Along the way, he had numerous state champions and qualifiers, and Antonini is hoping to build that kind of success at Sequoyah, which has had its own rich and competitive tradition.
The Sequoyah Invitational, which often featured as many as 15 teams, ended in 2008 after a 19-year run. Antonini is hoping to replicate the success with the Sequoyah Black and Gold Duals, which took place Wednesday and saw the Chiefs host River Ridge, Creekview and Lanier.
“I think it went great,” Antonini said of the event. “We’re thankful that the teams who were scheduled to be here all came. We appreciate that. Those teams all have coaches with a history with Sequoyah, and they were willing to help get our event going.
“I want to honor them, and bring this program back to the powerhouse it once was. It starts with hosting events like this.”
Creekview, which sent a split squad to Sequoyah with another unit having traveled to the Tiger Classic in Chapel Hill, N.C., went 3-0. The Grizzlies beat Sequoyah 42-21, Lanier 36-24 and River Ridge 52-12.
Five wrestlers went undefeated for Creekview — Austin Collett (145 pounds), T.J. Matos (160), Christian Saragusa (195), Logan Ridings (182) and Roddy Ovetsky (220). Saragusa had three pins, while Collett and Matos each had two.
“We didn’t know we’d be here until Monday,” assistant coach John Judkins said. “All of our coaches have ties to Sequoyah, and we wanted to come in and help in any way that we can. It’s a point of pride for us to see the Sequoyah program back to where it was.”
One of Creekview’s two co-head coaches, Kevin Higgins, was the longtime head coach at Sequoyah, where Judkins was an assistant. The Grizzlies’ other co-coach, Wyatt Wilkie, was a standout wrestler coached by Higgins at Sequoyah.
River Ridge head coach Josh Sims also wrestled for Higgins at Sequoyah.
“Plus, wrestling against other teams is always better than wrestling against ourselves,” Judkins added. “I’m proud of the how the kids performed (Wednesday). We forfeited four weight classes and gave up 24 points right off the bat in each match. And we were pinned only four times all day. For young kids, that’s a big deal.”
The host Chiefs went 1-2, defeating River Ridge 35-27 and losing to Lanier 40-24.
Adam Graves (126), Dylan Hall (145) and Brad LaSelva (170) each went 3-0 and had two pins.
“We have 14 or so guys that are really dedicated, so any type of progress we can make is successful,” Antonini said. “Every wrestler got some work in, and they understand that this is a process. Ultimately, we’re trying to build for the future.
“They have to be willing to work hard, and that’s all we can ask of them. It’s about them and how bad they want it.”
River Ridge finished the meet 0-3, also losing to Lanier 36-24.
Nathan Williams went 3-0 with two pins at 106 pounds, while Wade Jacobs was also undefeated and had a key win in his match against Sequoyah.
“We’re still a young team lacking mat experience,” assistant coach Keith Manus said. “We’re putting ourselves in positions we’re not able to overcome because of that lack of experience. So, until we can get better at wrestling from the bottom and keeping ourselves out of jams, then things will stay the same.
“The kids are working hard, and they’re getting better, but we have a lot of work to do. Getting that mat experience is the only way to overcome our youth.”