Skiatook wrestling coach Jake Parker was in his first year with the Bulldogs when he became acquainted with Cougar Andersen and Josh Taylor.
They were just sixth graders, and they wanted to know if they could work out with the high school wrestling team.
“I think Cougar’s mother reached out to me and asked if he could come over and work out and I thought, ‘I don’t know, I guess so,’” recalled Parker. “I could tell there was something special about them then, just their work ethic in the sixth grade. I kind of knew then that these guys were going to do great things.”
Andersen and Taylor went on to do great things, indeed. Both recently claimed their fourth individual state wrestling championship. Andersen won at 170 pounds and Taylor was victorious at 138 pounds.
They also led the Bulldogs, along with 195-pound champion, senior Hunter Hall, and a pair of second-place finishers, to an impressive second place finish in the team standings at the 4A meet.
They’re two of just 43 wrestlers in Oklahoma high school history to win four state titles. They’re also just the second pair of wrestlers from the same school to accomplish the feat in the same season. Collinsville did it first in 2014.
“It’s really different from the first one,” claimed Andersen. “My freshman year, you’re wrestling all these seniors and upperclassmen, so no one expects too much. Senior year, everyone expects so much. I had so much pressure compared to the other years.”
“The pressure started the day after state my freshman year,” agreed Taylor. “I think six freshmen won it that year and I was thinking, I’m one of the guys that have a real chance at it. To come out on top for the fourth time this year is a blessing because only three out of the six made through our senior year without getting beat at state.”
Being a state champion is a lot of work. Andersen and Taylor set themselves up for success with an unbelievable work ethic.
“They know what it takes to be successful and they put in the extra time, not just at our practice but they practice a couple of times a week at a different gym and get other live matches. They just do the extra all the time. They were focused from day one.”
Joining the elite four-time state champions club was that much sweeter for the Bulldog duo because they were able to achieve the milestone together.
“We’re best friends,” admitted Taylor, who also hopes to wrestle in college. “We’ve been hanging around each other as long as I can remember. We get along really good.”
“It’s just cool,” added Andersen. “He’s been one of my best friends since before we even went to school, like daycare days. Going in together is a lot better than going in there by yourself.”
The duo and the rest of the Bulldog grapplers also had to overcome COVID-19 and quarantine protocols leading up to regionals. In fact, the entire team was quarantined twice and they were sidelined from competing for five consecutive weeks late in the season due to those restrictions.
It’s a testament to the program that they were able to stay motivated and disciplined during this stretch.
“We don’t have the move-ins. We don’t have a big elementary club that produces a lot of wrestlers,” said Andersen. “We get into the room and Skiatook makes you better. We make wrestlers and develop them.”
“We want to keep the Skiatook program strong for a really long time,” continued Andersen. “We invite the middle school kids or little league kids to practice with us on the extra days so they can get the same results that me and Josh and Hunter have.”
Next up for the Andersen, Taylor and the rest of the Bulldogs is the Dual State Championships on March 12th in Enid.
“We definitely have to stay motivated and keep our minds right,” claimed Taylor. “The season’s not over yet, even though it feels like it is. Dual state is the most fun tournament of the year. I think everyone is just going to click. I’m hoping that’s what happens.”