MIDWEST CITY -- One of the goals for every Oklahoma high school wrestling team is to make the dual state competition.
It certainly was one of the goals for Carl Albert, but the Titans fell one match short. Carl Albert lost at its gym to Harrah. The Panthers went to dual state, the Titans stayed home.
Coach Fay Barnett had no idea how his club would respond to the disappointment. Dual state begins the biggest three-week stretch of the wrestling season.
Carl Albert wasn't around for that first weekend, but the Titans made sure everybody remembered who they were at last weekend's regional at Tahlequah.
The Titans qualified eight wrestlers for state and have put themselves in position for another solid run this weekend.
"That disappointment drove (us) even harder in the (wrestling) room and the weight room," senior heavyweight Kyle Croak said. "We took everything more serious."
Croak epitomizes the resurgence of the Titans. Croak said he had a January to forget. Battling illness, he didn't perform to his abilities at 215.
He had been thinking about moving up, and upon the advice of teammates and coaches, moved to heavyweight for the regional.
It was a gutsy call, especially since Croak had to open the regional against top-seeded Jake Gibson of Pryor. Croak defeated Gibson on his way to earning a second-place finish and a second seed for this weekend.
"Kyle had a great weekend," Barnett said. "You could just see how focused he was all weekend."
Croak had to be. In fact, a bunch of his teammates had to have that focus. The strength of this team going into the year was its experience and leadership. The seniors haven't disappointed, but they wanted to make sure they had one last run.
Carl Albert has five seniors that will be wrestling this weekend. If anybody had a bigger regional outing than Croak, it was Kentrell Pierson at 189. Pierson made the finals yet only enters with a 21-18 record.
Carl Albert also has Jacob Lusch (119), Eric Waggoner (135) and Blake Lam (140) as the other seniors.
"It's time to step up and take charge," Barnett said. "I know these kids can do it."
The biggest adjustment for Croak came in the strength department. He said Gibson was easily the strongest competitor he's ever wrestled. But the shape and conditioning he was in because of the regime set by the coaches helped him and the rest of the team push through.
"Since junior high, we've all been together," Croak said. "I'm going to remember this weekend for the rest of my life. It's really awesome to see how many of us have made it to state and this final weekend. This is what we expect."
Wrestling state tournament schedule Friday 10:30 a.m.: first round all classes 5 p.m.: first round consolations 7:15 p.m.: championship semifinals Saturday 10:30 a.m.: consolation semifinals 12:45 p.m.: consolation finals 5 p.m.: ceremonies followed by finals and awards