By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — First-year North wrestling coach Greg Henning can remember a couple of years of the 21 he spent at Tuttle when the Tigers claimed four individual state titles.
What he cannot remember is taking three to the state tournament and all three going to the final, but that’s where the Timberwolves are following one day of the state wrestling tournament at State Fair Arena.
Today, in the Class 6A 126-pound brackets, North sophomore Hayden Hansen will wrestle Union’s Luke Wolfenberger for a state championship. Not long after that, junior Blake Bassham will take on Broken Arrow’s Tanner Bailey for the 145-pound crown. Moments after that it will be junior Levi Berry facing Ponca City’s Brannon Hunt in the 160-pound final.
“In all three matches we got the first takedown,” Henning said of the bouts that got them there. “Statistics will tell you when that happens, you win 80 percent of the time.”
In fact, all three matches were quite similar. None were shootouts, each one offered exciting moments, yet none of them appeared in danger of going the other way.
Henning told his grapplers they didn’t have to be pretty, they only had to win. Yet, had it been a beauty contest, they might have won that, too, hardly putting themselves in a vulnerable spot.
“You have to keep your composure,” Bassham said. “Make as few mistakes as possible and that usually wins matches.”
Given the trio’s fantastic success, North is even in third place in the Class 6A team race, amassing 44 points to trail only Edmond North (90 1/2) and Broken Arrow (56 1/2).
Today, consolation matches begin at 10:30 a.m. with the consolation finals scheduled to end around 2:15 p.m. After the crowd is chased out, the State Fair Arena doors will open again at 4 p.m., with opening ceremonies beginning an hour later. At 5:45, beginning with the 106-pounders, the finals begin.
“It’s like no other feeling I’ve ever had,” said Hansen after topping Edmond North’s Josh Breece 4-3.
Hansen scored a second-period takedown to lead 4-2 and gave up a late escape, but remained out of trouble as the match concluded.
After he won, Henning told him to watch the match going on at the adjacent mat because he’d be facing the winner. Hansen caught some of it, but only after running to the top of section 303 to hug his father, Steve, who introduced him to the sport as a 6-year old.
Bassham may be the stunner of the group. Hansen and Berry were regional champions, but he finished third at Midwest City last weekend.
Friday, he responded by pinning Jenks’ Jake Pattinson in 3:47 before outlasting Putnam City North’s Velijah Cato 7-6. According to the seeding, both were upsets.
They didn’t look like upsets.
“It feels amazing,” Bassham said. “I knew I had it before it began but I didn’t know how it was going to happen.”
Most of it happened with a second period reversal that came with back points. Leading 7-4 in the third, Bassham allowed an escape and was hit with a point penalty for stalling. Still, Cato was never in position to score the two additional points he needed.
Berry is the grappler who thought he’d have to wait until next year, before the OSSAA cleared him, after his transfer from Tuttle, just in time for regionals.
Sweat was pouring off him after he topped Bixby’s Mason Thompson 4-2 and that was a new thing for Berry.
“I am so tired right now,” he said.
Typically, he said, three periods on the mat wouldn’t leave him so soggy. Why did it?
“Nerves,” he said. “Nerves.”
If he overcomes them again today, he’ll win his second state title. Two years ago as a 140-pound Tuttle freshman, he won a Class 4A crown.
North’s run seemed pretty matter-of-fact from inside the arena, but it’s pretty amazing considering the history of the program.
Josh Kennedy won a state title at 125 pounds in 2009. Caleb Kline won two years ago as a heavyweight. That’s two sate-champion T-Wolves.
Today, they can make it five.
Follow me @clayhorning
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