Bo Nickal will be looking to repeat as champion at Mid-America Nationals (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)
Tulsa Union will host its annual Mid-America Nationals this Friday and Saturday, and always it will be an excellent showcase of the elite talent that resides in the Sooner State, along with some excellent wrestlers from Kansas and Texas. Though the host team has won the last two titles and at least five of the last six, they lost a lot due to graduation, so there is likely to be a new champion.
Three nationally ranked teams will enter the field -- No. 13 Collinsville, Okla., last year's runner-up No. 16 Tuttle, Okla., and No. 22 Allen, Texas. Unranked Edmond North, Okla., is also a team likely to make significant noise in this field. Unfortunately for wrestling fans, the football success of Allen means that three of their better wrestlers, including nationally ranked competitors Oliver Pierce and Nick Cobb will be competing in the state football quarterfinals this weekend instead of grappling on the mats.
A full one-half of last year's champions will be seeking to repeat as tournament champions this coming weekend. They are No. 14 Davion Jeffries (Collinsville) at 113 pounds, Gunner Laffoon (Tuttle) at 132, Gary Wayne Harding (Collinsville) at 138, No. 4 Bo Nickal (Allen) at 160, No. 5 Zach Beard (Tuttle) at 170, Solomon Vanover (Westmoore, Okla.) at 195, and Andrew Dixon (Edmond North) at 220.
Defending champion Nickal is one of six nationally ranked wrestlers in the tournament, and he appears in the only weight with a pair of nationally ranked competitors. At 160 pounds, Nickal is joined by No. 7 Keilan Torres (Altus, Okla.), who is a two-time state champion and Oklahoma State bound after this season. Another pair of wrestlers in this weight class placed at the Preseason Nationals: two-time third in the state Isaac Beard (Tuttle) and 2011 state champion Levi Berry (Norman North, Okla.)
Another defending champion, Zach Beard, is ranked No. 5 nationally at 170 pounds, which is probably the toughest weight class in this tournament. His primary challengers include a trio of state champions -- Matt Meyer (Allen), Ricky McCarty (Lawton McArthur, Okla.), and Nathan Marek (Southmoore, Okla.). Two-time state placer Zach Abkemeier (Collinsville) and state qualifier Derek White (Edmond North) will aim to spoil things for the above four.
Another nationally ranked wrestler in this field is two-time state placer Lance Dixon (Edmond North), who is ranked 8th nationally at 182 pounds. However, a pair of state champions in Drake Martel (Altus, Okla.) and Levi Eck (Andale, Kan.) are among the challengers in this weight class.
The other two nationally ranked wrestlers -- No. 14 Davion Jeffries (Collinsville) and No. 6 Andrew Dixon (Edmond North) are defending tournament champions -- and strong favorites to repeat as title winners in the 113 and 220 weight classes.
Three other defending champions in the Mid-America Nationals tournament field are Gunner Laffoon (Tuttle) at 132, Gary Wayne Harding (Collinsville) at 138, and Solomon Vanover (Westmoore, Okla.) at 195.
Lafoon is looking at a battle of state champions with Will Steltzen (Collinsville) within his weight class. Two-time state champion Harding is a slight favorite over state champion Isaac Dulgarian (St. Thomas Aquinas) and Preseason Nationals third place finisher A.J. Hinkle (Allen). State placer Vanover is in the most open weight class among these three -- with likely challenges coming from state champion Jadon Davenport (Sallisaw), state placers Joel Dixon (Edmond North) and Riley Fielder (Tuttle), as well as two-time state qualifier Keegan Priddy (Collinsville).