ADA — After double-digit dual victories and a strong showing by its prize freshman at the Class 5A State Tournament, Ada fill-in wrestling head coach Greg Dean can’t help but beam about the accomplishments of the 2006 Cougar wrestling team.

“We had a really good season. Our kids came a long way from the first of the year,” Dean said. “We really didn’t know what we had coming in.”

Dean was offered the job late after former wrestling coach John Gallagher left the Ada School System before a more permanent replacement could be found.

“I think they’re trying to fill the spot right now. When I agreed to do it, it was just for a year. But I enjoy the sport and enjoy being around the kids,” he said.

Ada, led by seniors Seth Maloy, Brandon Cates, Jacob Castleberry and Eric Black, won 10 duals this year (against just three losses).

“Our senior group did a great job. They all four had pretty good years,” Dean said.

The AHS coach said bad luck may have kept Cates and Maloy from the state tournament.

“If they draw a little better at the regional tournament, they probably end up placing. Both got seeded fifth which puts you on a tough side of the bracket,” Dean said.

Maloy finished the year with a 20-6 record, including a pinfall win over Brandon Brooke of Durant at the regional tournament. He won 13 matches by pinning his opponent.

Cates finished 21-8, including an incredible 17 pinfall victories. He was knocked out of regional competition with a hard-fought 16-14 setback to Darius Hopper of Grove.

Black was a respectable 10-9 on the year.

“Eric just got better and better all year. I admire him a lot. He worked his tail off every day,” Dean said.

Castleberry had a promising season cut short by a severe ankle injury two weeks before the regional tournament.

“Castleberry got hurt and that really affected the way he wrestled toward the end of the year,” Dean said. “He competed at the regional tournament and tried to go, but he just couldn’t. On healthy legs he had a real good shot at qualifying for the state tournament.”

Still, Castleberry — the team captain — finished 16-8.

Will Hayden, Ada’s fifth senior, missed most of the 2006 campaign with a broken arm.

“Most kids might have said ‘I’m done with wrestling’ after breaking his arm. But he didn’t quit. He came back,” Dean said. “He fought back from that injury and didn’t give up.”

It was freshman Bryan Solomon that led a solid group of Ada underclassmen. He was Ada’s lone state qualifier and finished fourth at 189 pounds.

Solomon finished with an impressive 26-6 record, including an exciting 3-1 win over Bixby’s Aric Perenti at the 4A State Tournament. Perenti had edged Solomon 4-3 in regional tournament action.

“That’s quite an accomplishment, especially for the weight class he’s in. He’s a big kid, but he’s in with juniors and seniors. He’s the only freshman in that weight class. He ended up beating a kid that beat him in the regional finals to get to place. That’s something we were very proud of. He went up there and got after it and wrestled really well,” Dean said.

Junior Darrin Briley also had a good 2006 campaign, finishing with a 21-10 mark including 13 pinfalls.

“Darren Briley ended up having a really solid year and is another one that drew out tough at regionals. If he draws a little different, he had a chance to place,” Dean said.

Other Ada wrestlers who won at least 10 matches include: freshman Thad Gillum (10-11), freshman Clint McFarland (14-6), sophomore Cole Whisenant (11-10) and sophomore Justin Glaspey (16-14).

“Justin Glaspey was one match from qualifying for the state tournament. He’s just going to keep getting better each year,” Dean said. “And our freshmen did just as well as we could ask.”

Dean said it was a pleasure to work with assistant coaches Terry Don Teel and Creighton Solomon as well as junior high coach Dan Pettigrew.

“I can’t say enough about our coaches. Terry Don Teel and Creighton Solomon helped me tremendously. They’re both a huge part of our success,” he said.