By Nick Hampton
Winning in sports isn’t always about physical execution.
Even after finishing fifth in the Jay Hancock Tournament this past weekend, the Muskogee Roughers brought home something almost as important as a trophy — an improved mental toughness.
And they used that to destroy Sand Springs 53-18 in a dual match on Senior Night on Tuesday at Ron Milam Gymnasium to capture the District 6A-6 title and earn a spot in dual state tournament in two weeks. The Roughers entered the match No. 3 in Class 6A by Okrankings.com while the Sandites were ranked sixth.
“We made some strides mentally more so than in the wrestling aspect,” coach Bobby Jefferson said, referring to the tournament. “I think that improved attitude carried on into tonight and if we can carry that mentality forward and still work on wrestling technique, we’ll be in good shape.”
Muskogee weighed in five freshmen and four sophomores to compete with the upperclassmen.
One of the prime matches of night pitted freshman Xavier Taylor, ranked eighth in the state against sixth ranked the Sandites’ Dylan Kinser.
The Rougher used six takedowns and a near fall to score a 14-5 major decision over Kinser and said afterwards it was just another dual match for him.
“I was just focused on going out and performing. It was nothing really,” he said. “The rankings never entered my mind.”
The Roughers recorded pins by Elijah Pettey at heavyweight, top-ranked Jacobe Smith at 152, ninth ranked James Buckhanan (170), fourth ranked Joe Andrews (182), seventh-ranked Haden Kolmer (195) and Dawaylon Barnes (138).
It took the top-ranked Barnes just 50 seconds to pin the Sandites’ Jared Stice. He knows that the target is on his back every time he steps on the mat.
“I go out with mindset that they see me as a threat and I’m just going to go as hard as I can,” Barnes said “I don’t really have a strategy in mind whether the other guy is ranked or not. I just go out and react to the moment and take what the other guy gives me.”
Other winners for the Roughers on the night were Chase Soper with a 10-0 major decision and Matt Acee with a 7-2 verdict.
The Roughers will wait for the seedings for dual state, which will be decided later this week. They will compete in the 4X4 Tournament this weekend in Stillwater before closing out the regular season with a dual against the Pioneers next week.