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Comparing Big 12 Football Programs to their Big 12 Wrestling Counterparts



With football season in swing, I had the idea to come up with a list of the Big 12 wrestling programs and stack them up with what I believe is their counterpart football programs.

By counterpart, I don’t mean “OSU wrestling to OSU football”. I mean which Big 12 programs in the landscape of wrestling are in a similar position, pecking order or standing to the various Big 12 football programs.

The wrestling programs are listed on the left with their compatible football teams on the right. If you’re sort of a novice follower of wrestling you may want to put this one in your back pocket for when the wrestling season starts, and the Cowboys start matching up with some of these guys. It may give you a good idea of what to expect.

OSU WrestlingOU Football. The Cowboys win the Big 12 year in and year out. They’ve won 6 straight conference titles, they’re consistently top 10 nationally, have solid fan support and a great following. Also similar to OU in football it’s been a minute since they’ve won a national title and all eyes surrounding the program are looking out for that now.

OU WrestlingTexas Football. A historical blue blood with seven NCAA titles and all the resources a program could hope for. Money, facilities, a lot of televised matches on their own network, all of it. And ultimately they’re both pretty much terrible. Just as Texas football has, OU wrestling has made a recent new hire. They weren’t very good in his first year. Will things change? We’ll find out.

Iowa State WrestlingTexas Football. With only ten football teams to twelve wrestling teams, I have to double up in spots. ISU is another blue blood of wrestling with great fan support and money in their program. They have 8 NCAA titles and they’re really just bad right now, maybe worse than OU. They’ve also made a coaching change which may shift things for them, but it’s still a bit of a wait and see at the moment.

Northern Iowa WrestlingTCU Football. Similar to TCU, Northern Iowa recently transitioned to the Big 12 from a non-Power-5 conference and jumped right in as one of the top programs in the conference. UNI is a smaller school, but has a dedicated fan base and is traditionally solid. They hold one NCAA title and there are only 12 other wrestling programs that can claim that, so historically they’re also pretty similar to TCU football who can claim two.

South Dakota State WrestlingOklahoma State Football. South Dakota State has a similar standing in wrestling as the Cowboys do in football. Traditionally neither have been at the top of the heap in their respective sports. Both have built a lot of momentum in their programs over the last few years and are in that tier right behind most of the top dogs. The big distinguishing difference is the coach that got SDSU here, Chris Bono, just took another job. The guy that’s been behind Cowboy football’s rise has done some flirting but remains in Stillwater. It’ll be very interesting to see what wrestling is like at SDSU post-Chris Bono.

Wyoming WrestlingKansas State Football. No coach in college football does more with less than Bill Snyder at K-State, and the same could be argued in wrestling with Wyoming and Mark Branch. Wyoming has become a perennial top 25 power with fewer resources than most and consistently beats a lot of traditional powers. Branch in my opinion (and the opinion of many others) is one of the top coaches in wrestling. It simply gets masked a bit because he’s at one of the less visible programs nationally.

North Dakota State Wrestling-WVU Football. I compare NDSU to WVU in the fact that they’re both pretty good, but if you look at the conference in tiers for football WVU is probably on the lower end of the second tier. In wrestling you have OSU on a tier, then UNI, SDSU, Wyoming, and NDSU on the next tier. NDSU would be on the lower end of that second tier.

West Virginia Wrestling-Texas Tech Football. WVU is in prime recruiting grounds for wrestling. Outside of the states of Oklahoma, Iowa, and California, your most fertile wrestling recruiting is predominately in the northeastern part of the country. WVU is right in the middle of it and they have good facilities and administrative support. Tech has similar with football in Texas. Neither are very good considering what they have in that regard.

Fresno State Wrestling-Baylor Football. Both programs are facing massive rebuilds and those rebuilds are in large part the fault of the administration. Most are pretty familiar with Baylor’s problems. Fresno’s story isn’t near as bad as that. The administration simply cut the program. They reinstated it last year and joined the Big 12. A wonderful thing for the school and the sport. It’s going to be an uphill battle for them though. The fans are doing their part. Fresno State actually had higher attendance than the Cowboys last year.

Air Force Wrestling-Kansas Football. I truly don’t believe that any wrestling program in the Big 12 is in near as bad of shape as Kansas football. But after finishing second to last, last, and last, in the Big 12 in each of their first three years in the conference that distinction has to go to Air Force.

Utah Valley and Northern Colorado Wrestling-Iowa State Football. I group these programs together because they’re all the type of programs that seem to have a few years where they can reach a bit of a higher tier. On average they just aren’t there though. Watch out for UNC. They have a good coach and have done some solid recruiting lately. Utah Valley had a pretty good season last year and have some solid pieces. These programs definitely aren’t perpetual cellar dwellers, but similar to ISU in football they rise up and slide back down the ladder then come right back up it again.

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