February 14, 2014

Tuttle seeks fifth Dual State title

Adam Troxtell
The Express-Star


When it comes to duals, Tuttle is a Class 4A king.

A fifth jewel in the crown is up for grabs this weekend, when the Tigers travel to Cushing for Dual State having won the previous four years in a row. For the last six, they've gone to the final, a sign of a program that has not only grown formidable under head coach Matt Surber, but is also well-rounded.

"Duals are more about your whole team," Surber said. "Our goal each year is to qualify as many as we can for the state championship and win dual state. We really don't even have to talk about that anymore; it's just the expectation."

But with that expectation comes another just as strong; one of hard work, dedication and all the effort it takes to win, as a team.

"It's hard to tell with this type of stuff," Surber said. "That's why we go wrestle; it's not done on paper."

Heading in, the writing on the wall is positive for the Tigers. Senior Dakota Head, who wrestles at 152-pounds, is ranked 18th in the nation at a 35-1 record, while the Tuttle program overall is ranked 32nd nationally. 

"The national ranking, our kids don't really acknowledge that a whole lot," Surber said. "But, it is nice to be recognized. The hard work and tradition around here has paid off."

If anything, the ranking serves as motivation, since senior 126-pounder Blake Dauphin thinks it's too low.

"We don't focus on it too much, but I'll tell you every guy in here thinks we're better than number 32 in the nation," he said.

It's tough not to be confident on a team that cleaned up at the Chickasha Tournament. En route to the first place team prize, Tuttle had eight wrestlers win first in their class. From Noah McQuigg in 106-pound to Dustin "Bull" Mason in the heavyweight, Tigers took more than half of the 14 gold medals up for grabs.

"What I like is it was our last tournament of the regular season, so it shows that we're hitting on all strides and where we need to be," Surber said.

This is the result of a concentrated effort to start Tiger wrestlers off right from a very young age, Surber said.

"We've had a good group of kids wrestle when they were little, we've had kinds come out in seventh grade and put in the work," he said. "The Dual championships are more indicative of how strong you are as a team. The good kids, they're going to win their matches. It's more about those guys that aren't your studs. We've been fortunate to be able to bring along all of them."

Among that group that has come along, Head is this year's standout. Nationally ranked, he sees all the buzz around Tiger wrestling as confidence more than pressure ahead of Saturday, and that's something that comes with age.

"When you're younger, you're worried about everything," Head said. "When you're older, you lead everyone else, keep them secure."

That mix of young and old will be on display Saturday, with five Tuttle seniors, one junior and a host of sophomores and freshmen all working for points to help them advance. Mannford present the first challenge when Dual State begins at noon. The advancing team will face either Catoosa or Harrah, and then it's anyone between top East seed Vinita, Clinton, hosts Cushing or Sallisaw in the final at 6:30 p.m.