By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
This weekend was a prime example of “if you build it, they will come.’’
The Mid-America Wrestling Nationals at the Enid Event Center and the OBA Prep Classic basketball tournament at the Chisholm Trail Expo Center Coliseum both brought good crowds into the Wheat Capital and that can only be good news for merchants and restaurant and hotel owners.
As Enid wrestling coach Corey Clayton said, tournaments such as these give Enid exposure to outside northwest Oklahoma of how much there was to do here.
The new Event Center was one reason Enid was able to host the Mid-America tournament for the first time, an event started by Clayton while at Union.
One couldn’t tell this was the first time Enid had hosted a major high school wrestling tournament.
The tournament ran on time, and maybe a little bit ahead of schedule, and there were no glitches. The public address announcer kept fans in touch with who was on what mat.
While some outsiders were brought in, the tournament was successful because of the work of local volunteers.
Scorekeepers manned the post of six mats for most of Saturday and Friday — no easy task.
Clayton, before the event, said he hoped the quality of the tournament would bring much needed exposure to the sport locally.
Those Enid middle school and high school wrestlers not participating,were volunteers. They got to see such talent as three-time defending state champion Gary Wayne Harding, who beat Tyler Mies of Andale, Kan., 11-2.
Harding not only had a wrestling-sounding name, but a cauliflower ear to go with it. He showed why he’s bound for Oklahoma State with his mindset.
He came off the mat disappointed. He said he set out to try pin of all his opponents. He said he’s never satisfied, which is one of the reasons for his success.
He chose Oklahoma State over many of other offers because of OSU coach John Smith, a two-time Olympic champion. He felt Smith is the best coach in the country and can make him the best wrestler he can be.
Harding said there might be more pressure on him instead of less because he signed early.
While he said most would feel there’s less pressure knowing where he was going to go, he said there’s actually more because he didn’t want to disappoint Smith or make him look bad.
Harding complimented the facility, saying how good it was to wrestle there and how his teammates already are looking forward to returning next year.
The Plainsmen program also took a step forward this weekend with three placers — Zach Overbeck, second, 220; Billy Grothe, fourth, 132; and Caleb Harris, fifth, 195.
Enid was 11th in the 18-team field, but did finish ahead of Sapulpa, which is currently ranked ahead of the Plainsmen.
The OBA tournament may have shown the depth of area basketball. Traditional boys powers Okarche and Ripley were playing for seventh place — a rare occurrence.
Alva’s girls, the 3A state runner-up a year ago, appears ready for another deep run. Sophomore Jaden Hobbs had 70 points during the tournament in leading the Ladybugs to the girls championship.
Lane Madsen had 49 points in leading the boys to the title. Riley Hess, who had 31 points, though, was the MVP. Pioneer’s Colby Koontz could be the area’s dominant player as evidenced by his 59 points in the tournament, and 27 against OBA on Tuesday.
That whets one’s appetite for the Wheat Capital Tournament at Chisholm Jan. 9-11 where Paul Outhier Fieldhouse should be rocking again.
Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.쇓