OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. —
Jacoby Brown found himself in a very different situation going into Saturday night’s state tournament finals than he was in a year ago.
Going into the 2012 finals, Brown was facing Guthrie senior Landry Chappell in the championship match. Chappell had beaten Brown in the 2011 finals, so for the then-220 pound Chickasha wrestler, the match represented overcoming a long-standing obstacle.
This year, Brown knew he could beat his opponent. He had beaten Deer Creek heavyweight Tyler Follis two times already; once at Deer Creek and once in the Chickasha Invitational tournament. He knew he couldn’t afford to let his guard down because of the past matches, though.
“I was telling myself I beat him twice, but I had to put all that behind me,” Brown said.
“I couldn’t hold on to the past, that I was going to go out and try to do the same thing. It was just that one match, whether it was someone else that I’ve beaten before, I put that behind me and just kept wrestling hard.”
Brown won the match, giving him his second-straight state championship, this one at heavyweight. He became Chickasha High School’s first-ever two-time state champion, and didn’t lose a single match his last two seasons.
High school heavyweight wrestlers weigh as much as 285 pounds, and the best ones are usually at least 270. Brown played football at 270, but came into Saturday’s match at about 250 pounds.
“Because Follis weighs so much more, and he’s big, and he’s pretty good, the strategy was to push him because if it was going to go into overtime, both of them were going to be tired, but I’d feel a lot better about Jacoby,” head coach Chad Randle said. “I know for a fact [Follis] can’t have as hard of workouts as Jacoby does.”
The workouts are the reason Brown was so much lighter than his opponents all season. But Randle and Brown were able to turn that weight disadvantage into a conditioning advantage, and no heavyweight Brown faced could figure out how to overcome it.
“To me, I think that’s where all the great conditioning came in getting ready for regionals, and even before that,” Brown said. “Running a mile before practice, all that. Coach was telling us to come in the morning and run two miles, just as an optional thing. I did that for like a whole week, and that conditioning factor came in where I just had a little more in the tank than he did.”
Brown won the match 2-1, scoring both his points in the second period after a scoreless first for both wrestlers. He was awarded one point when Follis was called for stalling, and scored his second point on an escape.
Follis scored on an escape in the third period, but once both wrestlers were up, Brown would not give him an opening to score.
After Brown won the state championship last year, his celebration was a pure release of joy as he hugged Randle, then ran to the stands and scaled the wall to celebrate with his family.
Saturday night, the celebration was more controlled, more aggressive; the celebration of an athlete who knew he had done exactly what he was supposed to do. He waved his hands to pump up the crowd as he walked around the mat, slapped a low-five with Randle, and made his way back to the center to shake hands with Follis, and have his arm raised in victory by the referee.
“My teammates, they were asking me in the hotel what am I going to do if I win,” Brown said. “They were giving me all these ideas. The whole pump up the crowd, as I won, that was the only one I could think of. I just started waving my arms up and down.”
All season, Brown has been extremely focused, never more than the 30 minutes or so leading up to his matches.
Each time, Brown paced back and forth near the mat with headphones on and a stern facial expression, seemingly uninterested in anything going on around him. No talking, no smiling, no watching; just thinking.
“I don’t listen to music, I just try to stay focused,” Brown said. “I just think of all the hard work I’ve put into it, getting beat up as a freshman, losing as a sophomore, then coming back and winning as a junior, and then I came out this year. Almost every match I pace back and forth, just thinking about the opponent I’m about to wrestle, and what I’ve got to do to win.”
Brown ends his Chickasha wrestling career as the most decorated wrestler in school history. He won two state championships, finished as a state runner-up once, won 80 matches in a row his last two season, and finished with a 142-10 overall record. He has now set the bar that future Chickasha wrestlers will shoot for.
“The journey is over with as a Fightin’ Chick, being a wrestler,” Brown said. “[Randle has] had a lot of great wrestlers come through and win one, and almost win another one, so I feel proud to break that, and set something for future generations of wrestlers to try to beat.”