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Five Thoughts on Oklahoma State’s 2023-24 Wrestling Season

On the future of Cowboy Wrestling, Daton Fix’s greatness and more



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The 2023-24 Oklahoma State wrestling season concluded Saturday night with a 10th-place finish at the NCAA Wrestling Championships after Daton Fix and Dustin Plott both lost in the finals.

Here are five thoughts on the Cowboys’ season.

1. Cowboy Wrestling Is Back in Right Direction

Saturday night might have seemed like a disappointment, but the 2023-24 season was far from it.

After finishing in 18th and 14th at the NCAA tournament the past two years, the Cowboys climbed back inside the top 10 this season. OSU was 14-1 in duals. A Gallagher-Iba Arena wrestling season attendance record was set.

The Cowboys, barring any transfers, will return eight starters. Four of those were freshmen this season. Dustin Plott will return as an NCAA finalist.

“I thought this team was exciting for us all year,” OSU coach John Smith said. “We set an attendance record. When you set records at Oklahoma State wrestling — we’re a program that’s 100-plus years and you’re setting records, that’s the quality of people that we’re dealing with on our team — guys that are gonna get better. The future looks bright. The guys that are in the room, the guys that are coming in. This team kind of helped us get back in a direction that we needed to go in from the last two seasons.”

2. Daton Fix Is Still a Cowboy Wrestling Great

My favorite part of OSU’s alma-mater is the line, “Ever you’ll find us loyal and true” before everyone echoes, “So true!” Ever you’ll find Daton Fix loyal and true after spending seven years as a Cowboy.

Fix lost his fourth NCAA final appearance to defending champion Vito Arujau of Cornell, 5-3. It was a final match tainted by delays and boos from almost every college wrestling fan at T-Mobile Center, as well as Fix coming up just shy of a national title yet again. Fans complained of Fix’s lack of offense after not scoring a takedown in the last three matches of his career. Fans were let down by another finals appearance without a championship. But do not let one weekend overshadow seven years of Daton Fix.

OSU has 143 individual national champions in its illustrious history, and though Fix isn’t one of them, he’s still one of the greatest Cowboys to wear an orange singlet. It’s rare to create history in what’s deemed “The Greatest Dynasty in Sports,” but Fix did so as the first five-time All-American and first five-time conference champion in OSU history. He was 123-7 as a Cowboy. The 123 wins are the 10th most in OSU history and his 94.6% winning percentage is the 14th best in program history.

Fix won’t wear an orange singlet again, but he may wear a red, white and blue one as early as this summer. And as he’s representing the United States, or even if not, Cowboy fans should be proud that Fix represents Oklahoma State.

3. Dustin Plott Now ‘The Guy’ for OSU

Unfortunately for Dustin Plott, there’s one wrestler better than him at 184 pounds. And Parker Keckeisen would be better than most wrestlers at every weight.

Plott lost four times this season, and three came from Keckeisen. First it was in a dual at Stillwater, then two weeks ago in the Big 12 final. Plott lost to Keckeisen for the third time in the NCAA final Saturday night.

Keckeisen wasn’t, but Smith predicted him to be awarded the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler. Keckeisen earned bonus points in all of his tournament matches, including a 14-5 major decision over Plott in the final. That capped an undefeated season for Keckeisen.

Plott finished the season at 31-4 as an NCAA runner-up. With Fix and Izzak Olejnik exhausting their eligibility, Plott will be the Cowboys’ only returning All-American as an NCAA runner-up.

Essentially, Plott is now “the guy” for Cowboy Wrestling.

4. Izzak Olejnik Proof of Newfound Transfer Portal Success

Izzak Olejnik made the most of his only season at OSU with his best finish at the NCAA tournament, just like John Smith and Co. took advantage of the transfer portal by nabbing a talent like Olejnik.

Olejnik was one of three newcomers in the Cowboys’ starting lineup that transferred to Stillwater since last season. The other two were redshirt freshmen Troy Spratley and Tagen Jamison, who both transferred from Minnesota after spending only a redshirt year there. All transfers qualified for the NCAA tournament and were top-10 seeds at their weights.

Spratley and Jamison, unless they enter the portal again, will be back next year. Olejnik, though, is out of eligibility as a graduate transfer. Before coming to OSU, Olejnik was at Northern Illinois, where he made three trips to the NCAA tournament and last year was an All-American and the MAC Championship Most Outstanding Wrestler.

With Olejnik gone and leaving a void in the lineup, OSU may look to the portal again to replace Olejnik after the success Smith had with last year’s transfer class. He hasn’t hit the portal, but the only 165-pounder who really fits the same mold of Olejnik is Binghamton’s Brevin Cassella, who actually had his season ended by Olejnik. Cassella, a junior, earned the 15 seed in his second NCAA tournament after going 30-9 this season.

However, the options are limited at 165 for small program stars who could possibly find immediate success in OSU’s schedule. Another option would be shuffling around someone within the program, but right now OSU doesn’t have anyone ready to start who’s listed at the weight and returning. There’s also not anyone around 165 pounds in OSU’s signing class yet.

But with such transfer portal success this year, the Cowboys could hope someone from a big-time program, even if young like Spratley and Jamison, hit the portal and entice him to Stillwater. Whether it’s the addition of Coleman Scott, the GIA atmosphere or solid NIL backing in the new age, OSU has gotten back to attracting top talent to Stillwater.

5. Big 12 Closing Competition Gap with Big Ten

Last summer when the Big 12 announced it was adding Arizona State, Arizona, Colorado and Utah this upcoming academic year, it didn’t look as if the sport of wrestling would benefit much from the move with Arizona State being the only school with a wrestling program. But the lone addition of the Sun Devils will be an even bigger impact than first expected.

ASU finished in sixth this weekend in the NCAA tournament team standings with one individual champion in 125-pounder Richard Figueroa, who is only a redshirt sophomore. The Sun Devils would have been the second-highest Big 12 placer, behind only fourth-place Iowa Sate. They also had a second finalist in 157-pound redshirt senior Jacori Teemer.

The Sun Devils have won the Pac-12 tournament four of the last five years, including this season. The conference might be deteriorating, though, with only six members already and two leaving for new leagues at the end of this academic year. That would leave Oregon State as the only true member of the Pac-12 left competing in wrestling, along with Little Rock, Cal Poly and CSU Bakersfield as affiliate members.

Smith was asked last week at a media availability if there really is a gap between the Big Ten and Big 12, and he simply responded, “Hell yeah there’s a gap.”

Other Pac-12 wrestling programs could follow ASU to the Big 12, but even if the Sun Devils are the only addition, the Big 12 continues to close that gap.

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