By Kenton Brooks
Phoenix Sports Writer
As a sophomore, J.T. Andrews worked out as much any Muskogee High School wrestler, but not all of his body was physically fit.
He had a woeful 10-20 record.
Things changed dramatically for the better going into his junior season. Besides his workouts to strengthen his muscles, Andrews went through self-imposed mental training.
The result was an impressive 31-9 mark. He qualified for the state tournament at 160 pounds.
“I just had an attitude change,” he said. “It used to be when I would see other guys who were No. 1 (in Okwrestle.com) or things like that, I would put pressure on myself. I’d focus on not to lose and end up losing the match.”
Andrews, one of four starting seniors along with Nigel Harris, Haden Kolmer and Dalton Harnage, still has some unfinished business. He wants to qualify for state after losing to Moore’s Derek Sivertson in the match to qualify for last year’s tournament. He carries a 9-1 record and is ranked No. 4 at 170 pounds going into today’s home dual matinee against Ponca City at noon.
For Andrews, there wasn’t any magical turning point. He just started believing that he could win. The Muskogee coaches believed it, too.
“J.T would look at the clocking running down and think, ‘There’s no way I can do this,’ “ MHS associate coach Dan Jefferson said. “He decided to quit looking at the clock and started thinking that he didn’t care who was in that 10-foot circle.
“When he did that, he was a different cat.”
Andrews doesn’t expect any kind of relapse.
He will be across the mat today from Ponca City’s Brannon Hunt. Hunt nosed out a 6-5 decision against Andrews in the Perry Tournament semifinals earlier this season.
The Rougher hasn’t forgotten that match.
“I wanted to prove myself that I could beat him that first time,” he said.
Teamwise, the Roughers come in No. 3 and the Wildcats at No. 4 in the OK wrestle.com dual rankings released last Saturday.
“That kid from Ponca City is tough,” Andrews said. “He was a state runner-up as a sophomore, I’m looking to get to No. 1 this season.”
Jefferson looks to him for leadership.
“J.T. is the heart and soul of our team,” he said. “He’s there for us every day. He also knows what to say to the younger kids and newcomers to our program. He’s not only respected at the school, but in the neighborhood. When J.T. speaks, people listen. He’s a warrior.”
For Andrews, he’s now a warrior physically — and mentally.