Edmond Memorial wrestling head coach Will Delk saw the hopeful future after his district champion Bulldogs clashed with perennial powerhouse and Class 6A No. 2 Choctaw on Tuesday at home.
Memorial’s first year under Delk has already shown massive improvement, but his look at Choctaw’s program offered even more insight into what it will take to put the Bulldogs on the map long-term.
“We’re gonna have to have a feeder program. Choctaw has a feeder program, they have a youth club, they have a junior high and it all kind of feeds through. There are guys there who are consistent,” he said. “With Edmond there has never really been a feeder program per say. They’ve had clubs, but not really one that specifically fed into Memorial.”
Delk’s vision was there. While the Bulldogs only pulled home three individual winners from romping with the Bluejackets, his idea of improving his team for a consistent, sustainable and successful future wasn’t an excuse — it was a vision for what he wants his program to look like years down the road.
Memorial's lesson came with a lump
Three wins highlighted Edmond Memorial’s Tuesday night dual against Choctaw, as the Bulldogs fell 62-13.
Cruz Aguilar, Jackson Oplotnik and Olan Learned were the only three Bulldogs to win their matches, as the No. 2-ranked Yellowjackets added to their undefeated dual record.
According to owrestle.com, Choctaw boasts 11 wrestlers ranked in the top-five in the state.
Despite the end result Memorial got off to a good start, as Aguilar, the top-ranked wrestler in the state at 113 pounds, took on third-ranked Speedy Walden.
Aguilar missed Memorial’s district duals with the flu and hadn’t wrestled for nearly a week. Against Walden he got off to a slow start, but he quickly found his groove to cruise to an 11-3 decision win.
“He gassed a little. He knows that, I know that. He still went out there and wrestled a really tough kid and got the major,” Delk said. “He did his part for the team.”
Choctaw grabbed pins in each of the next four matches. Memorial’s Mason Boone put up a tough effort against Jacob Quinton but got pinned with just 30 seconds remaining in the match. Choctaw’s Caleb Williams pinned Brock Harris in the first period at 126, and the Jacket’s Shaun Muse and Nathan Harjo pinned Memorial’s Matt Garcia and Isaac Arnold in the second periods, respectively.
The Bulldogs got their second win from Oplotnik, who defeated Landon Eaton at 145. Oplotnik wasted no time, getting three takedowns in the first period alone to take a 6-2 lead. In the second period he extended his lead up to 15-4, before pinning Eaton with just six seconds remaining. Oplotnik is the No. 2-ranked wrester at 145, second only to Mustang’s John Wiley. Eaton is ranked No. 6.
Choctaw won the next five matches, three with pins, to take a 30-4 team lead.
Olen Learned ended the Jacket streak with a last-second win over Choctaw’s Xavier Smith at 220. Only one point was scored in the first two periods — an escape by Smith early in the second. Learned would tie it up with an escape early in the third.
With it tied at 1-1, Smith got the first takedown of the match with just a minute left, and it looked like Learned was out of luck. He got an escape with 40 seconds left, and with a new burst of energy, got his only takedown of the bout with just 27 seconds left to give himself a 4-3 lead. A Smith escape would’ve tied it at four apiece, but Learned slammed him down twice in the final 10 seconds to secure the Bulldog’s third and final win.
The top-ranked heavyweight in the state, Choctaw’s Marquonn Journey, pinned Memorial’s Gavin Fleck in the final match of the night to end the night with a 62-13 final.
“They were just a better team; they were more physical,” Delk said. “The biggest difference between us and them was physicality.”
The Bulldogs round out their regular season schedule with duals against Norman North, already held on Jan. 30, and Shawnee on Feb. 4.