Oklahoma's Kendric Maple became the Sooners' 66th individual national champion Saturday night with a 4-3 decision over Edinboro's Mitchell Port in the 141-pound weight class. The title is also the first individual championship for an Oklahoma wrestler since 2005. Adding to the impressive feat is the fact that with the win Saturday night, Maple finished the season with a perfect record.
In addition to Maple's accomplishment, OU's Cody Brewer also earned All-American honors by finishing seventh at 133 pounds.
Oklahoma head coach Mark Cody on Maple (via SoonerSports.com):
"This is wonderful for Kendric - I'm so proud of him - on and off the mat. I was so happy that they mentioned he was a 4.0 student while he was up there, and the crowd cheered for that. He does great both academically and athletically, which is wonderful. He's the total package, just an outstanding young man."
Maple's success couldn't have come without the help of assistant coach Michael Lightner, and Cody recognizes that.
"I have to acknowledge our assistant coach Michael Lightner in the entire process. We put him in charge of coaching our 133- and 141-pounder and they have both become All-Americans - so we couldn't do it without him."
More from Cody on what Maple's national championship could mean for the program (again, via SoonerSports.com):
"It's been a while since OU has had a national champion, so this was a long time coming," explained Cody.
"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."
And from the national champion himself (again, via SoonerSports.com):
"It was definitely closer than I wanted it to be," expressed Maple. "Port is a go-hard. He comes at you the whole time, and I felt like I couldn't really fire off my legs, I kind of tweaked my ankle and couldn't really fire, so I was scared to shoot most of the match. He kind of pushed me, and I was glad to come out with it."
"The whole time through I heard Coach 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," continued Maple.
"It's a feeling of absolute, total satisfaction," Maple grinned. "It's a great honor to be here, in this spot. I just love this sport."
"Next year, it will feel better than it does right now," explained Maple. "But for right now, this is pretty amazing."