Heavyweight "loaner" Grant Moore extended the roller-coaster ride of his Pawhuska wrestling season another week Saturday when he qualified for the Huskies to the upcoming Oklahoma High School Wrestling Championships.
Moore won third place in the 285-pound weight division of the Class 3A East Regional held at Pawhuska’s Oren Terrill Field House. He became the fourth member of the PHS squad to earn a berth in the All-Oklahoma mat tournament, which runs Friday and Saturday at State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City.
The Huskies also will be represented at the 3A championships by Zalin Edwards, a 170-pound superman who will make his second straight tourney appearance following a third-place regional showing, and the indomitable Taylor Priest, who overcame injury and tough officiating to take fourth at 126 pounds and advance to the 3A championships for a third consecutive year.
Top state qualifier for Pawhuska was battle-seasoned freshman Levi Youngwolfe, the runner-up in the 113-pound category. In his first high school regional, Youngwolfe narrowly missed winning a title when he dropped a 3-2 decision in the finals to Anthony Jaurequi of the Tonkawa Bucanneers.
After a scoreless opening round, Youngwolfe sprung a reversal in the second stanza before he was reversed — to even the count at 2-2. Youngwolfe was maneuvering for points in the third period when the Tonkawa senior managed to escape and hold off the Pawhuska mighty mite for one-point win.
It marked the third mat meeting this season between Youngwolfe and Jaurequi, who split 5-2 decisions in their earlier encounters. Youngwolfe won by technical fall in his opening bout at the regional and posted a 7-2 triumph in Friday night’s championship semifinals.
Following a strenuous opening-round bout which he won by pin in the third period, Edwards rallied from a loss in the semis to earn his way back to the championships with a grueling 5-3 overtime win in the consolations. The all-sport standout for PHS claimed the third-place medal on a late-match fall.
After taking a tough early bout by fall, Edwards lost a decision in the Friday night semifinals to the eventual 170-pound regional winner from Blackwell. He claimed a spot in the state meet with a gut-wrenching overtime triumph Saturday afternoon and took the third-place match that evening with a commanding 10-2 decision.
The return road to state was filled with pitfalls for Priest, the senior 126-pounder of the Huskies. Already bothered by a nagging hamstring injury, he was forced to battle through the losers’ bracket after dropping an overtime decision in his second-round bout.
Priest led, 2-1, in the second period when he was charged back-to-back penalty points for "improper" hand clasps. He escaped to tie the score a minute before the end of regulation, then lost a heartbreaker in overtime when his apparent takedown took a midair turn in favor of his opponent. The Pawhuska standout secured a state berth by grinding out decisions in the consolations and also fought gamely in a bout where he could understandably have defaulted.
Controversial hand-clasp calls also proved costly to PHS freshman Brycen Swan. The 120-pound contender of the Huskies won his first-round bout and came back to twice take leads in the second. Swan was up, 5-4, at the start of the third period, but a pair of penalty points literally handed the decision to his opponent, 6-5.
Other regional competitors for Pawhuska included Jayden Higgins, Sean Valencia, Taylor Walker and John Bighorse. Higgins, a junior, nearly reached the medal round at 145 pounds and senior Valencia made a strong bid in the 138-pound class.
Injuries cost PHS the services of 152-pound freshman Johnathan Moody and 285-pound Dakota Jester. The local team lost freshman Daniel Nightengale at the weigh-in, as the rising (and growing) star of the Huskies failed to make the 106-pound limit.
The least likely of the Huskie qualifiers was Moore, who did not even have a team to wrestle for when the school year began. The senior from Woodland High (which dropped its wrestling program two years ago) competed for Pawhuska via an inter-district cooperative agreement.
Moore experienced thrilling victories and agonizing defeats during his sole campaign with the Huskies. His pin broke a tie score in the final match of a home dual win over Newkirk. Moore and Jester competed throughout the season for the 285-pound spot and Jester would have represented PHS in the regional had it not been for an injury.
"We weren’t two men deep at too many weights and were lucky that was one of them," Pawhuska head coach Wade Rogers said.
The Huskies scored 86 points to finish eighth in the overall standings. Blackwell won the team championship with 203 points and Newkirk placed second, compiling 181 points despite having only six total entries. Barnsdall piled up 149 points and sneaked past Tonkawa in the final round to take third.
Defending state champion Caleb Hawes of the Panthers won the regional’s 195-pound title and will lead a five-member Barnsdall contingent into the state meet. It was the second straight regional crown for the four-time state qualifier, who garnered last year’s 3A championship at 185 pounds.
Three Panther grapplers posted third-place regional finishes: Cameron Turley at 145 pounds, Lane White (152) and Baylee Perigo, a 225-pound freshman. Also headed to the tournament is Barnsdall’s Colton Allen, a fourth-place finisher at 132 pounds.
Coach of the Panthers is Shawn Wilson, who won a high school championship wrestling for Pawhuska. The regional winner at 182 pounds, Marlon Houston, qualified to state for Barnsdall as a freshman and sophomore before moving to Pawnee.
Three Barnsdall matmen have an outside chance of moving into a state bracket if any of the entries in their weights are unable to compete in the tourney. Logan Bryant and Chandler Bryant placed fifth at 113 and 126 pounds, respectively, and Colton Auschwitz was the sixth-place finisher at 106 pounds.