Wrestling, at long last, is coming to Hilldale.
Beginning this fall, Hilldale will be join the area’s other two Class 4A level schools, Wagoner and Fort Gibson, as participants on the mats.
“Over the years, we’ve had kids who were interested in it and during that time we often thought about whether we might lose a kid or two to transfer because we didn’t have it,” said athletic director Chad Kirkhart.
A couple of weeks before the start of school, he approached Daniel Llamas, a Hilldale Elementary physical education teacher who had wrestling background in both high school and college, about his interest in helping change that.
An interest form was sent to students in grades 9-12. Thirty-nine indicated interest, prompting a meeting a few days ago. Twenty-four attended and indicated they were in.
Workouts begin Oct. 1, at least for those not in football, which will
Kirkhart remembered a couple of recent grads who had wrestled in open tournaments in junior high.
“Luckily, they decided not to leave, which we were thankful for,” he said.
Now, he nor any coach will have to worry about that.
Llamas by a rough count of hands, about 10 in the meeting were not football players, adding that he noticed a couple of girls in the back that didn’t express interest, but he wondered if they had been there just checking it out.
“It’s not just for guys. Girls wrestle. We had them in California at my school.”
Several area schools have girls who compete both in open tournaments that have girls divisions and then, at OSSAA regionals, against the guys.
Jokingly, he wanted to make one thing clear to the kids in that meeting.
“This isn’t WWE, so forget about tables, ladders and chairs,” he said.
Two of the kids, he said, were junior transfers with wrestling backgrounds.
“They were excited for a chance to continue competing,” Llamas said. “In all, you don’t know if after a couple of practices some may decide it’s not for them, but it was a good turnout.
Llamas wrestled at Norwalk High, a suburb of Los Angeles. After high school he got a job and helped his former high school coach with the program until a friend who had wrestled at Bacone told him about that now-defunct program.
Llamas got a partial scholarship there and wrestled a couple years before serving his final year as a student assistant to Brett Oleson, now the Checotah High coach.
Start-up costs are limited to mats, singlets and scales.
“The cost isn’t major,” Kirkhart said.
Kirkhart wondered over the years how many kids they might have had move here had they had the sport.
“Now that we do, maybe that will be a factor in helping them to come here,” he said. “We’re hopeful we can build it, and once we decided to move forward with it we want to be good at it.”