By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
OKLAHOMA CITY – Carl Albert has produced countless state champions over the years.
On Saturday, it was the wrestlers’ time to shine.
The Titans were back on top as they won the Class 5A state championship at State Fair Arena. It was the school’s first title since 1992 and third overall.
“It’s unbelievable and it hasn’t sunk in yet,” said coach Curt Hodges. “When people talk about winning big events, now I know what it feels like. I’m so proud of our guys and what they’ve accomplished.”
Carl Albert won with 96.5 points and five-time defending champion Collinsville was second with 80 points.
The team finished withseveral medalists including one individual champion in Alex Sutterfield at 215 pounds. Seniors Grant Gober (150) and Isaiah Matanane(165) and junior Kasen Miller (138) placed second. Raylyn Sherman (175) took third, and Nathan Sutterfield (157) was fourth.
The state championship was a bit of a surprise. Carl Albert did not qualify for dual state and placed fifth as a team last week at regionals.
“We set that as our goal every year and this year we had the right guys and the right mix,” Hodges said. “We won the big matches and won with bonus points.”
The Titans took charge on day one of the state tournament. Four wrestlers won their semifinal matches and three others were alive in the consolation bracket. Carl Albert finished the day with a 20.5-point lead over second-place Collinsville.
“When we saw the score on the first day, we thought there’s no way this could be happening,” said Alex Sutterfield. “And we came back the second day and made it happen.”
Carl Albert continued to thrive in the consolation bracket on Saturday. Nathan Sutterfield and Sherman both advanced to the consolation finals.
Sherman clinched the team title for the Titans with a thrilling win against longtime nemesis Parker Henry of Lawton MacArthur. He scored a takedown with eight seconds left for the 7-5 decision. It was his first win against Henry in five meetings.
“Coach told me the title was the on the line and I needed to go get it,” Sherman said. “I’ve been wrestling him (Henry) since I was a freshman and never beat him. I knew I needed to attack him early and I did.”
His teammates shared the joy.
“When he [Sherman] got that last shot and scored, it was crazy,” Gober said. “He lost his first match and came back to finish third and beat someone he’s beaten before. I couldn’t be prouder of him.”
The Titans hoped to build on their lead Saturday night but won one of four finals matches.
Miller rallied from an early deficit but couldn’t get past defending state champion Will Heger of El Reno. After falling behind 6-1 early in the second period, Miller scored a takedown and an escape to pull within two points in the third. But Heger held on for the 6-4 decision.
“[Heger] beat me pretty bad the week before so I went in with nothing to lose,” Miller said. “I just went out there and wrestled and did pretty well. He’s tough and hard to take down.”
Miller’s weekend began with an escape act in round one. He trailed Pryor’s Bryce Kegley 9-0 in first period after giving up a takedown and three nearfalls. Miller scored five takedowns in the third before finally pinning Kegley with seven seconds left.
“He caught me in a couple of cradles, and I just had to dig deep and start wrestling,” Miller said.
Gober took the mat next for the Titans against Guthrie’s Baden Hall in the 150 finals. The match went to overtime after each wrestler only scored an escape in regulation. Hall scored an escape in the tiebreaker for the 2-1 victory.
“That loss hurts. I really wanted to get first year, but winning a team championship is awesome,” Gober said.
Gober is the school’s first four-time state finalist. He won a state title as a sophomore and took second as a freshman and junior.
The Titans dropped another heartbreaker when Matanane lost to MacArthur’s Braden Brown on a last-second score. Brown was penalized for stalling with eight seconds left in the third period, making it a 4-2 score. On the reset, Matanane quickly dove for Brown’s leg and scored a takedown to tie the score at 4-4. Brown wiggled free for an escape as time expired for the 5-4 victory.
After three tough finals defeats, Alex Sutterfield made sure the night ended on a high note. The senior delivered with a 4-3 decision over Newcastle’s Randy Nix for the 215-pound title. It was his first time to place at state.
“It feels great to win. I have really improved and gained confidence to get here,” Alex Sutterfield said.
Alex Sutterfield led 3-1 before Nix scored an escape with 29 seconds left. He responded with an escape and held on for the win.
“When he got the reversal I thought it would give me enough time to get up,” Alex said. “It was almost like a bonus because I knew could get the escape.”