Easing into the wrestling season is simply not an option for Owasso this year.
The Rams open the 2019-2020 campaign a brutal four-dual gauntlet over the first two weeks. Owasso’s four opponents are, in order, Collinsville, co-state champions in Class 5A, Broken Arrow, the defending 6A dual state and tournament champion, Skiatook, dual state and co-champs with the Cardinals in 5A, and Sand Springs, which is annually among the top teams in 6A.
Owasso hosts Collinsville Tuesday in the season opener for both teams.
“We’ll be challenged right out of the gate,” Rams coach Mike Ryan said of the early-season slate. “Whether they win or lose, I want them to go out and compete and battle. And I know they will.”
Ryan begins his fourth season at the helm of the Owasso program led by a trio of returning state qualifiers, each with high aspirations in the coming season.
Senior Taylor Fleming returns after finishing as a state finalist at 182 pounds in his first year with the Owasso program. Fleming compiled a 33-7 record as a junior.
Fleming said he worked to add more shots to his offensive repertoire in the offseason while also improving defensively, all with an eye on getting back to Oklahoma City in late February.
“I’ve got to use that to push myself and try to win the whole thing myself this year,” Fleming said.
Fellow senior and state placer Nate Jacobson looks to continue the momentum he built at the end of last year. Jacobson claimed wins in four matches in the 160-pound division at state, including his final three of the season and climbed onto the podium as a third-place finisher.
“This year I’m going to try to come out stronger and keep it up,” said Jacobson after a 33-win junior season. “I know I have a target on my head but I’m also not going to go down easy.”
Sophomore EJ Tecson, a state qualifier at 113, returns as well. Tecson burst onto the high school scene with several strong outings, including a runner-up finish at regionals, but failed to place at state. A year wiser and stronger, Tecson said he’s hungry for more.
“I think I psyched myself out,” Tecson said in analyzing last season. “There were a lot of seniors and I thought ‘I’m just a freshman.’ This year, I know I’m one of the big dogs.”
Killian McNichol (120) and Mark Turner (145) are two more experienced Rams Ryan hopes will be a factor this season, along with Scott Ghavami and Devin Harris at the upper weights.
Health will be essential this season, especially at the heavier weights, as depth could be an issue in a few weight classes. With three seasons under his belt at Owasso, Ryan said he does feel better about the environment surrounding the program than he ever has with the Rams.
“Going into our fourth year, we’ve certainly got a different culture in the room,” Ryan said. “They know what they have to do. I don’t have to show them how we do things as often as I used to. I would say they’re more self-motivated than they were 3-4 years ago.”