By Brad Heath
In 2021, Ashton Cooper left Coweta High School to take over the Duncan wrestling program. It was a move that just felt right for coach Cooper.
“The journey has allowed me to grow tremendously as a coach, teacher, and human. I loved all the time I spent at Coweta – we accomplished some incredible things. State title, three state runner up finishes, two top 3 finishes. Proud is an understatement. As I reflect on my time there, I will forever be grateful for Coweta, the opportunities it provided, the relationships I built, the kids I coached there and the people I worked with! Coweta will always hold a place in my heart,” said Cooper.
Moving to Duncan offered some unique opportunities.
“Duncan presented a unique opportunity for development for me and Dillon Prutch. We were a package deal in this journey. Duncan allowed us to learn under Bobby Cook, I got to step back into an assistant role for a season, opened new doors/challenges and reach a new group of young athletes. It has been a lot of fun for my family and I. In our time here – Dillon Prutch was voted 5A Assistant Coach of The Year in 2023, been Dual State Runner Ups, had a 5A Wrestler of The Year Cub Culberson – crowned three State Champs, two State Runner Ups, several placers and two All State wrestlers. I love what we have going on here at Duncan and specifically the journey that has led me to Duncan Wrestling,” said Cooper.
During this time, coach Cooper also started a family and married a Coweta transplant. Coach Cooper married wife Becca in May of 2021 and they had their first child in March of 2022 with another due in March of 2024.
For Cooper, Duncan loves how the community is involved in the high school program.
“Duncan is such a community driven town. They absolutely love these kids and the school district. The support is overwhelming at times! Driving into town you see displays of their support everywhere – every business has flyers, posters, pictures up, newspaper articles from every sport. They are proud of this school district and show it,” said Cooper.
The Duncan wrestling program has high expectations, which Cooper embraces.
“Every year here we enter the season with high expectations. Any success we have that surprises people, only surprises the people on the outside of the program. Those on the inside know how hard we work and how high we have set the bar for this program. Our kids have bought into what we are doing. As a coaching staff, we are extremely proud of the culture and environment that has been set for the program. The seniors now are the last group left from our Dual State Runner Up finish in 2021, they have had a taste of that experience. It is our job to get back there for them,” said Cooper.
Every coach is influenced by mentors or coaches they have worked with during their careers. For Cooper, that list includes some true heavyweights in wrestling.
“Fortunately, I have been around some amazing coaches in my life. Jay Johnston, Mike Machholz, Bobby Cook, Robert Cowan, Rodney Bowen, Josh Hughes, and Nik Turner. Not all are wrestling coaches, but all have provided things that I implemented in my program. That list includes people from all walks of my life – high school coaches, my college coach, softball, and friends. Coaching is a community of thieves – all of these guys are outstanding coaches – so why not steal from some of the best,” said Cooper.
If he doesn’t seem busy enough, Cooper is coaching on the national level as well.
“I am the Freestyle coach for the 14U (Schoolboy) National team for Oklahoma.
Volunteering for these trips has helped me grow as a coach and build relationships with some of the best coaches around the state. Each summer this team takes a trip to compete for an age level National Championship. Oklahoma has a rich history of success at these events that we strive to continue. It has taken us all over the country visiting multiple college campuses, historic sights, and different venues. The experiences provided by this trip through OKUSA Wrestling are educational, informative, and inspirational. Duncan Wrestling has been heavily represented on these teams; it is just another avenue for our kids to get national exposure and competition,” said Cooper.
Coming into the new season at Duncan, Cooper said there is already buzz around the program.
“I am excited about the buzz we already have going around the team and community. We have a large core group of guys that are ready to go out and compete. I wish I could tell you how the lineup will shake out, but I can promise that everybody will have to come out and compete for their spot. This team will be deep, that is a luxury we have had over the last couple of years. It has allowed us to be fluid and adaptive in our line up,” said Cooper. “We return 10 Starters. Five State Qualifiers. Three Regionals Finalist. One Regional Champion. One State Champion. With a great group surrounding them, especially a strong freshman/sophomore class, that will be pushing them.”
The message to the team this season? #CarryTheBricks
Eli Ramirez – Junior – State Champion
Jack Ensey – Sophomore – Regional Finalist
Felipe Villarreal – Sophomore – Regional Finalist
Kooper Kelly – Senior – State Qualifier
Trey Thomas – Sophomore – State Qualifier
Garrett Henry – Junior – Starter
Rylen Samuels – Senior – Starter
Jaxon Simpson – Junior – Starter
Izaya Elix – Junior – Starter
Bryson Poindexter – Sophomore – Starter