Edmond North’s Jordan Iwuchukwu sat tied 1-1 with Choctaw’s defending Class 6A, 285-pound State Champion Marquonn Jouney. A pair of escapes had been the only points scored in the match, and with less than 20 seconds remaining it looked like North’s final wrestler of the night would have a chance for an upset in overtime.
But just before the third period horn sounded, Jouney slipped in, made the takedown, and avoided at least an overtime ending with the Huskies’ heaviest-classified grappler. The 3-1 decision was a microcosm of North’s entire evening, where most of the Huskies wrestled the 6A behemoth Choctaw close, but ultimately fell in the night’s 40-18 dual.
While the dual’s outcome wasn’t the upset North had hoped for, Husky head coach Andy Schneider said the improvement from his team was tangible inside the circle Tuesday night.
“We knew it was going to be real tough going in,” Schneider said. “They’re a real tough team. Last year we wrestled them and we got pinned nine times.”
Schneider’s squad only fell thrice to pins on Tuesday. They’d cancel those scores out with two early pins from Garrett McBride and Nate Becker, and five of the other seven Husky defeats were decided by four or less points.
The falls from Becker and McBride flipped decisions from the last time North drew Choctaw wrestlers, and Schneider was excited about his guys giving North a 12-4 lead early.
“I thought that was great by our guys getting falls,” he said. “We always tell them falls are big in a dual meet. We started off at 106 — we actually got majored by that kid at the Yukon open finals. For Garrett to go out there and not just win, but pin him — that was gigantic.”
Austin Mason had a big win at 138, too. He’d use a late-period take down in the second frame to tie things at 4-all going into the third. He’d take the down position, and Choctaw immediately cut him to try and win on a take down. Leading 5-4, Mason punished Choctaw for the disrespect, grabbing two take downs himself in the third to win the decision 9-5 and, at the time, bring North back to within a point of Choctaw’s team total.
“Mason had a good win, too, and he lost to that kid also,” Schneider said, outlining another bout that the Huskies flipped in their favor Tuesday. “We turned around 106, we turned around 138 and we had Becker in the lineup tonight. That puts us in a fighting chance working through our lineup.”
After Mason’s win was where North hit a cold streak, though. Beaux Dolf wrestled Choctaw’s Landon Eaton to a stalemate from neutral, but two near-fall points in the second and a Choctaw escape in the third meant he dropped the decision 3-0.
Then North’s Jaxon Randall drew another defending state champion — this time Choctaw’s Gabe Johnson at 152. Randall wrestled him close, too. They’d trade takedowns in the first, but late-time points from Johnson in the first and second period were the deciders. Johnson broke a 4-each tie in the first with a late escape, and he’d steal a takedown as the second period was winding down. Those points made up three of the four-point differential in the 10-6 decision.
But, again, Schneider knows his guys are getting close.
“Randle was wrestling a defending state champion — and I know he wants to win that one,” Schneider said. “We’re getting closer and closer. He started the year off the same thing, by getting pinned by that kid and now we’ve made it closer and closer.”
Ethan Ooten drew a chance next at 160. He’d fall in a 3-2 decision, but Ooten saw an escape late in the third, with Choctaw’s Chandler Holeman falling on his back in the scrum. Holeman was up off the mat before Ooten could get to him, though, surviving what could have been a wild finish.
Gabe Mulaney saw a one-point defeat decision Tuesday, too. He’d grab a late takedown and two near-fall points, and it looked like he’d get a chance in OT for the win. But, Choctaw’s Corey Monroe slipped out late in the third to steal it 5-4.
Edmond North’s Christian Cantu finally broke the streak of six consecutive Choctaw wins with a 6-0 decision at 195. Cantu did so on three takedowns. Two of the three started with Cantu and Choctaw’s Donnie Wingate coming chest-to-chest, with Cantu outmuscling Wingate twice with hip throws.
The match decision showed progress Tuesday for North. Choctaw, undoubtedly one of the best 6A wrestling teams, will be at the same Dual State tournament a week from Friday. If North and Schneider want a chance at Dual State title No. 2, they’ll surely have to cross someone of Choctaw’s caliber. To be in the running of so many matches Tuesday has Schneider hopeful that their post-season workout plans can help push them over the edge.
“We’re not going to let up, we’re going to go right into our postseason training,” Schneider said. “We have to come at this with a chip on our shoulder. I think they’re confident now that we’re a little close. It’s on us coaches to clean up some of the mistakes and we will do that.”