NORMAN — Cade Parker has never wrestled in a regional meet. The Norman High senior has been a star on the football field for several years but wasn’t on the varsity wrestling roster a season ago. Now that he is, and is headed to his first regional, the nerves are something always on his mind.
“Whether it’s football or wrestling, you’re always a little nervous, and you’re lying if you say you’re not,” he said. “But it’s still just another meet. Yeah, it counts for more, but you have to approach it like any other meet.”
Parker is just one of the Norman athletes who hope to advance to the state meet and, in the case of several North wrestlers, improve on state final appearances from last year.
One wrestler, North senior Levi Berry, can’t do any better. He defeated Ponca City’s Brannon Hunt in the state final at 160 pounds last season and is one of the favorites again this year. Berry enters the regional meet ranked fourth at the weight and has put together a strong season.
He’s just one of three Timberwolves with title hopes. Hayden Hansen, who finished as the runner-up a year ago at 126, is wrestling at 145 pounds this weekend, where he’s ranked third. The other is Blake Bassham, who finished runner-up at 145 pounds last week.
North coach Greg Henning said he expects all three to compete well at the state meet, but first they must get past this weekend’s meet at Southmoore, which begins at noon Friday, continues at 6 p.m. and then again at noon on Saturday. The top six wrestlers at each regional are seeded in a 16-man bracket, and the top four finishers from each regional advance to the state meet on Feb. 28.
“If we can get them past regionals and get to state, all three of them can do well if they wrestle up to their abilities,” Henning said. “But we have some other kids who have a shot. We have five or six kids who will be seeded and have a shot. Hopefully we’ll go out there and take care of business and not beat ourselves. Hopefully we’ll be aggressive and assertive and force our way into the state tournament instead of being passive and waiting, just hoping that we get the nod.”
At Norman High, the lone returning state qualifier is senior Cale Stumpff, who faces an uphill battle in a tough field at 195 pounds to return there. Other Tigers with state tournament hopes are Parker and senior Jake Stinson, who hopes to win the regional.
“I have a very good chance of winning, but I will have to wrestle like I have been and wrestle hard,” he said. “What’s important for me is how I approach it. I used to psych myself out at meets, but I learned if I don’t think about being at a tournament I can wrestle like I do at practice with these guys. That helps me.”
NHS coach Bo Maynes said his team could qualify as many as five or six athletes.
“We have one or two guys who, on paper, should make it,” he said. “But we have a lot of guys who are right there. If they wrestle well and are mentally ready, we can get some more guys in.”
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