The hallway that leads to the OU wrestling locker room is adorned with the names of Sooner greats and national championship teams. Read closely and one name seems to appear almost more than any other: Kendric Maple.
A 2014 graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Maple had arguably one of the most decorated careers of any wrestler to wear the Crimson and Cream. The Wichita, Kan., native made four NCAA appearances; won three consecutive Big 12 titles from 2012-14; was a three-time All-American; and won the 2013 NCAA Championship.
Kendric Maple was OU's 66th national champion and the 14th to go undefeated in doing so.
Maple tallied 30 or more wins in each of his four seasons, including 33 as a true freshman. His 127 career victories place him sixth on OU’s all-time list, and Maple is one of just 13 Sooners to reach the century mark.
2013, Maple’s national championship season, was one of unprecedented success. Then a redshirt junior, Maple went undefeated – 31-0 – to take the title at 141 pounds. But he didn’t just win matches; he dominated them.
"It's a feeling of absolute, total satisfaction."
-- Kendric Maple
Maple racked up 13 wins over ranked opponents that season. Leading up to the NCAA Championships, 24 of Maple’s 26 victories had come by a margin of four or more points, with eight major decisions, seven falls and four tech falls. He even recorded the third fastest fall in OU history after he pinned American's Matt Dorf in just 13 seconds.
In his 26 contests prior to the NCAA tournament, Maple had two victories by a three-point differential. One was a 6-3 decision against Northern Iowa’s Joey Lazor in a dual with the Panthers. The other came against Edinboro’s Mitchell Port at the Midlands Championships. In a high-scoring match, Maple prevailed 14-11. But that wouldn’t be the last time Maple met Lazor or Port on the mat.
Flash forward to the National Championships. Maple had cruised through the tournament field to earn a spot in the final. His first-round win was a 13-1 major decision of Maryland’s Frank Goodwin.
Then came Maple’s second meeting with Lazor. This time, Maple pinned the wrestler from Northern Iowa in 2:41 to advance.
Maple achieved All-America status for the third time and notched his 100th career win in the quarterfinals with a 12-3 major decision victory against No. 7 Mark Ballweg (Iowa). He breezed through the semifinal with a 4-0 shutout of the Citadel’s No. 6 Undrakhbayer Khishignyam.
Kendric Maple earned his 100th career win during the 2013 NCAA Championships.
The championship round proved much more difficult, a rematch of Maple and Port, who had been perhaps Maple’s greatest challenger all season.
In the bout, Maple struck first with his lone takedown of the match at the 2:13 mark in the first period. Port countered with a late escape to bring the score within one with 0:40 remaining on the clock. Neither wrestler could post any more points in the first three minutes. Port was blanked in the second period, while Maple increased his lead by 2 with an escape midway through.
The two-time All-American was just five seconds shy of the riding time advantage to begin the third and final period of regulation, but secured the advantage quickly. Port countered with an escape at the 0:38 mark to bring the match within one, 3-2, with little time left on the clock. Just seconds later, Maple's second stall call would tie the match, 3-3 all.
The ride time recorded early in the third proved to be pivotal, as it secured the national title for Maple, who earned the 4-3 win in his smallest margin of victory all season.
"The whole time through I heard Coach (Michael) Lightner in my head just telling me `You have to keep your head in the game, keep your head in the game' and it just worked out, thankfully," said Maple.
Fittingly, Lightner, now in his 10th year on the Oklahoma coaching staff, had gone undefeated (27-0) en route to a national title at 141 pounds in 2001.
Maple entered the finals as one of seven wrestlers with an undefeated record, and walked off the mat as one of five student-athletes in Division I NCAA wrestling to end the 2012-13 season with an undefeated record. He became the 14th undefeated national champion in Oklahoma history, and the first since Lightner to do so.
"It's a feeling of absolute, total satisfaction," Maple said of the win. "It's a wonderful accomplishment. It definitely sets the benchmark for the future of the program.
“With all the young guys in our program, and all the new ones coming in, we have to make a statement. If they're going to come to the University of Oklahoma, they have the potential to become a national champion."
Maple’s collegiate career came to a close in 2014, but his wrestling career is ongoing. The former Sooner was a member of the United States team in 2018 that won the UWW Freestyle World Cup for the first time since 2003. Maple is a two-time U.S. Freestyle Open Men’s finalist (61 kg), winning the title in April 2017. He also won the 61 kg title at the 2017 Medved International. Maple was a finalist in the 61 kg at the 2017 U.S. Freestyle World Team Trials. He was the runner-up at the 2015 U.S. Open, as he qualified for the U.S. Freestyle World Team Trials, where he earned a fourth-place finish.
Maple served as OU’s volunteer assistant for three seasons before he moved into an assistant coaching position at Purdue in 2017. Maple is currently in his second season as assistant coach at Nebraska.