Perry coach Scott Chenoweth is the latest keeper of the wrestling flame. If the Maroons win state this weekend, he will become the all time leader in state championships in school history.
ERRY — Seconds after Perry's doubleheader with Ponca City and Kingfisher at John Divine Hall, the maroon mats are invaded by pee wee wrestlers.One slaps on a discarded varsity headgear that swallows his head and starts an impromptu match. "Twooooooooo!" another pee wee squeaks as his friend is slammed down on the mat for a takedown. It's a sight repeated every generation in Perry where the seeds of achievement are sewn at a young age. Maroon wrestling is a power unlike any in Oklahoma when it comes to longevity and winning. Just off I-35 on the rolling plains of central Oklahoma, Perry is a place where all but one of the school's 10 wrestling coaches grew up in Perry and later wrestled at Perry, walking the same path as the athletes they coach. It's a place where every varsity wrestler over the last 50 years has been a part of at least one state championship. Perry's wrestling program has averaged 8.4 state qualifiers each season since 1942 and crowned 153 individual champions, more than any high school program in the country. Jenks' and Tulsa Union's football dynasties are products of the last 15 years. Perry's dates back to 1925 when Jap Wood won the school's first individual title nine years before the first "official" state tournament was held. This weekend, 85 years later, Perry will attempt to win its 37th state title when the 89th Oklahoma High School Wrestling Championships begin today at State Fair Arena. "Sometimes it amazes me how we keep coming up with so many tremendous athletes," Perry native and wrestling legend Danny Hodge said. "Here we are this small city, but we beat the big schools. How does that happen?"
The Perry coaching tree(SINCE 1930) > Uel Leach (1930-31): The only coach in Perry’s history not from Perry.
> John Divine (1931-61): Coached 27 individual state champions
> Rex Edgar(1962-69): Won six state championships
> Leonard Shelton (1970-79, 1995): Won 10 team titles with 41 individual champions
> Terry Leonard (1980-81): Coached just two years, but one state titles each season
> Fred Waltermire(1982-83,1991-94): Won two state titles with six individual champions
> Steve Randall (1984-90): Won three team titles and coached 50 state qualifiers
> Scott Chenoweth(1996-present): Coached Perry to 10 team titles with 38 individual champions.
Sixth-grader Cody Delaney participates in a morning practice. Delaney said he hopes his own kids grow up to be Perry wrestlers one day.
Perry sophomore Matt Manley takes in a lesson from head coach Scott Chenoweth who said his primary objective as a coach is to make his wrestlers self motivated to train.
Assistant coach Ronnie Delk instructs a pair of middle school wrestlers during a recent practice. The middle school program has always been important stepping stone and where exceptional talent is identified and developed at an early age
Hayden Workman stands under a list of former Perry champions. Current wrestlers know the school’s tradition well and strive to add another layer to it during their careers.
Senior Ian Fisher has won three state titles. A win at the state tournament will make him just one of three wrestlers in Perry history to win all four years, joining Cecil Beisel and Ladd Rupp in the exclusive club.
Marilee Macias and her husband Tony, a former Perry and OU wrestler, have owned the Kumback Lunch since 1973. The restaurant’s walls are covered with Perry wrestling photos and it serves as an unofficial hub for the town.
PERRY WRESTLING FACTS
> With 36 team championships, Perry is listed in the record books of the National Federation of High School Sports as having the most state championships of any school, in any sport.
> Before this season, Perry has had 576 state qualifiers since 1942 with 153 individual state champions, the most of any high school wrestling program in the United States.
> Former Perry wrestlers made up half the starting lineup of Oklahoma’s 1957 national championship team.