Most try to find relaxing moments during Christmas break. Skiatook spent that time gearing up for a big stretch run in the first two weeks of January.
Leading up to the holidays, Skiatook dabbled in a few duals, going 2-1 with wins over Cleveland and Owasso. The Bulldogs also placed second at the Joe Cole Classic in Cleveland.
Then it was time lock in for what was up ahead.
“We knew we were going to be young this year,” Skiatook coach Jake Parker said. “We came back after Christmas break and wrestled the Jenks Tournament, districts on Tuesday, Sperry on Thursday, Carl Albert tournament Friday and Saturday and then Collinsville on the next Tuesday. We as a coaching staff knew that if we made it through those two weeks that our kids would grow up fast and they have.”
And boy have they ever.
Skiatook won the Jenks tournament and then coasted to a district title with wins over McAlester, East Central and Claremore. Then, facing their biggest test of the season, the Bulldogs finished second to Lawton MacArthur at the Carl Albert tournament.
Not bad for a team that started ranked barely inside the top 10 in Class 5A.
“It has been great to watch these guys mature and come together as a team to strive to reach a common goal,” said Parker, whose team is now ranked second in 5A behind Lawton Mac.
Leading the way for Skiatook this season has been freshman Josh Taylor, who is 27-3 after the Glenpool tournament. Taylor’s first loss was to Sand Springs’ Colten Roberts in the semifinals of the Joe Cole Classic in December, and he was unbeaten in 2018 until two losses at the Glenpool tournament, where he finished fifth.
“Josh has been an unseeded guy in every tournament and always battles his way to the finals,” Parker said.
Cale Glover (sophomore at 132), Cougar Andersen (freshman at 138), Blake Watkins (junior at 170) and Korbin McLaughlin (junior at 195) have also been instrumental in driving Skiatook’s success.
“It’s definitely a group effort,” Parker said. “But with Korbin, a returning state placer in the lineup, he already knows what it takes to compete at this level.”
And he’ll have his chance to lead with Skiatook embarking on a trip to dual state, followed by Class 5A regionals and the state tournament — all in consecutive weekends. But Parker and his staff won’t heap any unrealistic expectations on their wrestlers throughout the postseason.
“We have stopped talking about winning this or that to not put any added pressure on our guys,” Parker said. “We already know what they are capable of doing. We just ask that they compete every time they get on the mat.”
— By BEN JOHNSON