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HS WRESTLING: ‘The future’s bright’ for McAlester wrestling | Sports


HS WRESTLING: ‘The future’s bright’ for McAlester wrestling | Sports

The Buffs are making their way back to the mat ahead of the start of the new wrestling season.

Coach Josh Cunningham said that things have been going pretty well for the program, although the high school squad has had to take a short hiatus due to contact tracing. But even then, he said his wrestlers have still been eager to put in the work.

“They’re pretty good,” Cunningham said. “They’ve been working hard…I get them back on (Nov. 23) and they’re all texting me, calling me ready to get back after it.”

The season is set to start in December, with the first home dual scheduled for Dec. 15. Cunningham is eager to get the year started, but said, with the ever-changing impacts of COVID-19, that he’s taking every day as it comes.

“I feel like a bull rider right now, just kind of hanging on,” Cunningham said. “We hope the season comes to fruition, and we get some duals and tournaments in. There’s a lot of precautions that we’re going to have to take this year, but if the Good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise, we’ll have a season.”

Cunningham describes his coaching style as a bit of a throwback. But he said that wrestling’s a hard sport, and you’ve got to work hard to be good at it.

“I’m a young man, but I’m kind of an old school coach. I kind of take that Vince Lombardi approach,” Cunningham said. “We’re always going to seek perfection, knowing we’re never going to obtain it. But on its way, we’re going to get excellent. I’m all about fixing the little things and being simple.

“I’m pretty hard-nosed, but I want my kids to be hard-nosed too,” he said.

Cunningham said his wrestlers have been responding well to what he and his fellow coaches have been instilling upon them, and thinks that there are several who are going to make big impacts on the mat.

There’s senior Trey Howard, who Cunningham says has come a long way since they first met; the hard-working junior Gunnar Spence, Andrew Major, who Cunningham said has a world of potential; Jackson Kidd, Nathan Hutchison — whose coach believes will make a return to state — and Maddie Merrick, who Cunningham said will return even stronger from last season.

Cunningham said that in addition to a great group of wrestlers, he’s also surrounded by a hard-working staff. Since he’s also an assistant high school principal, he’s fortunate to be surrounded by reliable, hard working coaches at all levels in McAlester.

He said it’s a stress reliever on his part, and believes that combined with the young and up-and-coming talent, there are going to be good things in store for years to come for McAlester wrestling.

“I think the future’s bright, man,” Cunningham said. “I think we’ve got the opportunity to be a really good wrestling school in the next five or six years.”

Contact Derek Hatridge at