against that kid. I had to keep my stance low against him and keep after it.”
Kyle was proud of Smith for wrestling well and starting the finals matches with a solid win.
“Sam Smith has been really consistent all year long,” Kyle said. “He’s managed his weight properly. I thought it was nice that he stayed healthy. You’re thankful and grateful that things came together for him, and he got what he earned. It’s not deserved. He earned it and thankfully it came.”
Three weight classes later, the Pioneers’ biggest underdog in the finals came through with another exciting win – his third of the tournament. McComas beat Broken Arrow junior Jordan Cullors, who won the east regional, in a 5-4 tiebreak.
The SHS freshman kept Cullors down all 30 seconds of the first tiebreaker. McComas escaped in the second tiebreaker and avoided a takedown to earn the victory and the state title.
“It’s a lot of different emotions,” McComas said. “I didn’t do very well last week at regionals, and that was my push to come out and wrestle all of these kids to the greatest of my ability.
“I think I wrestled well,” McComas said. “I let him get on my legs too much, but I at the end, when he was getting tired, I just kept pressuring pressuring. I had my best match in my finals match.”
McComas won his wrestle-in match by fall in the second period before earning a huge upset in the quarterfinals. He pinned Matt Garcia, who was a regional champ from Edmond Memorial, in the third round. That was the match where McComas said he believed a state title was possible.
In the semifinals, McComas’ match went into the sudden victory where he won by takedown with 0:22 left on the clock. After a fourth-place finish at the east regional the week prior, McComas found himself in the state finals in one of the biggest surprises of the day.
“Without a doubt, he has the skill, he has the talent and he has the training partners,” Kyle said. “He doesn’t have an easy day. I’ll be honest with you, a week ago he was at a bottom point. He had just tweaked his knee in the third-place bout and been pinned by a kid he’d beaten many times this year.
“He got to a point with some adversity and a fork in the road, and he showed up and responded. Good on him. He’s developing as an outstanding young man. It’s a long process, but this is certainly going to jump start it.”
The final two state champs were SHS seniors signed to go wrestle at NCAA Div. I universities. The first was Young, who pinned Edmond North’s Layton Schneider in 1:15. Young won his three state matches by fall, tech fall 17-1 and by fall.
Young ended his prep career as a four-time state finalist and a three-time state champ, with his lone runner-up finish coming as a sophomore.
“Great way to close it out,” Young said. “I got the pin in my last state finals match. I’m just glad it worked out the way it did, and it was a great season. I’m friends with the guy I beat in the finals. He’s going to be good. He’s young, but he’s got a lot of potential.”
Young will continue his wrestling career at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
“I’m looking forward to the future,” Young said. “Should be fun. I’ll take a day or two off and then get back to it.”
Travis capped his career as a four-time state champ, with his last coming as a Pioneer. He beat Broken Arrow’s Jared Hill – the same wrestler he beat for the regional crown – by a 3-2 decision.
Travis broke the 1-1 tie scoring a takedown with 16 seconds left in the match. Hill scored an escape point eight seconds later before Travis held off a last-second charge by his opponent.
“That was my fourth time wrestling him, so we had a pretty good feel for each other,” Travis said. “I knew that it was going to come down to whoever got a takedown. He got in deep a couple times, but I fought it off and I knew that I could get a takedown in the third and win the match.”
Becoming a four-time state champ was an exciting moment for Travis.
“This means a lot,” Travis said. “Since my freshman year, I’ve won and I wanted to be a four-timer, so there was a lot of pressure coming in here. Anything can happen, but you’ve just got to go out there and get the job done and find a way to win.”
Travis, who moved to Stillwater from Columbia, Missouri, for his senior year, will stay in town for his collegiate career. He is signed to compete at Oklahoma State University.
“I’m ready to start,” Travis said. “I’ll take a couple weeks off. I’m going to enjoy some time off, get fat and happy.”
The lone loss in the finals came at 152. Angelo Ferrari gave up a last second escape to Edmond Memorial’s AJ Heeg in the ultimate tiebreak. Neither wrestler scored in sudden victory or the tiebreaker before Heeg won the toss and elected to take bottom for the final 30 seconds.
Angelo Ferrari kept Heeg down and maintained a hold of his leg for nearly the entire period. Heeg rolled and escaped just before the horn sounded, handing the SHS freshman a brutal loss, 5-4, which was just the second of his season.
“For a guy like Angelo, and many others on this team, this is more than just something they do,” Kyle said. “It’s a lot of who they are as individuals, so there’s not much to say when the dream is crushed like that. You hug them, you walk with them and you make sure you keep his chin up and you assure him there will be more down the road.”
Gabe Fontanez (113) and Dax Hughes (170) also each won a match for the Pioneers. They won their wrestle-in matches by an 11-6 decision and by tech fall, 17-1, in their respective matches.