When it comes to wrestling, Head Coach Nick Williams’ Bulldogs know a little something about it.
Williams’ program has managed to consistently develop state championship wrestlers and compete with Oklahoma’s best grapplers year in and year out.
With former wrestlers like three-time state champions Keilan Torres and Cameron Loving to more recent wrestlers like two-time state champions Taven Birdow and Montorie Bridges, it is no wonder why this program has been steadily regaining the respect it once commanded.
Williams’ squad works hard, giving up a good portion of free time to develop skills and going beyond the regularly scheduled wrestling season to compete throughout the year and into their summer. It is more than just a seasonal sport to these young men. It is a way of life.
Hard work and sacrifice is required when stepping through the door of the wrestling room door inside the Cletus B. Street Fieldhouse. It is necessary for success as an Altus Bulldog wrestler and there is not a single person walking through that door who has an issue with the values Williams’ instills in his team.
Now, after spending the bulk of the past five months competing and preparing, Williams’ wrestlers get to test their skills at a much higher level.
There is no bigger stage for wrestling supremacy than the Asics-Vaughan Cadet and Junior National Championships held annually at the Fargodome in Fargo, North Dakota.
It is the world’s largest wrestling competition and features the best of the best in every weight class in high school competition in the United States.
Many wrestlers who compete at the championships go on to have successful college careers and go on to glory at the world and Olympic levels. Williams’ has five qualifiers for nationals — Noah Briones, Dawson Loving, Garrett Pride, Cabe Dickerson and Keegan Pride.
Four of the five going will wrestle as cadets — ages 14-16 — and one will wrestle as a junior — ages 16-18.
Each wrestler is ready to see the hard work put into this program pay off with wins at nationals, but Williams’ knows that the experience gained from wrestling at this level is worth so much more.
“I’m just excited for the kids. We had five really good kids graduate and we’re trying to get these five to step up and grow into their shoes and this gives them an opportunity because it’s like a season before the season,” Williams said. “Most of these kids have already wrestled 35 matches since the season. The good kids, they’ll wrestle 85 matches a year. So if you’re just wrestling seasonal, you’re always behind, but I’m excited because they’re putting in the work. We had 10 kids that did all the freestyle — wrestled over 40 matches in five or six tournaments. Some of them didn’t qualify but they’re going to be OK because they put the time in. Some of them are at weights that there are kids that are wrestling for world titles in Oklahoma. So they’re wrestling at some tough weights.”
Representing Altus are Noah Briones wrestling at 145 pounds, Dawson Loving wrestling at 152 pounds, Garrett Pride wrestling at 182 pounds, Cabe Dickerson wrestling at 220 pounds and Keegan Pride wrestling at 285 pounds.
The long trip to Fargo, North Dakota begins July 20.
The wrestlers are excited, the coach is excited and the City of Altus as a whole is excited to see what these young men are capable of doing.
Reach Ryan Lewis at 580-482-1221, ext. 2076.