Cael Hughes made an explosive home debut Thursday, a week after finally returning to the mat for Stillwater High wrestling after being sidelined for about six months while wearing a back brace.

Hughes – who made his season debut last week with a win over Bixby’s Zach Blankenship, who recently signed with Oklahoma State – got the Pioneers going with bonus-point victories on their way to 49-24 victory over rival Ponca City.

Stillwater opened the dual with a trio of closely contested decisions, but Hughes picked up the first of six bonus-point wins for the Pioneers via a pin with two seconds remaining in the second period.

“I came out of the back brace off the injury and had about a month to train – put in the work with two or three practices a day,” Hughes said. “So it was really cool to see it all pay off out there on the mat.”

Prior to his first match back in Pioneer Fieldhouse, the Pioneers got out to an early lead with three wins decided by a combined four points.

Aydan Thomas rallied from an early deficit at 106 pounds, getting a takedown with three seconds left in the match to get a 5-4 decision.

Gabe Fontanez followed with a 4-2 decision at 113 pounds – getting a takedown with 11 seconds remaining to get his win.

At 120 pounds, Sam Smith was able to earn a 2-1 decision by riding out his opponent in the third period.

JJ McComas followed Hughes’ win with a clean match at 132 pounds. The fellow defending state champion rolled to an 8-0 major decision – the only bonus-point victory for SHS that wasn’t a pin.

Stillwater received a free six points for the team score at 138 pounds with Landyn Sommer receiving a forfeit.

Two weights later, Kael Voinovich needed just 51 seconds to get a fall at 152 pounds.

It was followed by yet another pin for the Pioneers by way of Angelo Ferrari at 160 pounds.

Ferrari clearly outmatched his opponent, landing eight takedowns – with quick releases – in the first period.

Though the match and dual were well in hand for Stillwater, Pioneer coach Ethan Kyle wanted Ferrari to get a feel for taking it to the next level by getting a pin in preparation for future duals that may come down to one team point. So 39 seconds into the second period, Ferrari finally got his opponent in an awkward enough position on a takedown to turn it into a fall.

“It’s a bit of a habit thing, recognizing the difference between five and six points (in the team score),” Kyle said. “We lost a tiebreaker that kept us away from the dual state last year – we lost 32-32 – so trying to instill those kinds of lessons.”

It was followed by another fall that got one of the loudest ovations from the Stillwater student section.

At 170 pounds, Gatlin Wilson – who had an edge after the first period thanks to a takedown and two-point nearfall – utilized starting from the top position in the second to get a fall 27 seconds into the period.

Ponca City would respond late with a three-straight pins following Wilson’s win – with all four of the dual’s matches won by the Wildcats being by way of a fall.

But Stillwater heavyweight Carson Cottrill ensure the rivals wouldn’t make it four wins to close the dual.

Despite giving up at least 30 pounds to his opponent from Ponca City, Cottrill worked his way to a scoreless tie heading to the third period – thanks to riding out the heavier opponent in the second.

After getting a quick escape, he wasn’t going to leave the result to chance.

Cottrill scored a takedown that would have been enough to secure a decision, but instead he worked his way into a fall with 32 seconds left in the match.

“He’s out there fighting, wrestling his hardest,” Hughes said of Cottrill. “He’s giving 100 percent effort, works hard in the practice room, so I’m glad to see him out there competing and doing his thing and helping get the win for the team.”

Stillwater won’t get any chance to relax after the dual victory.

The Pioneers will head to the Geary Tournament this weekend – the start of three-straight weekends of tournaments, which will include the COAC Tournament Jan. 14-15 and the Hancock Yukon Tournament Jan. 21-22.

“More than anything right now, it’s important to stay consistent,” Kyle said. “There’s not a lot of excitement because we are still kind of in that grind period with the light at the end of the tunnel not quite that bright yet.

“There’s still a lot of work to do. So we’ve got to stay consistent.”

STILLWATER 49, PONCA CITY 24

106 – Aydan Thomas, Stillwater dec. Chris Kiser, 5-4 (3-0)

113 – Gabe Fontanez, Stillwater dec. Jimmy Swenson, 4-2 (6-0)

120 – Sam Smith, Stillwater dec. Cameron Kiser, 2-1 (9-0)

126 – Cael Hughes, Stillwater fall Preston Lee, 3:58 (15-0)

132 – JJ McComas, Stillwater major dec. Jack Swenson, 8-0 (19-0)

138 – Landyn Sommer, Stillwater forfeit (25-0)

145 – Ethan Pappan, Ponca City fall Nate Wilson, 1:21 (25-6)

152 – Kael Voinovich, Stillwater fall Tanner Greenfield, :51 (31-6)

160 – Angelo Ferrari, Stillwater fall Jaxon Goddard, 2:39 (37-6)

170 – Gatlin Wilson, Stillwater fall Rayden Agee, 2:27 (43-6)

182 – Gabe Roland, Ponca City fall Cameron Johnson, 5:55 (43-12)

195 – Landon Newlin, Ponca City fall Dax Hughes, 1:36 (43-18)

220 – Joe Leavitt, Ponca City fall Kailer Page, 1:37 (43-24)

285 – Carson Cottrill, Stillwater fall Cayson Bradley, 5:28 (49-24)

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