By Kenton Brooks
Phoenix Sports Writer
It takes plenty to worry Chase Soper.
Wrestling in a crucial match at the Class 6A dual state Tournament last Saturday in Claremore certainly didn’t do it. And he had a long time to contemplate it.
Muskogee coach Bobby Jefferson told the sophomore before the semifinal against Broken Arrow that he could possibly be in a crucial match.
“If I’m in his position, I’d much rather him know ahead of time to get prepared mentally instead of having it thrust upon him in a matter of seconds,” Jefferson said.
“Chase felt comfortable with it.”
The sophomore compared his feelings at the moment to taking a test in school.
“If I know the material before I take the test, it’s real easy for me,” he said. “When (Jefferson) told me it was likely going to come down to my match, I wasn’t really scared. I was happy because I knew if I won, the team loves you.”
Soper recorded a 3-2 victory, giving the Roughers a 28-27 victory against the Tigers in what is the program’s biggest win of the season prior to the Class 6A regional tournament today and Saturday in Midwest City and the state tournament on the following weekend in Oklahoma City.
MHS lost in the championship match against Edmond North.
Soper, who wrestles at 120 pounds but was at 126 for the semifinal match, has been in pressure-filled situations this season. He started off a match against Ponca City earlier this season and won.
“It was against one of the twins who are good wrestlers,” Jefferson said. “That win set the tone for that dual. We spend so much time on the mental aspect of wrestling that when it comes down to a situation like Chase had, our guys are prepared as anybody.”
Jefferson, though, admits he was nervous before the match against Broken Arrow.
“There was no doubt that it was an exciting match,” he said. “There was a lot of drama to it. I’ll be the first to tell you that it was a nail-biter.”
Soper prepared himself mentally for the match by planning his moves, counter moves and what he thought would be the strategy of the Broken Arrow wrestler.
“He was bigger than I was,” Soper said. “When he took a step, I was going to go for my shot.”
Soper didn’t get his shot until the third period. Both were tied at 0-0 through the first two periods of the match.
“In the third period, he came after me and I was able to get him in a headlock and put him on his back (for a two-point takedown),” he said.
Soper got another point for an escape and had a 3-0 lead. The Broken Arrow wrestler then got an escape and then another point late in the third period, but Soper had the win.
“I was happy. I saw everybody on the team jump up,” Soper said. ”It was the happiest moment I’ve had so far this season.”
The only person happier may have been Michael Soper, Chase’s father. He had stopped worrying for his son by the time the match started.
“When he got out there, I felt confident he could handle himself,” Michael said. “He usually does better in the second and third periods.”
The younger Soper, whose brother Preston was a kicker for the Roughers, now gets ready for the next portion of the wrestling schedule.
“I’m definitely ready for regionals and state,” he said. “I’m not going to be nervous.”
Other area teams heading to regional tournaments today include Tahlequah in 5A at Tulsa Edison, Fort Gibson and Wagoner in 4A at Glenpool and Hulbert, Sequoyah. Vian and Webbers Falls in 3A at Berryhill.
The state tournament for all classes is Feb. 22-23.