Tuttle wrestling coach Matt Surber hasn't worried much the last four years about Zachary Beard on the mat. He's had to worry about Zachary Beard on a wakeboard.
“He does all the stuff you see on TV, back flips, front flips,” Surber said. “I wakeboard myself so I know all the hazards that come with it. I always worried he was going to blow his knee out and miss six months of training.
“He takes the same approach on a wakeboard as he does on the wrestling mat. He is kind of fearless and goes for broke. I always had a knot in my stomach when I knew he was going to the lake.”
A wakeboard injury is perhaps the only thing that could keep Beard from becoming a four-time state wrestling champion.
Beard is unbeaten the past two seasons in Oklahoma and has rarely been challenged. His career prep record is 159-9, with six of those losses occurring when he was a freshman.
Beard and Berryhill's Davey Dolan are trying to become Oklahoma's 29th and 30th prep wrestlers to be four-time champs when the Oklahoma High School Wrestling Championships open Friday at State Fair Arena.
“I have been thinking about winning four since middle school,” said Beard, who has been dominating opponents since he was a seventh-grader.
Beard is Oklahoma's highest nationally ranked prep wrestler. He is ranked in the top five of all national wrestling polls at 170 pounds and is as high as No. 2 in one poll.
His record this season is 39-0, which includes 36 bonus point victories. His closest matches this season have been decisions over defending 6A champ Nathan Marek of Southmoore in the finals of two tournaments.
Last month, Beard was selected to compete in March for Team USA in the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic at the University of Pittsburgh, the most prestigious all-star wrestling event in the country.
Already, Beard has more high school victories (159) than anyone from Tuttle, a wrestling program that has produced two four-time champions and six three-time champs.
A wrestler from Tuttle has won a state championship every year since 1988, with the exception of 2006. Eight collegiate All-Americans are from Tuttle and the Tigers currently have six former wrestlers on college rosters.
Even with all that tradition, Beard may be the greatest wrestler to ever come from Tuttle.
That debate usually includes Beard, Steve Schmidt (a three-time All-American at Oklahoma State), Trent London (a juco national champion), Ryan Martin, (a national champion at the University of Central Oklahoma) and Jeff (a two-time All-American at UCO) and Ryan Henning, both four-time state champs.
“I get that question all the time,” Surber said. “He is awfully good. I would hate to take anything away from those other guys. All that stuff is up for debate. I don't know whether he is the best or not. That has yet to be seen.”
Beard has signed with Wyoming after originally committing to Oklahoma State. He changed his mind last summer after taking a visit to Wyoming, where former Tuttle wrestler Shane Woods is starting.
“I was just kind of on vacation,” Beard said of the trip. “I liked the atmosphere, the styles of practice. It just fits me more than Oklahoma State.”
When Beard won his first state championship as a freshman, Surber knew he would have a special career. Beard defeated a senior and defending state champ in the state title match after beating him the week before in the regional finals.
“That was pretty remarkable,” Surber said. “He has always been able to rise to the occasion. The tougher the match, the tougher the opponent, the better he is.”
After injuring his knee on a wakeboard last summer, Beard has decided to quit trying to do so many crazy tricks.
“I cut it down,” said Beard, who used to enter local wakeboard tournaments. “I try not to do it competitively now. It's more of a fun thing now than a sport.
“Wrestling is my future. I had to cut it out. I just do the more routine kind of things now.”
OKLAHOMA HIGH SCHOOL WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIPS
When: Friday and Saturday
Where: State Fair Arena
Session 1: First round, all classes, begins at 10:30 a.m. Friday.
Session 2: First round consolations begin at 5 p.m. Friday. Semifinals begin at 7:15 p.m. Friday.
Session 3: Consolation semifinals begin at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. Consolation finals begin at 12:45 p.m. Saturday.
Session 4: Finals begins at 5:45 p.m. Saturday with opening ceremonies at 5 p.m.