This weekend the Cowboy coaching staff took a look at one of the best 182-pound wrestlers in the country. That wrestler, A.J. Ferrari, went on to win the Ironman which is one of the toughest tournaments around.
OSU’s interest in the top recruits in the country is not groundbreaking. The fact that more and more of those top recruits are now coming from the state of Texas is a bit of a new development. Ferrari, a sophomore from Allen, Texas, goes to the same high school that produced last year’s 184-pound NCAA champion, Bo Nickal.
Texas has produced some notable wrestlers, Tervel Diagnev and Brandon Slay are both guys that had elite level international success, but that success came late for both of them and neither were especially heralded recruits. Though he wasn’t quite at the level of those guys internationally, similar could be said for Muhammed Lawal who started out at UCO and ended up as a All-American at Oklahoma State.
OSU picked up a few recruits out of Texas in the mid-2000’s with the Ashmore brothers, Luke Silver, Kevin Wainscott and Alex Munoz. Those guys were definitely big for the development of the sport in Texas as just having D-I level recruits was a new thing for Texas at the time, but the whole group was coached by Kenny Monday and came from the same school. You could argue that it was a bit of an anomaly and not necessarily a real trend in the sport in the state.
Recently, there has been a very real change to the sport in the Lone Star State. Overall, participation in the sport has nearly doubled in the state since 2007. Texas now has the fourth-highest number of wrestlers of any state in the country. They’ve also picked up a few college programs with Wayland Baptist and Richland College adding wrestling. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s really significant when you consider there were no college wrestling teams in Texas for a very long time prior to that.
Not only has the sport grown in numbers in Texas it’s also growing in talent. Bo Nickal is one of the best college wrestlers in the country currently. Jack Mueller at Virginia was an All-American at 125 last year, Nick Reenan at NC State is a Texas product, and as we mentioned, they now have guys like Ferrari coming up that are truly elite recruits. High school wrestling in the state of Texas has never had a No. 1 overall recruit in a given recruiting class and there’s a possibility they will with Ferrari.
What could all this mean for OSU?
OSU is the closest Division-I wrestling program to the state of Texas besides OU. Naturally, OSU would have a much better angle on recruiting in Texas than most other big time wrestling programs. Families can more easily make the trip up to Stillwater for matches/visits. There are numerous logistical advantages for the OSU staff when it comes to travel and recruiting, and the kids are much more likely to have some sort of natural tie to the program than they would most of the programs in the Big Ten. There could always be anomalies and OSU could miss out on Texas wrestlers, Bo Nickal who went to PSU is a prime example, but naturally OSU’s going to have a good shot at most kids from Texas.
Attendance and Fans
OSU has a lot of Texas students. Growth of the sport in Texas makes it a little more likely that some of those students know wrestling. Maybe they wrestled in high school, had some friends or family that did, etc… When people understand the sport they’re a lot more likely to be fans of it, so growth in the sport in Texas could actually have a positive impact on attendance and fan support at OSU.
Ultimately recruiting is probably the No. 1 area this could help OSU. Ferrari looks as though he has the potential to be a multiple-time NCAA champ and him being teamed up with Daton Fix, Travis Wittlake, and Daniel Kerkvliet for a few years could be something pretty special. If Texas continues to produce guys like him and they want to stay somewhat close to home it’s a big recruiting advantage for the Pokes. If it can help naturally grow the fan base a bit it’s very positive as well.