For the Tuttle faithful, it’s no surprise that the Tuttle Tigers brought home their 12th consecutive state title Saturday after handily defeating the other teams in 4A Friday and Saturday.
The Tigers had so many wrestlers qualify for Saturday that they left the other 4A teams, all of them, in a position where it was mathematically impossible to win the tournament after the first day. They’ve done this five times in the last 12 years.
Tuttle wrestlers could have lost every match Saturday and still would have left champions. Of course, the Tigers did on Saturday what they did on Friday, which is what they’ve done each of the last dozen years, and that is maliciously mopping the mats with their competition, this time breaking three state tournament records in the process.
When asked what this year’s team brought to the Tuttle Wrestling legacy, Surber’s response was, “Resilience, really. Here’s the deal. We started the year as a legitimate top-eight team in the country with aspirations of climbing that ladder. We had a couple kids get hurt early on and we had to try to figure out our lineup, work through some things.”
The Tigers were plagued by injuries this season. Two of Tuttle’s more dominant wrestlers were done before they could start. Dustin Plott and Garrett Steidley were lost to season-ending injuries before the regular season began.
The Tigers had many starters out and they were facing literally the best teams in the country with backups. At the Geary Tournament, they were down five guys.
“Blair Academy, the big prep school, they didn’t come this year, so we had a chance to run away with it, but instead we came up short there. Then we went to Chicago and wrestled with several of our starters out against some of the tougher teams in the country, and we came up a little short. There were times when it was a struggle, but what we didn’t realize at the time was that allowed the kids who were stepping into the starting lineup an opportunity to respond to some adversity. In the last month of the season, they really came together, supported each other. If I had to give it one word, they were just determined.”
In 2017, the Tuttle Tigers tied the record for most state champions at a state tournament with seven. It was a record the Tigers shared with El Reno and Midwest City for a couple years, but not anymore. They broke that this year with nine state champions, out of 14 weight classes.
Six Tuttle wrestlers won their first state championship Saturday, and they are Colin Naney, Reese Davis, Dalton Burdick, Bryce Dauphin, Gage Shetley, and Harley Andrews. However, Naney was in the state finals in 2018 when a controversial call by a referee in the last three seconds cost him a championship. Brady DeArmond won his second state title. Luke Surber and Ryder Ramsey each won their third state titles Saturday.
The Tigers have the record for the most consecutive state titles with 12. That’s never been done before. When the Tigers won number eleven last year, they were tied with Perry and El Reno.
“As tradition-rich as Oklahoma is in wrestling,” Surber said, “and it being one of the best wrestling states in the country, that’s a true testament to our program, the families, the alumni, and other wrestling supporters in the community. There are so many pieces to it. People often ask what our secret is, or what I attribute our success to, and what seems like a really simple answer, is ‘It’s not one thing, it’s a lot of things.’ I think for any great program, that’s going to be the case. It won’t be just one thing that sets them apart.”
The third record the Tigers broke was total points scored at the state tournament, but that has been their record to break several times over. Third-place Blanchard scored 58 team points, Cushing had a runaway second-place finish with 116 team points, trailing Tuttle by just 131 points. Tuttle broke last year’s record of 229 team points, which they set, with a 247-point finish over the weekend.
Bridge Creek Head Wrestling Coach Will Staats took over as head coach this season after Will Delk departed for Edmond Memorial. Last season, the Bobcats qualified ten for the state tournament, as a program that was only four years old. Delk worked as Surber’s assistant in Tuttle and admitted to learning a lot from him.
Staats led Bridge Creek back to the state tournament Friday and Saturday, with nine state qualifiers, for a fourth-place finish that was a half-point shy of third. He, too, was willing to admit he picked up some tricks from Surber.
“With Tuttle right down the road, they set a pretty good example for what a championship program looks like,” Staats said. “I try to model what they do over there. Coach Surber is the best. If you don’t try to take what the best guys are doing, and try to implement it in your program, then you’re missing out. Obviously, he’s got it figured out. You don’t have that many state champions, or win that many consistent team titles, and not know what you’re doing. It’s almost prideful if you don’t try to implement some of what they do.”