OKLAHOMA CITY — Wade Rogers sees Pawhuska’s showing at last weekend’s 93rd Oklahoma High School Wrestling Championships — with two fourth-place finishers from the team’s four qualifiers — as something on which the local program can continue to build.
"It was OK," said Rogers, the third-year head coach of the Huskies. "We would like to have done better, but getting two of them to place, that wasn’t too bad."
PHS seniors Taylor Priest and Zalin Edwards claimed the fourth-place medals for Class 3A-size schools during the annual two-day wrestling event at State Fair Arena.
In his third straight tournament appearance, Priest overcame a nagging hamstring injury to reach the 126-pound championship semifinals, then clinched a spot in the consolation title match with a convincing victory against an opponent he’d lost to three times earlier this year.
Edwards, a two-time state qualifier, came back from dropping a close 7-5 decision in his Friday opener and earned the 170-pound third-place match by grinding through a 7-6 victory in the consolations after hammering out a 10-4 decision in his second bout.
"Zalin’s opening match went down to the wire," the Pawhuska coach said. "If things had been a little different, he might have got to go for a title."
Priest came into the tourney as the No. 4 seed from the 3A East Regional, which was held the previous weekend in Pawhuska. Following some intensified treatment on his sore leg, the determined Huskie recorded a 6-5 triumph in a first-round bout versus the second-seed of the West.
In his Friday evening semifinal, however, Priest fell victim to two-time defending state champion Briar Stopp of Newkirk, who went forward to claim a third title Saturday night.
"Taylor took control early in his first and third matches, and he wrestled well in the semifinals," said Rogers. "He was trying to win the whole time."
Pawhuska’s entry in the heavyweight (under 285-pound) division, senior Grant Moore of Woodland High School, battled to within a match of a medal before falling in the consolation semifinals. Moore joined the Huskies as part of a cooperative agreement brought about after Woodland dropped its wrestling program.
"Grant did a great job just making it to the state tournament, especially after he sat out for an entire year," the PHS coach said.
Freshman Levi Youngwolfe, who placed second via a 3-2 decision in the East Regional’s 113-pound finals, was the Huskies’ top qualifier for the championships.
One of several outstanding young PHS prospects, Youngwolfe caught a rough draw at the state tournament. He dropped a decision in his initial bout to sophomore Zach Atencio of Plainview, the eventual champion, and then drew a saavy senior in the first round of consolations.
"Levi has nothing to feel bad about, he had an absolutely great season," said Rogers.
Edwards ended the year with a 26-10 record, while Youngwolfe wound up at 25-9. Moore, who split regular-season time with PHS junior Dakota Jester, finished 15-8 and Priest capped his injury-shortened year with a 15-10 mark.
In 3A’s 195-pound title match, Barnsdall’s Caleb Hawes won his second straight 3A championship with a 9-4 decision over Garrett Beier of Perry. The senior star of the Panthers finished the season with a record of 32-2, with both defeats came in the finals of all-class tournaments. A four-time state qualifier, Hawes earned a title at 182 pounds last year after being state runner-up at that weight as a sophomore.
Barnsdall sent four other wrestlers to the state tournament: 132-pound Colton Allen, Cameron Turley at 145 pounds, 152-pounder Lane White and Baylee Perigo at 220.
The coach of the Panthers is Shawn Wilson, who won a high school state championship competing for Pawhuska. Hawes’ father, Brian, is another former Huskie who finished as a state runner-up as a member of PHS’s state-champion 1990 team, which was coached by Richard Demoss.
Pawnee senior Marlon Houston Jr. won the 182-pound title with a 3-1 victory in overtime. Houston, the namesake son of the Black Bears’ football coach, qualified to state for Barnsdall as a freshman and sophomore and was the 170-pound runnerup last year.
Perry High School reeled in the 3A team championship for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons. The powerhouse Maroons entered the last tourney session with four individual finalists and an insurmountable lead over the second-place Tonkawa Buccaneers, who also sent four to the title round. Both schools lost three of four finals matches, leaving Perry with 118 points and Tonkawa with 82.
Chandler (76 1/2 points) placed third and Newkirk — with 126-pound champ Stopp and Jared Schieber winning at 152 — took fourth, with 72 points. Sperry (31 points) finished 10th and Barnsdall totalled 23 points and tied for 13th place with Pawnee. Pawhuska, with 14 points, held down the 19th spot in the overall standings.