The life of a wrestler is a grueling one, defined by struggle.
From the preseason conditioning which is among the most demanding in athletics, to a season filled with matches, tests and the constant battle to push your own limits.
For these young men, all of it leads to this weekend, when regional tournaments will be held to decide which eight young men will advance to the state tournament next week in Oklahoma City.
There will be those expected to return, such as Davis’s Braden Ruth, a state champion from a year ago in 220, and Sulphur’s state qualifier Ike Flowers.
Along with Flowers, Bulldogs Keegan Davidson (145) and Wyatt Jones at 220 are seen by coach Drew Swartz as possible qualifiers. Jones spent the season at 182, but will move up to 220 for regionals.
Swartz’s team struggled with health during the latter half of the season, but he said he feels his squad is ready now.
“I feel like we’re all back to health, or at least as healthy as we’re going to get,” Swartz said.
Ruth moved up to the heavyweight class for this season, but his record has hardly suffered, as he enters regionals with an 18-1 mark.
“The heavyweight style was a bit different, but he’s picked up his pace a little bit,” Davis coach Sherrill Neal said. “When he gets down on the mat, he’s so much stronger and quicker than most of the bigger guys he goes against that it helps him.”
But there are also others, such as Madill heavyweight Sotero Trevino, who will enter regionals this year hoping to reach the State Fair Grounds for the first time.
Trevino has been a force on the mat for the Wildcats, dominating his competition to the tune of a 30-0 record and the top seed in Class 4A. But even his coach, Jim Love, admits that this is a strange course of fate.
“It’s really a unique situation for him to be so good and never have gone to state,” Love said. “Normally, you want that experience, but it is what it is.”
Joining Trevino as strong contenders for a state berth out of Madill are Luke Chapman, a 160-pound dynamo that will enter regionals with a 32-3 record, and the Wildcats’ 1-2 punch of Tyler Ramirez (113) and Rio Zamora (120).
“Those are the four we feel strongest about,” Love said. “It’s an exciting time here.”
There’s plenty of excitement to go around; Plainview head coach Rocky Atencio has the fullest confidence in his squad, stating that as many of 13 of his Indians had a good shot of qualifying for the state tournament.
Plainview has four wrestlers heading into regionals with state tournament experience — Tyler Lawrence (113), Stephen West (120), Cade Wheelwright (132) and Drake Martel (160).
“I feel great about this team,” Atencio said. “If we do our best we have a good shot of (qualifying 13).”
Ardmore coach Richard Dabbs, who has lost a boatload of seniors over the past two seasons including two-time state champion Evan McGee, will now enter the 5A competition with a young squad, led by 170-pounder Clay Atwood.
“We’re wrestling into the unknown here,” Dabbs said. “But we’re going to send these young guys out there and hoping it works out.”