Sooner redshirt junior Kendric Maple takes home 141-pound title in NWCA All-Star Classic in Washington, D.C.
Nov. 9, 2012
Top-ranked wrestler Kendric Maple was missing from Oklahoma’s first match on Nov. 2, against Oklahoma City University. Instead, he was on a trip to the nation’s capital to participate in the 2012 National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Star Classic.
“It was a great trip,” Maple said. “We went last year and did some sightseeing then but this year it was more of a business trip. We wanted to get in and get out with a win.”
Maple did get down to business in Washington, D.C., beating the nation’s No. 5 141 pounder, B.J. Futrell from Illinois, and taking home the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler Award.
“He is a tough opponent, he’s very athletic. He moved up a weight class and filled out perfect,” remarked Maple on Futrell. “I’m looking forward to seeing him throughout the year.”
The redshirt junior from Wichita, Kan., walked off the mat that night with a 6-3 decision over his opponent, who finished fourth at the NCAA championships last year in the 133 lb. weight class.
Maple struck first with an early takedown in the 141 lb. matchup, and built up a strong riding time during the first period. His opponent opted for the bottom position to start the second period, and quickly escaped. Futrell was able to control the match for most of the second and third periods, but was unable to build a lead against Maple.
“The first match has the opportunity to show a lot of weaknesses and a lot of strengths. It showed me what I need to work on and do to move on from here.”
Maple took a 3-1 lead into the final minute of action when he put the match away with a second takedown. Futrell escaped, but not before the damage was done.
“I still have work to do. I’d rather not have my matches be that close, but it gives me some confidence to put more work in,” said Maple. “It won’t be handed to me next time.”
For his efforts in the victory, Maple was named Most Outstanding Wrestler, along with Cornell’s Kyle Dake. The prize for their success was a full-size gladiator helmet.
“That was something unique. My teammates and I had never seen anything like that before.”
Maple will have to take the mindset of a gladiator for the rest of the 2012-13 campaign. He knows that his opponents will be gunning to take down the top ranked wrestler in the 141 lb. weight class.
“I think anyone who is at the top will have a target on their back. My opponents are going to be looking for my weaknesses and trying to slow the match down.”
The Wichita, Kan. native is ready for the challenge. The early matchup against a fellow top-five opponent set the tone for the season.
“This gets me fired up for the year. The matchup was a good stepping stone. It got me excited to see the competition early in the year and I got a really good feel for everything instead of easing into it.”
Maple knows that being a part of the NWCA All-Star Classic will raise expectations for the wrestler after his breakout sophomore season.
“There were a lot of great kids there taking part in great matches. I didn’t get to see them all, but the ones I did see where tough and good competition.”
“It was a great honor to be a part of this prestigious event, and a lot of fun.”
Maple racked up several individual accolades last year after he claimed the Big 12 Championship and finished fourth in the NCAA championship. His focus now is to help the Sooners gain momentum as a team.
“My expectations are helping the team out and winning a national championship. I want to help the team out anyway I can.”
We really have our eyes set on a team title this year.”
The eleventh-ranked Sooners have a shot at the national crown, especially with the team head coach Mark Cody has built around Maple.
Nick Lester also travelled to the NWCA Classic with Maple and assistant coach Michael Lightner to represent the 149-pound weight class.
Lester left D.C. with a 6-3 defeat at the hands of the nation’s No. 2 ranked Jason Chamberlain of Boise State. Lester is also expected to succeed this season, along with twin brother Matt. Nick starts the season ranked No. 9 in his weight class by Intermat.
While Maple has a clear vision of where he wants to see the team at the end of year, he has not put his individual goals in the backseat.
“I want a national championship. Not just to win one, but to dominate it. We don’t want any close matches. I want to go above and beyond what I can do, and be the best I can be.”
For that, Maple may have just what it takes.