PERRY — There are plenty of storied high school sports programs in Oklahoma.
None matches what Perry wrestling has been able to accomplish over much of the last century.
The Maroons have won 38 team state titles and 13 dual state championships since 1952. Since 1961, the Maroons haven't gone more than two years without bringing back a state championship trophy to the small town north of Stillwater on I-35.
Saturday night, wrestling alumni from the class of 1944 through seniors who just graduated in May wrapped up a alumni reunion weekend celebrating 90 years of Perry wrestling.
John St. Clair was Perry's first individual state champion in the state tournament era, winning in 1942 and 1943 at 145 pounds.
Now 87, St. Clair remembers running five miles around the town nearly every day after working out with the team.
“One of the things that's made this program what it is is the conditioning,” St. Clair said. “It's surprising what that'll do for you when you can wrestle the third period like it's the first.”
St. Clair's son, Randy, won a state title in 1965. The duo is one of three father-son tandems to win state titles in the program's history.
Among the 300-plus alumni in attendance were Danny Hodge, who won three national titles at Oklahoma and competed in two Olympics.
They also included P.W. Kendle, who graduated in 1961, started the wrestling program at Pawhuska High School before moving on to coach at Augustana College in South Dakota. Kendle was inducted into the NCAA Division II Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2000.
“I had a lot of problems as a young man growing up — no direction, no discipline,” Kendle said. “I really appreciate and was grateful for the sport of wrestling for giving me some direction in my life. As a result of that, I wanted to go back and be a wrestling coach and help kids, like me, that really struggled in their personal lives.”
Former Arizona State wrestler Anthony Robles, who won a national championship in 2011 despite being born with one leg, was the keynote speaker.
“I was very familiar with the tradition before I got here,” Robles said to start his speech. “I know this is a hotbed for wrestling so there's no better place to be as a wrestler, so I'm honored.”
It was the first Perry wrestling reunion since 2000.
It starting coming together in early 2011 after Terry Leonard, a former Perry wrestler, told another former Maroons wrestler and program historian Mark Kirk that it was time to organize a reunion.
The weekend included a casino-night get-together Friday, a golf tournament and Saturday night's banquet.
Nearly every marquee in town made reference to the reunion.
“You say Perry. I say wrestling,” said one side of the message board at the Conoco.
“Perry where champion wrestlers are made,” another gas station's board read.
Scott Chenoweth won state titles in 1984, 1985 and 1986 at Perry, then coached the Maroons for 16 years. The Maroons won 12 state titles, 11 dual state titles and four academic state championships under Chenoweth before he passed the program to longtime assistant Ronnie Delk after the 2011 season.
The Maroons added another trophy to their case last year, winning the dual state championship before finishing second in the state tournament.
“Getting everybody together like this means a lot for the future,” Perry superintendent Chenoweth said. “Events like this help ensure the program stays strong. Young kids here grow up seeing the older wrestlers be successful and they expect to have that success when they reach that level. The young guys see it's important to the community and they do everything they can to keep that going.”