The early season struggles also required OU assistant coach Michael Lightner, who works closely with Maple, to make some adjustments.
“He was kind of a guy we weren't getting after or talking to as much at the beginning of the year,” Lightner said. “But as coaches we learned that maybe he needs it. He likes to be motivated and pumped up before a match or a practice, so we've focused on giving him a little bit more of that. Now we just need to get him back to the top of the podium.”
Lightner says Maple has always possessed the physical ability to dominate the competition at 149 pounds, but it's his mental approach that will ultimately determine how successful he'll be.
“When he's motivated, ready to go, and creating the action on the mat, he's almost always going to come out on top,” said Lightner, who won a national title of his own as a Sooner at 141 pounds in 2001. “But if he stands around and allows guys to stay in the match, like he did in some of those matches early on, then he's going to be in a dogfight.
“The good thing is he's let that second loss motivate him and you see it every day. He realized he had to get hungry again and get motivated to go win another title. He's getting back to his old form now, because he's not just winning, he's dominating guys.”