NORMAN — After a successful year, the Noble Bears’ wrestling team is gearing up for another great season.
Jason Bailey, coach, has worked hard in his short time in Noble to build it. In January he was named High School Midwest Conference Coach of the Year and more recently, 5-A Coach of the year in May. But mostly, he takes pride in his team.
“This is the second season we wound up finishing in the top 10,” Bailey said.
The Bears won two different tournaments, came in second in conference, came fourth in Duncan and won the Little Axe tournament, which was a feat, according to Bailey.
“This is the first time someone besides Little Axe won that tournament,” Bailey said. “We have eight all-conference wrestlers this year, four conference champions, and we had five state qualifiers. We went from zero to nine qualifiers in the two years I’ve been here and I’ve only graduated one qualifier,” namely J.E. Bailey, Jr., who will be wrestling at Bacone College in Muskogee.
Of J.E. Bailey Jr., coach said, “he had a great season.” The younger Bailey was Midwest Conference champion, All State All Star by Class, and he won third in regionals making him a two time state qualifier.
But that’s not all. In freestyle wrestling, the team had a state champion and runner up and three third placers. There were three champions at Midwestern conference and eight out of 14 weights also placed.
Over the last two seasons, several wrestlers earned their All State jackets and rings including Hunter Long (All State), Austin Anderson (All Star by Class), J.E. Bailey Jr. (All Star by Class and All State Honorable Mention) and Anthony Acosta (All Star by Class).
Those are some pretty stunning statistics, and Bailey said he intends to keep the momentum up. Last year, Noble hosted the All State All Star by Class competition and Bailey said he wants to host the match every year.
“It’s going to be tough next year,” Bailey said. “When I started two years ago, everyone was eighth- and ninth- graders. Now they’re sophomores and juniors. I promised the kids two years ago this was going to be the year, and this is the year they have to pick it up. The third year was the year I projected to chase the gold or silver state trophy.”
Bailey has a plan for making it happen.
“We’re going to train, train, train for our takedown,” he said. “We’re going to drill. D-R-I-L-L. That’s what’s going to make us win. The ones that don’t want to drill are the ones who don’t win matches.”
Bailey explained he drills moves every day at 90 to 100 percent, so training will instinctively take over during a match. One bonus is that about 70 percent of the wrestlers play football, too, and after a good season, they’re still fired up for wrestling.
“That’s important in wrestling where you only have six minutes to shine,” Bailey said.
“It’s wrestling. It’s a rough sport,” Bailey said. “You’ve gotta sacrifice. You gotta do it not because your mom or dad wants you to do it, you do it because you want to sacrifice your soda pop and your Fridays and Saturdays and Sundays because you’re at a tournament competing.”
The hard work pays, off, though.
“The kids look forward to having their pictures on the honor wall,” he said.
When asked his thoughts about the success of his team and the upcoming season, Bailey simply said, “I think this year, I wouldn’t want to wrestle a Noble Bear.”