Putnam City North is enjoying its best start in wrestling coach Mitch Brinlee's 12-year tenure at the school.
The Panthers won their first five duals of the season before losing last week to Midwest City in a match where Putnam North didn't have three of its starters.
Two wrestlers couldn't make weight for the first match since the holiday break and another starter was held out for missing practice.
Putnam North also finished second to Del City in the Putnam City Invitational earlier this season, placing nine of the 10 wrestlers the Panthers took to the tournament and crowning one champion, junior Michael McClish.
“It's been a lot more fun this year,” Brinlee said.
Last season, Putnam North only won three duals, including one where the victory was mostly the result of forfeits by the other squad.
Senior Ryan Hall said the difference this season is attitude.
“We are more of team,” Hall said. “Last year, we had group of people doing their own thing. Now, the atmosphere in the room is more like a wrestling team. You have teammates pushing each other to do better. We work harder in the room.”
“PC North used to be really good in wrestling and just fell off. We want to bring that back.”
In recent years, Putnam North has been at best a .500 squad, but Brinlee believes this year's team has at least six wrestlers with a legitimate chance to qualify for the state tournament.
“That hasn't happened here in a long time,” Brinlee said.
Putnam North has put some outstanding individual wrestlers on the mat in the past, but this year's lineup is Brinlee's best since his second year at the school when the Panthers were 9-1 in duals.
“We haven't had seasoned wrestlers to fill a lot of holes in the past, not enough of them up and down the lineup” Brinlee said. “It's hard for any school, even the strong teams, to fill a lineup with 14 solid kids.”
Brinlee has coached Putnam North teams with better individuals, but he thinks this year's Panther squad is his best overall lineup from top to bottom. The group also is young, with only three seniors in the lineup.
“I was not expecting them to be this good,” he said. “It's fun to be in the room. They work hard.”
Putnam North is competing in a tournament at Carl Albert on Friday and Saturday.
“We are very eager to get back on the mat,” said Hall, who is 7-1 on the season with his only loss a forfeit in the championship of the Putnam City Invitational.
Hall, who wrestles at 170 pounds, had to forfeit the title bout after suffering a concussion in the semifinals. He was out for three weeks.
“There has been a lot of focus and concentration in the room this past week,” Hall said following the Panther's first loss of the season. “We don't like losing. We don't like that taste in our mouth.”