By Christian Potts
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — OKLAHOMA CITY – The gap between the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat can be quite thin, particularly where the sport of wrestling is concerned.
The latter was all too familiar Friday at State Fair Arena, at least as far as the seven area schools competing in the 93rd Oklahoma High School Wrestling Championships were concerned.
The seven schools brought 25 wrestlers to the sport’s biggest stage for Oklahoma high school grapplers. And by the end of a morning, afternoon and evening of wrestling, none of the 25 was able to score back-to-back wins and punch a ticket into a state championship match tonight.
Norman North’s disappointment may be the toughest, with the Timberwolves returning a multiple state champion in Levi Berry and a pair of state finalists from last year in Blake Bassham and Hayden Hansen, but coming up empty in their bid for another title.
Berry, forced into perhaps a tougher road to the finals by finishing second at last week’s regional tournament, dropped a 3-1 decision to Muskogee’s Jacobe Smith in the semifinals.
Berry was a state champion at Tuttle before transferring to North, where he captured a state title as a junior last year.
Hansen came in with a 41-1 record and off a regional championship at 145 pounds, but had to run a gauntlet of former state champions, placers and qualifiers to get back to the title match for a second straight year.
He dusted off Owasso’s Grant Williams 20-5 in the opening round but dropped a 3-1 decision in the semifinals to defending 145-pound champion Tanner Bailey of Broken Arrow. Had he won there, Stillwater’s undefeated Joe Smith was waiting next.
Bassham, a state finalist last year at 145, split a pair of matches at 152, eliminating top seed Velijah Cato of Putnam North 5-2 in the consolations to stay alive into today.
North also brought two freshmen to the event for the first time in school history and both got a good taste of what to expect in future years.
At 113, Sam Avant debuted with a 9-1 major decision against Stillwater’s Tyler Dieringer, then fell 22-7 to nationally-ranked Daton Fix in the semifinals.
Gage Johnson dropped a 7-1 decision in his opener to Que Overton of Jenks, then fell victim to a reversal in the closing seconds to Muskogee’s Adonis Cole to drop a 6-2 decision in the consolations. Johnson was the only freshman in the heavyweight division.
Norman High will send only one of its contingent of three wrestlers on into Saturday’s action. Junior Daniel Mbainyel bounced back from an opening loss to defeat Choctaw’s Thomas McGrath 12-6 in the consolations. Senior teammates Isaiah Davis at 160 and Lane Stephens at 170 each suffered back-to-back losses and were eliminated.
The Moore schools were well-represented with 13 total wrestlers among them in the 6A draw, but the two Southmoore wrestlers, two Westmoore competitors and Moore’s McKale Washington who won their opening matches all were defeated in the semifinals.
Part of the problem for the big schools is the level of competition at the top, where Stillwater, Edmond North and Broken Arrow are all ranked among the nation’s elite. That trio of schools landed 16 of the 28 slots in tonight’s 6A championship matches.
Noble made some noise in the first day in the 5A tournament, with Dakota Boxwell opening with a 9-5 upset of east regional champion Eli Hooks of Deer Creek. He then had a near-takedown in the closing seconds of a 2-1 semifinal loss to Del City’s Nate Daniels.
Noble’s Shelby Greeson came back from an opening defeat at 132 to pin Coweta’s Dolan Calico and stay alive in the consolations.
Little Axe junior Dell Lynn III bounced back from an opening loss to score a fall at 182 and stay alive in the consolations, which continue in all classes at 10:30 a.m. today. The finals will begin at 5:45 p.m.
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