Last year the Collinsville Cardinal wrestling dual team finally ended their streak of five Dual State Championships. Losing to Coweta and taking Dual State Runner-up was heart breaking for Collinsville. The team desired, passionately to reclaim their title. The Cardinals now, once again made it to the Dual State Tournament, only now the were competing with a fierce vengance after falling short the last year. In their hearts they remained champion, but they fiercely hungered to be recognised as Dual State Champions once again.
Collinsville in the Semi-finals against Altus:
After the opening night of Dual State for wrestling in 5A and defeating Piedmont by a tremendous margin, Collinsville then stood against, the much larger in size, Altus Bulldogs. In preceding years, Collinsville has always been placed against Altus at some point in the tournament and it is always a vicious, nail-biting dual between the two 5A wrestling giants. And once again, the Cards were caught in a merciless battle on the mats with the Bulldogs.
With the first whistle, the semis were off to the races, leaving Nate Kiem at 145lbs to be the first to face his opponent. Kiem was the first in a beginning series of wins for Collinsville. Kiem opened up the dual with a five point lead for the Cardinals after defeating his opponent by technical fall with a score of 18-1. Ryce Haymaker (152lbs) and Eli Tanner (160lbs) also propelled Collinsville’s momentum by increasing their lead to 17-0 after Tanner won by tech-fall and Haymaker winning by pin fall in just 40 seconds.
Altos finally got on the scoreboard and eventually took the lead after receiving a forfeit at 170lbs, victory by pin-fall over Brannan Jordan at 182lbs, another win by pin-fall over Trent Brown at 195lbs, and another pin-fall at 220lbs over Tres Sexton. The Bulldogs then received another another 3 team-points after a victory by minor decision over Dylan Dobbs at heavy weight.
Now trailing 27-16, Collinsville deeply needed an outstanding performance from each of their light weights in order to possible advance to the finals. Rocky Stevens at 106lbs decreased the daunting score deficit with a quick victory by pin-fall in the 1st period. Caleb Tanner at 113lbs reclaimed the lead at 28-27, when he also pinned his opponent early in his match. At 120lbs, Gunner Ham faced an even opponent, but sadly fell behind and lost by a minor decision score of 5-2.
Xavear Cullors at 126lbs, wrestled an exceedingly close and tense match. Cullors took his opponent to the 3rd period with no points scored, but pulled through in the end and claimed victory with a score of 1-0. Then at 132lbs, Connor Henson wrestled a much larger and stronger opponent. Henson, pressured with the absolute need for a win, was required to wrestle strong and smart at all costs. After a few close calls and heavy slams, Henson took victory after winning 7-4.
Collinsville now lead 34-30. Both teams desperately needed the win in this final match at 138lbs, but the Cards held a bit of a cushion. The Cardinals could only suffer a minor decision loss (giving Altus 3 team points) which would still give them the victory, but if Altus won by Major decision (4 team points), technical fall (5 team points), or pin fall (6 team points) the Bulldogs would either tie or defeat the Cardinals. Jack Hammond for Collinsville took on Altus’ last opponent and final hope for the finals. Hammond then claimed the fastest pin for the Cardinals in just 34 seconds, giving Collinsville the overall win with a final score of 40-30.
The Cardinals would then advance to the finals where they would face the No. 1 5A team, Lawton Macarthur, whom obliterated the Coweta Tigers in the Semi-finals. The Cards would have to be wrestling to their maximum potential in the finals in order to claim victory, especially after being short Tate Robards at 170lbs who was not wrestling due to health Complications. Xavear Cullors was also a worry for Collinsville as he was being treated by the emergency medical staff. Cullors also was having major health complications and had to be consistently checked up on by the emergency medical staff. Collinsville would advance to the finals, but was most concerned as if they would compete with two vital wrestlers short.
Collinsville against Lawton Macarthur in the Dual State Finals
Collinsville now stood against the goliath of 5A wrestling. Destroying Coweta in the semis and now hungry for more, the Lawton Macarthur Highlanders sought a Dual State Championship title. But Collinsville proved to be a worthy adversary and possible Champion to beat the Highlanders as they defeated Altus of who defeated Lawton Macarthur previously to Dual State. Nevertheless, it was a battle between two wrestling giants. Collinsville sought after their 6th Dual State championship and Macarthur sought their 2nd. No fans, coaches, or wrestlers could predict the outcome of the ravaging dual that was about to begin. When asked, prior to the start of the dual, of what he expected to happen and how he planned to claim victory Coach Weston Harding only stated, “Everything is gonna have to go just right.” Assistant Coach Mike Henry then stated he predicted eight wins for his team and we would have to wait and see if those wins would be enough.
No matter what the expectations were, the Cardinal wrestlers were prepared to excell in their matches and gain as many team points as possible. Just moments before the dual began, when asked their about their thoughts at the very moment, each and every single one somehow stated, “Win my match.” showing extreme discipline and confidence, all 13 wrestlers were prepared to win their match at all costs.
The anxiously awaited dual began with Ryce Haymaker, at 152lbs, who gave Collinsville the momentum of a decision 6-0 win over his opponent. Eli Tanner had a fierce challenger who kept the score tied until the 3rd period, when Tanner pulled ahead and won 3-2. The Highlanders tied the team score at 6-6 when they received a forfeit at 170lbs. Brannan Jordan, at 182lbs, a novice to wrestling, took on his daunting opponent and fought hard and wrestled smart. The newer wrestler was pressured from his crowd and team to not be pinned no matter what. Jordan wrestled against his opponent and even scored several times. Jordan lost 6-9, but found victory in the defeat by only allowing 3 team points for Macarthur instead of the 6 given at pin-fall. The next two weights were not so lucky as Trent Brown at 195lbs and Tres Sexton at 220lbs were both pinned by their opponents. Dylan Dobbs at HWT suffered a heavy blow to the head early in his match when he was illegally slammed in the first few seconds. Dobbs remained down for sometime; coaches, wrestlers, and fans feared a major head injury. If so, and Collinsville’s HWT labelled unable to continue, Lawton’s HWT contender would be disqualified and the Cards would receive 6 team points. Then being cleared by the medical team, Dobbs continued his match; he was sadly pinned Then seconds after returning to his match.
Lawton Macarthur lead the Cardinals 27-6. Collinsville could not allow another loss or their hopes for a Dual State Championship would disappear. Rocky Stevens at 106lbs felt this pressure as he wrestled a senior from Macarthur who held an impressive record. Being only a freshman, Stevens was certainly the underdog in his match. To the crowd’s amazement, Stevens dominated his senior opponent; ending the 1st period with a score of 10-1. Being called a “stud” by both his coaches, the freshman wrestler earned the title by beating his opponent by major decision 13-4. This gave 4 points to Collinsville, making the team scores 27-10.
Caleb Tanner at 113lbs also earned another 4 points and near my pinned his opponent several times. Tanner was wrestling his first Dual State Finals match and was being coached by his brother Eli Tanner from the sides, of whom was wrestling his last. Caleb Tanner defeated his opponent by major decision 16-3. Then at 120lbs, Gunner Ham pushed Collinsvilles trail to 17-27 when he won by minor decision 7-4. Then the victories continued. Recalling the medical emergency faced by 126lbs wrestler, Xavear Cullors, many were unsure if he would return. Cullors returned to the mat, released by the medical staff, and ready to claim a State Finals victory. Cullors wrestled fiercely and claimed 4 team points for a major decision win with a 12-1 score.
The score now stood with Collinsville trailing, 27-21. Under the breaths of all those present from Collinsville, as they frantically began to plan and draw out scenarios, you could hear them all say “We can do it. We can win.” With three matches left, and just 7 points to win, the Cardinals held on to a strand of hope.
Connor Henson, at 132lbs, claimed another major decision for the Cards after winning 13-0. Two matches left; the score was 27-25. Jack Hammond at 138lbs faced Macarthur’s pride and joy on the mats. Hammond stood against the reigning State Champ at 138lbs. With intense pressure on his shoulders, Hammond went onto the mats prepared to give every last breath in his match. Hammond went into the 3rd period leading 2-1. Hammond scrambled for dear life and fought to the very last second, but after a very controversial call, Macarthur earned a take down (2pts) and won by minor decision 2-3.
All hope rested on Nate Kiem at 145lbs, the very last match of the entire tournament. All teams, of districts 2A to 6A, surrounded the mat of the final match. Nate Kiem needed the full six points of a pin. Kiem threw everything he had at his opponent, from head-locks, to nelsons, and to even scrambled moves of his own creation. Every ounce of effort was given by the senior wrestler and he won, but not by pin fall. Kiem won 7-4, by minor decision, scoring three points for Collinsville.
The Cardinals just barely fell short and were Dual State Runner-up to Lawton Macarthur by just two points. The Final score was 30-28. Though they lost, and different and better outcomes, and even better officiating, were all desired, the eight of the loss could not be placed on one wrestlers shoulders. Every single one fought harder than they had ever before and showed extreme perseverance and heart in every second on the mat. The Cards did indeed win the eight matches predicted, but the points just barely fell short. They desired a better outcome, but it was not one’s fault on their own. With pride, they took their loss and returned home to now continue their intense training. The wrestlers now practice and prepare more fiercely than ever before for the State Tournament. The Collinsville Cardinals are Six-Time State Champions and are now prepared to claim a seventh. Coach Weston Harding are prepared to pull through this defeat and once again claim yet another State Championship title.