By Mike Moguin
GTR Sports Writer
One look at a photo of Zach Blankenship and you can’t help but notice the look on his face.
The two-time state champion and senior Bixby wrestler signed to compete at one of the best college programs in the nation, if not the best, back on Dec. 15.
He has been on a roll winning matches and is hoping to add another state championship.
Blankenship announced on his Twitter page back in September that he would wrestle in college at Oklahoma State and the Cowboys even had a picture of him making what has now become that signature face.
“It is a scream,” the OSU signee said. Blankenship was caught on camera in 2021 making the facial expression after he won the Class 6A state championship in the 132-pound division. He beat Zeke Escalera of Moore in the final with a 3-1 decision.
“After I won state last year, I got kind of famous for that picture,” Blankenship said. “I got up and kind of flexed and screamed. Usally I don’t show too much emotion after I win tournaments. But it was kind of a big deal for me because I wasn’t able to compete at state the year before. Coming back winning it the next year against a pretty good kid was something I was excited about.”
There was another picture of Blankenship making the “scream” after he made an accomplishment in powerlifting last summer.
He won state in wrestling as a freshman in 2019. But in his sophomore campaign, he suffered a UCL injury that required surgery. Unfortunately, it was shortly before state, which kept him from pursuing a possible second straight title.
Connections to Oklahoma State were a key to Blankenship’s decision to go west on the Cimarron Turnpike. He was also impressed with the program itself.
”My dad has been an ER doctor for the OSU medical center for most of my life and he is actually dean of the medical school, so I’ve always had OSU ties,” he said. “And (Bixby assistant coach) Shane Roller, who has been my coach since I started wrestling, is a former OSU wrestler.
“But going into the recruiting process, I was not set on OSU by any means. I took some visits and was really interested in some other schools,” Blankenship added. “One of my final visits was to OSU and I was around everybody, the coaches and the other wrestlers, and the atmosphere around Stillwater was unlike anywhere else. I knew right then I wanted to be a Cowboy.”
Blankenship chose OSU over Little Rock, California Baptist and Air Force. He plans to move to Stillwater and workout with the Cowboys immediately after graduation.
The Bixby standout grappler, who also played a key role in the football team’s fourth straight state title and seventh in eight years, has met John Smith, the Cowboys coach, before. But he knows getting to have him as his coach will be a different experience.
“Growing up, I’ve gone to numerous OSU camps. I’ve met him (Smith) before but I really got to talk to him during this recruiting process and he’s the greatest American wrestler of all-time,” Blankenship said. “So that’s always exciting being able to wrestle under, not only one of the greatest wrestlers of all-time, but the greatest coaches of all-time. Every experience I’ve had with him has been pleasant, so I’m really excited to wrestle for him.”
With all that said, it’s clear what vision Blankenship has.
“Hopefully, I can go win a national title for the Cowboys and add to the dynasty that they’ve created,” Blankenship said. “There’s a real good class coming in from my class and the class after me.”
Blankenship could wrestle 125 or 133 when he is in college. In the meantime, the soon-to-be Bixby graduate is focused on finishing his high school career strong.
He won his 100th career match at a tournament in Sand Springs on Jan. 15. At that time, he had a career record of 100-5 and was 13th on the Bixby wrestling all-time wins list.
“In my first three matches, I wrestled some kids and I pinned them all in the first period and then in my finals match, I had a pretty good kid from Memphis (Tenn.), I wrestled him, 5-1. It was a good match. He was a good wrestler.”
Blankenship is aiming for his third state championship in four years. He knows it won’t be easy.
“Of course that’s the goal and I’m going to work towards that,” he said. “But there are a lot of good kids in the state, two of which I might potentially have to wrestle. I lost to one of them and only beat the other one by a point. It’s not going to be a cakewalk by any means. They’re great wrestlers and I have to keep working hard if I want to achieve that.”