Caleb Tanner could join some pretty elite company in a few months.
The Collinsville wrestler enters his senior year with three state championships to his credit. Tanner looks to become just the third Cardinal finish his high school career as a four-time champion, joining Gary Wayne Harding and Will Steltzen. In the history of Oklahoma high school wrestling, there are only 38 members to that exclusive club.
“It’s a big deal, a really big deal,” Tanner said. “I am excited, really excited.”
Tanner, who captured his third Class 5A title last February in the 132-pound division, is one of four returning state champions for the Cardinals. Cameron Steed (106), Jordan Williams (113) and Rocky Stephens (120) all highlight a lineup for a Collinsville squad that shared the team crown with Highway 20 rival Skiatook.
The Cardinals stood atop the podium for the eighth time in the last nine seasons.
“We are really stacked in the lower weights, but we bring back a lot of our guys throughout,” said Stephens, a three-time finalist and two-time state champion.
Williams headlines a strong sophomore class for Collinsville a season after he became the program’s first undefeated champions since 2005 when he won all 35 of his matches as a freshman. Williams is one of the top-ranked wrestlers nationally at 120, a distinction he earned after winning his second Cadet National championship in Fargo, North Dakota over the summer and became the first Cardinal to win the prestigious Super 32 Challenge last month.
“When you win Fargo and you win (Super 32) tournament, everybody’s eyes in the country are on you,” said Collinsville coach Wes Harding.
Also returning are Wyatt Hartley, a third-place finisher at 145 in state a season ago, and state qualifier Jeran Seabolt at 152. Zach Morris (220) and Kaden Jones (285) are back as well after gaining valuable experience in the heavier weights.
“There’s a difference between a young sophomore and a mature senior. I think this year he’ll come in a lot more mature,” Harding said in describing Morris, a junior.
Harding’s club has additional reinforcements as well.
Sophomore move-in Troy Spratley is one of the newest Cardinals. Spratley comes to Collinsville rom Wyoming Seminary in Pennsylvania, a program that finished last season ranked No. 2 nationally, according to InterMat. Spratley was a state champion as a freshman and placed in the Super 32 Challenge at 120.
Sophomore Brayden Gilkey competed at 170 last year throughout the regular season before a shoulder injury kept him from taking to the mat at regionals.
“He definitely has the ability to be a state placer,” Harding said of Gilkey.
Junior Gabe Lyon looks to build on his experience a season after wrestling varsity at 182.
Kolten Allphin, who lined up under center for the Cardinal football team this fall, is another experienced body on the mat. The senior placed third at state two seasons ago at 152 before shoulder surgery decimated his junior campaign.
A former state finalist, junior Eli Benham, is an additional threat at the lower weights. Garrett Strickland, who finished third at state as a freshman at 106, is another.
Freshmen Clay Gates and Drake Acklin, both accomplished at the junior high level, look to make their mark in a Cardinal singlet.