By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
Attitude is everything.
Drill Adonis Cole about his biggest strides this year in wrestling and he won’t talk technique. It’s all about the mind.
“It’s about intensity and fire,” he said. “I go out with the goal of wrestling my heart out and making sure I’m not giving up points for my team.”
While the tournament format for this weekend’s Class 6A regional tournament at Bixby has a team title at stake, unlike the dual format which just wrapped up with Cole and Muskogee losing in the state quarterfinals, the points become individually significant now.
A lot has been said about teammates Jacobe Smith and Dawaylon Barnes in terms of state contenders, but don’t count Cole out. He’ll take a 20-12 record into his opening bout in the heavyweight division on Friday.
“Even in his defeats I saw growth. Now his confidence is rising I see him wrestling well,” said his coach, John Petty.
As a sophomore, Cole wrestled twice on the varsity level — in a dual against Sand Springs and then at dual state when Elijah Pettey was injured at 220. He was 0-4, but a timid 0-4, uncertain of himself.
Then came a few wins and the birth of an intensity that has grown over the season.
“It really is about that,” Petty said. “Once you learn technique and the basic moves, even to the point of it being really effective, it might still not work against a certain opponent. You’ve got to go beyond execution to a mental edge where you sense you’re unstoppable.
“That’s Jacobe and Dawaylon if they’re hitting their basic moves. Adonis is showing that and it’s something that grows when I’ve seen him come back and beat someone he lost to earlier.”
Most recently, that came against Stillwater’s James Brower in the heavyweight bout in the final dual of the regular season. Cole got a takedown with 2.2 seconds to play to break a 4-all tie and atone for a loss against a guy who recorded a fall against him in the Blackwell tournament a week ago and also had a 58-pound advantage at 286 pounds.
A single takedown was all the difference Saturday as Cole lost in dual state to Edmond North's Nolan Malloy, 2-0. Considering it came against one off a team that was a defending dual champion — they were knocked off by eventual state champion Broken Arrow in the semifinals — Cole senses he’s not far off the mark of making it out of regionals as one of the top four in his weight class.
Smith and Barnes are definitely in that running. Smith is out to atone for the near-miss last year at state, where he gambled giving a point on an escape to attempt a takedown and lost in the finals. Smith is at 160, up from 152, and Barnes at 145, up from 138 where he finished third last year.
None of the other area schools made dual state but they’ll rekindle hopes of hardware this weekend.
In Class 3A, Hulbert’s Bryson McGowan was third at state at 195, losing to eventual champion Caleb Hawes of Barnsdall and will go up to 220 this year.
Senior Reese Davis of Tahlequah (138) and Mitch Sellers (132) a senior, were state finalists last year, Davis finishing third and Sellers fourth. Davis has wrestled at 160 this year and Sellers at 145.
Muskogee at Class 6A, Bixby
(Bartlesville, Bixby, Tulsa Washington, Broken Arrow, Claremore, Enid, Jenks, Midwest City, Muskogee, Owasso, Ponca City, Sand Springs, Sapulpa, Stillwater, Union)
Tahlequah at Class 5A, Tahlequah
(Participants: Bishop Kelley, Collinsville, Coweta, Deer Creek (Edmond),Durant, East Central, Edison, Grove, McAlester, Tulsa Memorial, Miami, Tulsa Hale, Pryor, Shawnee, Skiatook, Tahlequah)
Fort Gibson, Checotah, Wagoner at Class 4A, Bristow
(Participants: Bristow, Cascia Hall, Catoosa, Checotah, Cleveland, Cushing, Fort Gibson, Locust Grove, Tulsa McLain, Mannford, Oologah, Sallisaw, Stilwell, Wagoner)
Sequoyah, Hulbert, Keys, Oklahoma School for Blind, Vian at Class 3A, Pawhuska
(Participants: Barnsdall, Berryhill, Blackwell, Tulsa Webster, Hulbert, Inola, Keys, Kiefer, Liberty, Morris, Morrison, Newkirk, Okmulgee, Oklahoma School for the Blind, Pawhuska, Pawnee, Perkins-Tryon, Prague, Salina, Sequoyah, Sperry, Tonkawa, Vian, Tulsa Rogers)