Job not finished for Little Axe wrestlers

Indians looking to crown first state champion
BY ROBERT PRZYBYLO, Staff Writer, bprzybylo@opubco.com Published: February 24, 2011

NORMAN � Opponents no longer snicker when they see a Little Axe wrestler standing in front of them.

That's the kind of respect you get when, as a school, you've had a winning season every year since 1993-94.

The Indians are no longer the doormat of Oklahoma wrestling, but there is still one label the school is chasing � champion.

Despite solid team results, it's been a tougher battle in the individual ranks. The Indians had two state finalists 14 years ago and that has been it.

And then came Brandon Henson and Dustin Hawkins. It wasn't just one of them making it to last year's championship round. Both of them did, Henson at 103 pounds and Hawkins at 189.

It was a tremendous feeling for the boys and the school after the semifinals, but an equally bitter disappointment the next night as the wrestlers were denied their dream of a championship.

�I think about that match so much, a countless number of times,� Hawkins said. �The things I could have done differently. You always do that.�

Hawkins and Henson aren't alone in their passion. Not when it comes to Little Axe wrestling. Indians coach Jim Love lives the sport.

Love said Little Axe has had a wrestling program for 21 years, and he's been there for 19 of them. He remembers what it was like that first year.

The wrestling room has become a source of pride for the Indians. Individual and team honors adorn a champions' mantel outside the locker room. Banners depicting the teams' success are posted on the walls.

A far cry from how it used to be.

�I got here, my first year, and we didn't even have a room,� Love said. �Didn't even have a room. What we did was we used the football locker room.

�After the football season was over, we used the locker room. We put this orange mat in the middle, and that was our wrestling room. We hadn't won one match before I was here.�

Love never quit, though. He knew Little Axe was where he wanted to be, knew it was the place he was going to create a program.

Love's persistence won over the school's administrations over the years, and the Indians' wrestling room takes a back seat to nobody.

�He's meant everything to us. He's always been there for us,� Henson said. �He puts everything he has into the sport.�

Henson knows firsthand the passion Love brings. It used to be difficult to get kids out for wrestling. Henson and Hawkins were no different.

Neither was a natural wrestler. Henson was looking to play basketball because he was too small for football.

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