By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief
The Charles Page High School varsity wrestling team ended last season as Dual State Runners-Up and placed third at the State Tournament. They graduated a lot of talent at the upper weights, but return ten State Qualifiers for one of the most experienced teams in school history. Over the course of the season they defeated 6A No. 1 Broken Arrow (11-2) and 5A No. 1 Collinsville (18-3) to win thirteen-straight duals and go undefeated before falling 41-18 to Choctaw in the finals.
Though a depleted roster filled with injuries and a couple of ineligible players left the team a tad short of their goal, they were left with one of the most talented and experienced teams in the State coming into the new season.
The Sandites are stacked at the lower weights. Running the season last year at 106 pounds was freshman Riley Weir who amassed a 21-12 record and qualified for State, despite spending the latter half of the season with an injured arm. The only freshman starter on the team, Weir took third place at Regionals while wearing a sling and qualified for State. He's made a stellar recovery over the summer and came in fourth place at the USA Wrestling Junior Men's Freestyle Nationals in Fargo, North Dakota. Weir enters the season ranked second in 106.
Other possible fill ins at the lowest weight include sophomores Scott Patton and Irwin Portillo. Both saw limited time on varsity last season. Portillo went 4-2 at the Perry Tournament of Champions and finished his final year of junior high wrestling with a third-place finish at Junior High State. Patton took fifth place at the Jay Hancock Memorial tournament in Yukon and was undefeated in the four duals he participated in.
Senior State Qualifier Michael Ritchey finished last season 23-19 as Regional Champion at 113 pounds, though he's likely to move up a weight class this year. Over the summer he won four tournaments, including the USAOK Freestyle and Greco-Roman State Championships. Ritchey enters the season ranked third in 120.
The welcome surprise this year is senior Berryhill transfer Tanner Ward who was the 3A State Runner-Up at 113 pounds in both 2015 and 2016. Over the last two seasons he has gone 50-5, only losing to State Champions, and even then the matches were close. He will enter the season ranked second in 113.
Last year's 120 starter for the Sandites was junior Blake Sargent, who went 39-12 on the season and finished third at State. Since then he took second at the OKUSA Cadet Freestyle State Tournament and went 4-1 on the Oklahoma Greco Roman Cadet Dual team. He comes into the new season ranked second in 126.
Three-time undefeated State Champion and Oklahoma State University-signed senior Daton Fix is most comfortable at 126 pounds, but spent the majority of the season at 132, and even went up to 138 a few times. Fix knows no such thing as an "off-season" and hasn't slowed down a bit since gaining his third title. Since last April, he won the United World of Wrestling Junior Freestyle National Championship, competed in an exhibition dual against Team Iran in Times Square, and earned All-American status for going 8-0 on the Oklahoma Freestyle Junior Dual team. He competed in his first Senior-level event at the Spanish Grand Prix and lost 2-1 to Junior Olympic Gold Medalist Mukhambet Kuatbek. At the Junior World Championships in France he attained his second Worlds Bronze Medal, and most recently he defeated National Champion Austin Gomez 8-2 at the Flowrestling Who's #1 event. He enters the season ranked #1 in the nation at his weight class and third in the nation pound-for-pound.
At 138 pounds is is senior State Runner-Up Jack Karstetter who finished last season 39-8 after a 3-2 decision in the finals. In June he came in second in the nation at the UWW Cadet Greco-Roman Nationals and earned his ticket to Lima Peru for the Pan-American Championship where he took Silver. At the USAW Junior Men's Nationals he took eighth place in Greco Roman and was just short of placing in Freestyle. Between the two he went 8-5 against some of the toughest competitors in the nation. Karstetter enters the season ranked first in 138.
The returning 145 State Runner-Up is senior Beau Bratcher, who finished last season as Regional Champion with a 43-7 record. He also placed first at the Sand Springs Invitational and was runner-up at the Geary Invitational and the Jay Hancock Memorial. He has taken the summer off from competition, but retains the number two spot coming into the new season.
At 152 is junior State Placer Payton Scott. The star running back finished last season 39-12 as the Sand Springs Invitational Champion, Regional Champion, and took fourth place at State. He never got his shot at State Champion Zane Coleman at any point during the season, but did give Runner-Up Joseph Messer a run for his money, falling 3-2 in an ultimate tie-breaker. He also went 2-1 against third-placer Trey Painter, pinning him in the opening round, but losing 3-2 in the consolation finals. He didn't do a whole lot of summer wrestling, but did go 3-3 on the Oklahoma Junior Greco-Roman Dual Team. Scott will take the number two ranking to start the season.
The 160 pound newcomer for the Sandites is sophomore Noah Almy. Almy never saw action on varsity last season, but he did take second at the Sand Springs Junior High Tournament with a 5-1 record. He pinned his first four competitors in under a minute apiece, but lost by default in the finals after sustaining an injury. He competed at the Flo Kickoff Classic last November and took sixth place, and was Runner-Up at the 2015 OKWA State Championships. He comes into the year ranked tenth at 160.
170 pound senior Zane Basma moves up to the number one ranking after taking third in State last year at 160. The Regional Runner-Up finished the year went 35-12 last season and make a huge statement at State. His only loss was a 4-3 tie-breaker decision to Moses Mayhue. He pinned Cooper Coil and scored a 16-0 tech fall over Anthony Gonzalez in the consolation finals.
Sand Springs has two talented athletes in the 220 range, both defensive stars on the Sandite Semi-Finalist football team. Senior State Qualifier Delvin Jordan went 18-5 last season and won the Regional Championship with a 6-3 decision over previously undefeated State Champion Nic Roller. Jordan was unable to compete at State and Roller went on to win the Title for his Senior year. Jordan starts the season with the number one ranking.
The uncertain wrestler is junior Gage Fain. Fain has a highly deceptive record of 13-22 last season, due to wrestling up to heavyweight. The 230 pound lineman is unlikely to bump Jordan out of his spot and would do best at 195. The Sandite depth is weakest at the higher weights, lacking a clear starter for 195 and a true heavyweight. Fain could be utilized at either of these. The 182 position is also unclear for the team.
Sand Springs made their first ever Dual State Finals appearance last season and haven't won a Tournament State Title since 1971. In 1971 they had three State Champions in Frank Peck (136), Rick Warren (141), and Eddie Sullivan (157). Overall the Sandites have had 25 State Champions win 36 gold medals. Eleven wrestlers at Sand Springs have won multiple State Titles. To date, David McGuire and Daton Fix are the only two to ever win three State Titles, and no Sandite has won four. Fix will look to change that this year.
Overall the Sandites are second in OSSAA Dual rankings with one first-place vote and third in tournament rankings with two first-place votes. Choctaw is first in both rankings, while Broken Arrow is third in Dual and second in Tournament. Intermatwrestling has Choctaw ranked 19th in the nation with Sand Springs at 27th and Broken Arrow at 47th.
The Sandites' season will begin on December 8th at unranked Owasso for their first and only dual of 2016. They will then travel to the Perry Tournament of Champions and the Kansas City Stampede to close out the year before Christmas break. The new year will begin with a tough match at No. 15 Ponca City on January 3rd.