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March 2, 2005

Perry wrestlers dedicated to excellence

We were among the noisy throng that attended the Oklahoma high school state wrestling tournament last weekend in Oklahoma City, and yes, friends, I am completely worn out. Those wrestlers probably need much less time than I do to recover, for they are young, but I don't see me getting any better for a few more weeks, or longer. It is an ordeal, tougher than I remembered from those days long ago when various tournaments were occasionally held in the old PHS gym, with all classes competing against each other.

Somehow, Coach John Divine managed to produce a winning team even in those circumstances. Our present coach, Scott Chenoweth, a former standout with PHS and the Nebraska Cornhuskers, is a product of the same system and he develops talent in the traditional way. For one thing, he has the wrestlers work out with each other during the season.

I was only a young sports writer for this newspaper when those old tournaments were held, but I do recall that the weekend took something out of me, besides a written account for readers. As for the Perry wrestlers, they were not overawed by the boys from Tulsa Central and other big schools.

The local Maroons always gave a good account of themselves. If you don't believe that, just remember that PHS owns a remarkable 32 state team championships, and that takes in some years when all teams competed in one tournament, no classes assigned. Remarkable, but true. No team anywhere, in any sport, has done as well as Perry has in wrestling. That's why we are "The Wrestling Capital," no matter what others may say or think.

Seeing Zach Sikes (the undefeated state champion), Gary Swan and Austin Workman collect individual championship trophies was a great thrill, and when the other finalists were handed their medals and the crowd acknowledged their skills with warm applause - all of that made the two-day ordeal worthwhile. Perry fans apparently outnumbered those from any town or city. That's because we are proud of every one of the lads who fought so hard to preserve Perry's well-founded reputation. And that doesn't even take into account the Maroons' repeat performance as state champions in scholastics. That made two in a row. All of that together is cause for a great deal of joy and pride, and we sincerely thank those young men for their dedication to excellence.