MIAMI — One of the most successful wrestlers in Miami High School history takes over the reins of the Wardog program.

David Gilstrap, a three-time state placer and a success at all three of his head coaching stops, succeeds Kevin Panter as the top Dog.

“I’ve always loved the Wardogs and even when I wasn’t here, I kept up with what was going on athletically,” he said. “It’s special to me and the wrestling program means a lot to me.”

The Wardogs open the 2019-2020 season Thursday, Nov. 21 against Tahlequah.

It’s the first of 10 events for the Wardogs, including tournaments at Bristow, Skiatook, Catoosa and the Will Rogers Conference.

They travel to Columbus, Kansas, for another tri that includes Carthage, Missouri.

The Miami Invitational will be December 20-21 and the Dogs head to Wagoner on Jan. 28 for the District 4A-7 quad. Oologah and Stilwell also will be part of the field.

Duals are against Grove and Locust Grove.

Keedin Crockett, who qualified for the Class 4A state tournament as a sophomore, will be the nucleus for the team.

“He’s our guy right now and we will build around the experience he has,” Gilstrap said. “We have a few more with experience, but for the most part, they are all new.”

Gilstrap said one good thing about his 19-man high school group is there is only one senior: Brandon Sanko.

Another point of optimism for the future of the program is that there are 56 in the wrestling room who are in grades 6 through 8.

“So they will all be coming back,” Gilstrap said. “My goal is to keep the wrestlers out there. When I’ve had them since the sixth grade, when I start getting those groups coming through, everybody in that room will have experience. That’s the huge difference in a program.”

Crockett went 1-2 at the state tournament. All three matches were decided by fall, including his consolation match where he pinned Hunter Mauldin of Harrah at 3:37.

“I think we will be able to fill most of the weight classes, but we just don't have a lot of experience,” Gilstrap said.

Gilstrap is a 1998 MHS graduate who finished as runner-up as a freshman and senior and third as a junior at the state wrestling tournament.

He missed his sophomore season with an injury.

Gilstrap was at Locust Grove the past two seasons after a four-year stint at Coweta and eight years at Pryor.

Coweta won a dual state championship and was the runner-up in individual competition in 2016 and was runners-up in team and individual competition in 2015.