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‘Cats on the Mat

January 27, 2019 - 00:00
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Cashion adds wrestling program to school’s growing repertoire

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    CASHION WRESTLING coach Nolan Boyd, far right, instructs wrestlers Nolan Banks (facing camera) and Bodie Bailey on techniques between sessions as fellow wrestler Justice Broadbent looks on at the Western Conference Wrestling Tournament in Cashion.

Nolan Banks is a wrestler.

Has been most of his life.

His brother wrestled. His dad wrestled. His uncles wrestled and even his grandfathers.

The mat, the singlet, the headgear…it’s in his blood.

So when Banks moved from Piedmont to Cashion prior to his junior year of high school, a big part of his life had to be left behind.

Cashion had no wrestling program.

“I couldn’t wrestle for Piedmont anymore. I couldn’t wrestle for youth programs because I was too old,” said Banks.

“If someone had a practice nearby, I’d take part if I could. But that’s all I could do.”

That changed this year.

Cashion is in the midst of its first season as a high school wrestling program and Banks is a big part of it.

“This was something me and my parents pushed for as soon as we moved to Cashion,” Banks said. “It’s amazing to have this my senior year.”

Wrestling is the latest addition to Cashion’s revamped curriculum and list of extra-curricular activities.

The district recently re-introduced band, vocal and a Family and Consumer Science class.

“Cashion is fortunate to be able to offer students as many opportunities as possible,” said superintendent Sammy Jackson. “We are extremely proud of the effort our wrestlers, coaches and supporters have put out to start this program.”

Although not alone on the wrestling team, Banks is the exception and not the norm for the Wildcats in that he has past experience on the mat.

That’s made coaching the team a multi-leveled learning experience for Nolan Boyd.

“I had done some camps and clinics, but I had never coached before,” said Boyd. “But they needed a coach and I thought it was a cool opportunity to work with some guys who had never seen this sport, expose them to it and all the things you can learn and how much of a better person you can be for grinding it out like that.”

Boyd was able to “grind it out” at some of the highest levels.

He was a three-time state champion at Deer Creek High School before a stellar career at Oklahoma State.

As a junior, Boyd was 33-8 and placed fourth at 184 pounds at the NCAA tournament. He was 23-7 in 2016-17 as a senior and took sixth at the national tournament at 184 pounds.

He earned All-American status both years.

But, with most of his Cashion grapplers, it was all new.

It’s been humbling, coming in and thinking I know a lot about wrestling and then be like ‘how do you teach these basics?’” he said. “I forgot you have to teach this basic so they’ll know this one. I thought they would just know that. You have to go all the way back to Day 1 when you’re starting from scratch.”

Outside of Banks, sophomore Justice Broadbent is the only other Wildcat among about a dozen on the team with any kind of experience.

“I wrestled for Team Guthrie youth league a little bit and I missed it,” said Broadbent between matches at the Western Conference Wrestling Tournament held in Kingfisher earlier this month.

“Basketball’s never been my thing. I can’t make baskets, so I thought I’d start wrestling again.”

Boyd said Cashion’s administration and supporters have all stepped up to provide for the program.

“I walk in and I’m like ‘Give us a mat and wrestling shoes and we’ll be good,’” Boyd said.

“But people not only got us mats and shoes, but a scale and singlets and other equipment. I didn’t expect as much.”

Still, practicing and learning hasn’t always been easy.

The wrestling team shares a room with the cheer squad, a space that also serves as the indoor practice area for the baseball and track teams.

“We work out in a big building with cheer blasting their music on one side and track doing their thing on another side, but we make it work,” Boyd said.

Added Broadbent: “There are some things that make it tough. We have to roll up our mats every day because baseball needs to hit. There are things like that.”

“It’s been a little bit of a struggle, but I still love it.”

Banks and Broadbent both say they know they’re in good hands with Boyd’s mentorship.

“He knows what he’s talking about and what he’s doing,” Broadbent said. “Other than that, he’s just a great guy in general.”

For Banks, it’s been an opportunity for him to start over and hone his skills.

“It’s gotten me to relearn the very basic stuff,” he said. “ For example, I’m a huge single-leg (takedown) person and so was he in college and high school. Ever since going back over that with coach Boyd, he’s taught me more about a single-leg than I ever knew.”

The teaching, Boyd said, goes beyond the fundamentals on the mat.

Wrestling is a grueling sport. Success takes both physical and mental exertion.

“It’s hard to convince guys who haven’t wrestled before how hard you’re going to have to work, how many sprints you’re going to have to run and then they come out here and wrestle and they’re dead in the first 30 seconds,” Boyd said.

“Your mindset has to change pretty quick from wanting to do the easy things to wanting to make everything as hard as possible. But they’re starting to buy in. They’re starting to realize they do need to train that hard.”

Broadbent’s getting a lesson on the mental aspect of the sport.

“It’s been up and down for me lately,” he said of his success. “I’ve been battling injuries for the last couple of weeks, but coach Boyd really helps.

“He tells us it’s going to make us mentally tough. It’s going to help us later on in life. He tell us, ‘Just battle through it and when state comes around you’ll remember this moment and be able to battle through that pain and try to win.’”

There are different levels of success in wrestling.

For Banks, there’s a distinct goal.

“Placing at state is a big part of my family,” he said. “So my expectation is to place at state, not just get there.”

Banks was Cashion’s most successful wrestler at the Western Conference.

He was third at 152 pounds. His only loss was to Mangum’s Daelin Stacy in the semifinals. Stacy went on to win the weight class.

Banks scored a bulk of Cashion’s 34 team points, which placed the Wildcats 15th overall.

Boyd admittedly isn’t yet familiar again with the Oklahoma high school wrestling landscape, so he’s uneasy about quantifying his expectations for Cash-ion wrestlers.

“My only expectations are just to see these guys become more of a man, become stronger, get a little more endurance and I’ve been trying to preach Jesus Christ to them as much as I can,” he said.

“I tell them this is a resemblance of your faith. Something’s going to try to steal your faith. You’ve got to fight to keep it.”

Banks said such principles will benefit this group of Wildcats long after they hang up their singlets and headgear.

“In life, if you get a job and miss work or have a bad attitude you’re going to be the first one to go, so I just try to throw things like that in there,” he said. “They have to battle through it all.

“That’s my expectation, that these guys are going to be better men by the end of this.”

Boyd’s future with the program has not yet been decided.

“We’ll see which way life goes,” he said. “I’m just trying to make the most of this year because I don’t know.

“But this has been awesome. It’s a fun thing to look forward to everyday to come to practice.”

The program’s future, however, should continue to grow.

Cashion’s had a bustling youth program for the last several years. Those youngsters will soon start filtering up to high school.

“With the great older group we have and the large interest we have in our younger student wrestling program, the future of wrestling looks bright here at Cashion,” Jackson said.