Ardmore wrestling bracing for uncertain season

Beau Bearden
bbearden@gannett.com

It’s no secret that athletics during a pandemic are not guaranteed. There could be an event scheduled and the next day it’s canceled or postponed.

The Ardmore High School wrestling team knows that, but the Tigers aren’t letting anything knock them down as they prepare for the 2020-21 season.

“We talk about it every day – ‘Tomorrow is not promised,’” said Ardmore head coach Devin Martinez. “It’s never been truer than now. We go into every day not knowing what’s going to happen tomorrow. There’s a lot of uncertainty there, but I think that’s life. We’ve been dealing with this for a while now, so we’ve kind of been conditioned to it.”

And the Tigers have already dealt with the negative effects of COVID-19. They were scheduled to open the season at home on Tuesday, Dec. 8, but Tecumseh had to cancel.

Ardmore already had both of its preseason events canceled, so now its opener will be Thursday, Dec. 10 at Davis.

“We didn’t get to do preseason this year with COVID and everything,” Martinez said. “We’re bummed out about that. It was kind of frustrating. We planned to go to Marlow for their pre-turkey, but it was canceled. It’s kind of the way things are right now. Nothing is guaranteed. We’re just trying to make the most of every chance we get on the mat.”

Ardmore's Jaylin Wright, left, and Cail Westervelt square off during practice.

Those opportunities have been plentiful as the Tigers have avoided any COVID-related issues. There have been a few missed practices, but not due to any direct cases.

“We’ve been working out for 13 weeks now and we haven’t had any outbreaks or anything like that,” Martinez said. “We have shut down a couple of times, just out of precaution because there was stuff going in the school. So we missed some practice time, but overall we’ve been really fortunate to have a clean wrestling room and we haven’t had any sickness.”

That will pay dividends as Ardmore has a busy schedule ahead with a number of road trips. The Tigers travel to Pauls Valley on Dec. 15, followed by the Southern Oklahoma Invitational in Duncan on Dec. 18-19.

Ardmore opens the New Year at Ada on Jan. 7, followed by tournaments in Pauls Valley and Carl Albert on Jan. 8-9 and 15-16, respectively.

“The Plainview dual is always exciting,” Martinez said. “I’m looking forward to that rivalry. And we get to host district duals this year. Hopefully we can peak at that time and make a run in dual state.”

The dual at home with Plainview is set for Jan. 19, while district duals are Jan. 21, with El Reno, Carl Albert and Lawton MacArthur coming to town.

However, the Tigers are keeping their sights on a single goal and it’s one that goes beyond the mat.

“I think our biggest focus in the wrestling room right now is building a culture of character,” Martinez said. “Wrestling is a sport that forces you to look inside yourself and see what you're made of. Wrestling is tough, but so is life.

"I want these young people to learn about grit so they can carry that with them forever,” Martinez continued. “I believe that if we take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves. There are no shortcuts to success, it comes when hard work meets opportunity.”