This Altus High School class of 2016 is something special. In fact, as I contemplated my approach to this article, I really think this will end up as the first of a series of articles trying to spotlight this group of seniors as they make their mark, not only the AHS record books, but also on the world.
Special classes, or generations of kids, are cyclical in nature. Very few communities, if any, can consistently produce outstanding offspring. For whatever reason, it isn’t always Altus’ turn at the front of the line. When that turn does come around, we would do well to recognize it while it is happening so we can all enjoy it that much more, instead of realizing it too late.
The AHS senior class of 2016 is something special.
I’ve always known that I have an ability to see the bigger picture, and that I am capable of noticing when something unique or special is happening. I’m trying to tell you that it is happening now. You may pick up on some pride in my tone. This story makes me very proud. Surely, I am not the only one who feels that the children of your classmates are your children too. Any ups or downs that my classmates experience, I experience it right along with them. I know I am not alone in this because I’ve had classmates tell me the same thing.
Meet Montorie Bridges. Hopefully you know who he is by now. He is the son of Ulysses Bridges II, my classmate. You need to know who Montorie is, so when it comes time for wrestling season, you will know to get out and see him. He is just one part of the wrestling team that is expected to bring home a state championship this year. Those are not my words. Those are coach Nick Williams’ words.
Montorie just might be the most sought after recruit in AHS history. I am not trying to stir debate. However, if there has been another Bulldog who has had to turn down official visits to a prospective university because he has already maxed out his/her limit of five, please call or write in and let me know.
This weekend Montorie is on his first official visit to Bucknell University. He is also being recruited by the University of Wyoming, U.S. Air Force Academy, West Point, The U.S. Military Academy, North Carolina State and the University of Oklahoma.
Bucknell was actually the first school that approached Montorie back in July of 2014 after he placed 4th at Junior Nationals that year in Fargo. After Montorie got back home to Altus, the Bucknell assistant coach, Jim Gibson, called. Gibson was shocked to learn that Montorie was only a sophomore at the time, and therefore legally not allowed to communicate with him.
However, just showing the interest at that young age can leave an impression on a young man. It left an impression on Montorie, and he is now the center of Bucknell’s attention this weekend since he is the only wrestling recruit on campus.
The next visit for Montorie is scheduled for Sept. 4-6 at the University of Wyoming. Then it’s on to West Point on Sept. 17-19, the U.S. Air Force Academy on Oct. 17-19. North Carolina State was looking to bring Montorie in between Wyoming and West Point, but nothing’s been confirmed.
Student athletes are permitted five official visits where the University will pay for the entire visit, from airfare to food and lodging for the student. If a parent(s) goes, the University pays for everything for the parent(s), except airfare. With all five of Montorie’s visits marked on his calendar, it left no room for an official visit to OU when assistant coach Michael Lightner came calling. Montorie informed Coach Lightner that he was still interested in visiting, even in an unofficial capacity, and that the Bridges family would pay Montorie’s expenses. On the surface, one might think this a win/win for OU. They would have Montorie on campus for a visit, but not have to pay the costs. That’s just not how good recruiters get good recruits.
Coach Lightner is steadily trying to convince Montorie that out of the five schools scheduled, that surely, one he wouldn’t commit to, and could then make room for OU to be one of the official visits. That is yet another decision that Montorie has to make.
Montorie has had home visits from Head Coach Sam Barber of the U.S. Air Force Academy. While practicing in Lawton preparing for Junior Nationals this summer, the Bridges family met with Head Coach Kevin Ward of West Point at a Starbuck’s. Head Coach Dan Wirnsberger and Assistant Coach Jim Gibson of Bucknell flew down and made a home visit right before school started, and Assistant Coach Teyon Ware of Wyoming came and visited last week.
Bucknell University is a private school, and the wrestling program is not funded by the University. They have an alumni that serves as the benefactor to the program donating millions of dollars. The estimated total full ride scholarship for Montorie to attend Bucknell is $260,000. It’s $65,000 per year to attend the private Bucknell University. Bucknell intends to offer Montorie this full ride opportunity this weekend. This is his first official visit, and already he has a monumental life-changing decision to make.
Bucknell is fully aware of Montorie’s remaining scheduled visits. They will most likely apply all the pressure they can to get a commitment from Montorie before he gets back on that airplane and heads home. For more added pressure, Bucknell will only honor the offered scholarship for two weeks.
Wyoming wasn’t really on Montorie’s radar of choices, even though Cameron Loving from Altus is out there, and another former Bulldog wrestler, Trevor Sterling, wrestled there for two years. However, things may have changed as far as Montorie’s outlook on Wyoming. Wyoming just hired Teyon Ware as an assistant coach. Ware was twice National Champion at the University of Oklahoma.
Considering these college recruiters call, text, e-mail and contact kids in all forms of social media constantly, it’s no surprise that the whole process can take it’s toll on a young kid.
“We try and ask Montorie what school he thinks he might be leaning towards, and right now he doesn’t know,” said his father, Ulysses Bridges II. “I can see the stress of me inquiring, so I have to back off and watch how I go about asking him things. He texted me while up at Bucknell and said he likes it there. He said the team members are real cool, whatever that means. It sounds like he is having a good weekend. He’s the only wrestling recruit up there, so he must be getting the ultimate attention.”
Wrestlers blessed with this kind of opportunity are well aware that this is most likely the pinnacle of their careers. There isn’t a big league with a big TV contract, and a televised lottery for draft choices of amateur wrestlers. These kids have to find the best fit for them and decide where they want to spend the next four to five years while working towards their degree. Unless a kid intends on entering the octagon of the MMA, turning pro is not an option.
Montorie’s family has made it clear that they will support Montorie with whatever he decides to do. Yes, I am an OU fan. So, I for one wouldn’t mind seeing Montorie wrestle as a Sooner. It’s close enough for us to see him. I can’t recall ever seeing a Bucknell dual on my television. I’m just saying.
Montorie certainly has worked hard for this opportunity. He deserves to get the attention and respect that comes with that hard work. Congratulations Montorie, or can I call you son?
GO BULLDOGS !!
Reach Brad Gilbert@482-1221 ext. 2076