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Five Thoughts on the Big 12 Wrestling Championships

On a disappointing night, reassuring afternoon and more.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]


TULSA — Oklahoma State finished the Big 12 Wrestling Championships in second place with one champion in Daton Fix, who I wrote about here. The Cowboys were in a tight team race with Iowa State until an overall disappointing Sunday night at the BOK Center.

Here are five thoughts on the final day of the Big 12 Wrestling Championship.

1. Worst Way to End

It was an intense team race all weekend and OSU 149-pounder Jordan Williams was in the midst of capping a dramatic turnaround season, but these two storylines had a Game of Thrones-esque ending Sunday night.

After losing his starting job and winning it back this season as a redshirt freshman, Jordan Williams made a run to the finals in his first Big 12 Wrestling Championships. Williams upset top seed Casey Swiderski of Iowa State 8-7 in the semis to get to the finals, but near the end of the match he injured his shoulder. With an obviously injured Williams down 7-0 the next night, West Virginia’s Ty Watters slammed Williams to the mat. That ultimately ended his tournament, as he injury defaulted in the second period of that bout.

The injury not only ripped an individual Big 12 championship from Williams, but also ended OSU’s chances at ending its two-year drought without a team title. With Troy Spratley losing OSU’s first finals appearance at 125 and Daton Fix winning at 133, the Cowboys needed both Williams and Dustin Plott to win to have any chance of surpassing Iowa State in the team standings. But the loss clinched the team title for the Cyclones instead.

As the Iowa State radio guys on media row exclaimed on their broadcast the Cyclones were Big 12 champions, it was a disappointing conclusion for not just OSU fans, but wrestling fans in general who were anticipating a close battle to the end that was decide by at least a decision, not a shoulder injury.

2. Jordan Williams Still Displayed Growth

Despite a tough ending, Williams still displayed the growth he’s made that OSU coach John Smith has been talking about since Williams won his job back.

After losing his job to a senior transfer, Williams could have lost confidence and laid down while Sammy Alavarez took over. But he did just the opposite.

Smith has praised Williams numerous times, including Saturday night, on the way the redshirt freshman handled the situation and how he grew on and off the mat from it. Williams backed up Smith’s words this weekend. He assured he improved as a wrestler by making the finals. He showed he maintained his confidence as he casually strutted toward the stage before the biggest match of his career.

The injury is a hindering question mark, but if he’s healthy, Williams could make even more noise in two weeks at the NCAA Wrestling Championships than he did this weekend.

3. Another Letdown

The tight Big 12 tournament team race garnered about 24 hours worth of hype, but the 184-pound final had at least two weeks of buildup.

It seemed almost like a guarantee the 1 and 2 seed at the weight, UNI’s Parker Keckeisen and OSU’s Dustin Plott, would meet at the end of the bracket. Keckeisen and Plott are not only the best 184-pounders in the Big 12 but the entire country. And they both looked the part while getting to the finals and creating the highly anticipated matchup.

The two had already met this season in a dual in Stillwater, with Keckeisen winning 12-6 in a match that was much closer than the score suggests. But Plott looked to have reached a new level since, notching a pin and two technical falls to get to the finals. Keckeisen had a technical fall and major decision in his two matches after a first-round bye.

But there are tiers, and Keckeisen is in Tier 1 by his lonesome. Keckeisen handled Plott in a 14-5 major decision in the 184-pound final. These two could very well meet again with a lot more on the line at the national tournament. But after what we saw Sunday night, the hype will be much more mild mannered in only two weeks.

4. Cowboys Still Really Did Enough

I’ve written throughout the season how this OSU team has always done just enough to succeed. And in realty, the Cowboys did that again this weekend.

OSU’s 141.5 points is the most a second-place team has ever scored in the Big 12 tournament. Although the numbers aren’t exact, that would be enough to win a Big 12 title most of the time. The Cyclones, though, did more than enough.

“You saw our matches this year,” Smith said. “We had to fight to win dual meets. We had to fight to win matches. I don’t think we’re in a position right now to outside of the guys who did score bonus points — Plott, Daton had [two], I think Izzak had one. I think we’re not a team right now that — we’re looking to win matches. Tough, hard matches.”

5. The Start of the Day, Though

Although Sunday’s conclusion was overall disappointing for OSU, the first session of the day was reassuring.

The Cowboys sealed all 10 wrestlers will compete in Kansas City. All of them finished at least sixth or better.

Entering the tournament on a three-match losing streak, 174-pounder Brayden Thompson looked rejuvenated while finishing in third as a true freshman. He even avenged one of those losses to OU’s Tate Picklo with a 4-1 sudden-victory decision to advance to the semis Saturday.

Also experiencing his first Big 12 tournament, Izzak Olejnik competed in the toughest bracket in the tournament to finish third at 165 pounds. He, too, avenged an earlier loss from the season, beating 3 seed Peyton Hall of West Virginia 5-1 in the third-place bout. The performance proved that Olejnik is not only rejuvenated like Thompson, but he is good enough to also finish in the top four at nationals.

Fix and Plott are the obvious powerhouses of this team, but Sunday afternoon proved there are still others in OSU’s lineup that can collect points at the NCAA Wrestling Championships in two weeks.

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