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Five Thoughts on the Second Day of the NCAA Wrestling Championships

On Daton Fix, experience and more.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — There’s one more day of wrestling left.

After two days of the NCAA Wrestling Championships at the T-Mobile Center, Oklahoma State sits in eighth place in the team standings with Daton Fix and Dustin Plott in the finals, and Izzak Olejnik still battling in the consolation bracket.

Here are five thoughts on the second day in KC.

1. Daton Fix Has to Do More to Win First Title

There will be plenty of praise for Daton Fix, and rightfully so after becoming a four-time NCAA finalist and five-time All-American. I have written those praises of Fix, and will continue to, but it’s wild he’s getting to wrestle on that stage Saturday night. And how he got there won’t win his first national title.

Just like every other wrestler competing for a championship, Fix won four straight matches, but he hasn’t scored a takedown in his past two outings. He narrowly got past Iowa State’s Evan Frost in the quarterfinals 2-1 in a match that went to tiebreakers. Tied 1-1, neither wrestler scored in sudden victory before Fix ultimately escaped then rode Frost for 30 seconds to move on.

Then, after a match like that, Fix’s next one was somehow even closer. Again tied 1-1 with no points in sudden victory, Michigan’s Dylan Ragusin, after a review and chaos, ultimately took a 2-1 lead with an escape. A stalling call against Fix that would have given Ragusin a 3-1 lead was overturned. Next, Fix was awarded a point for locked hands, and thanks to having the most riding time, he won 3-2.

“If you would have told me that I wouldn’t have gotten takedowns the last two matches I won, I probably wouldn’t have believed you,” Fix said. “But I just had to do what I had to do to win. And that’s what I do.”

Fix is 0-3 in three trips to the NCAA finals. Fix has also never scored a takedown in a finals bout. I dove into Fix’s losses earlier this week, but he failed to get a takedown in all six of his career losses, five of which were in the NCAA tournament. On the flip side, Fix has never lost a match in which he scored a takedown.

One of those losses was in last year’s semifinals against Cornell’s Vito Arujau, who Fix will meet again in the finals. In that last meeting, Fix didn’t score a takedown as Arujau won in an 11-3 major decision. As Fix scrapped out his semifinal win Friday night, on the next mat over Arujau earned a 13-3 major decision against a guy who had beaten him twice this season.

Fix can’t get out of the box that has gotten him 123 career wins and to this point, but he definitely can’t do what he did Friday to beat Arujau and win the only thing he hasn’t yet.

“I’ve done a really good job at getting to the leg the last two matches, but gotta finish,” Fix said. “I’m definitely gonna have to do it [Saturday] night. I’m ready to do that.”

2. But Still Enjoy Fix

Cowboy fans were definitely pacing and pulling their hair out while watching Fix on Friday, but despite how stressful those matches were, make Saturday enjoyable.

After seven years as a Cowboy, Saturday night when Fix competes for a championship will be the last time he wrestles in an orange singlet no matter the outcome. He’s had a redshirt and an Olympic redshirt during that time, plus a pandemic that gave him another extra year. And through all that during a time of transferring taking over college sports, Fix never left, even through shortcomings in the finals.

Fix has made history already the past two weeks — a rarity in Cowboy wrestling — becoming OSU’s first five-time Big 12 champion and first five-time All-American. An individual NCAA title is essentially the only thing Fix hasn’t accomplished as a Cowboy.

If not in Kansas City, turn it to ESPN on Saturday night to watch Fix. Take that seven minutes (or more knowing Fix) and enjoy.

3. Experience Matters

The plot of OSU’s 2023-24 season would be its youth with four freshmen in the starting lineup. But the veterans ended up being the main characters of this tournament.

All of OSU’s All-Americans and wrestlers still competing — Fix, Plott and Olejnik — are seniors in some shape or fashion. Fix is a seventh-year senior who won’t return next year. Plott is a senior but will return next season thanks to an extra year of eligibility because of the pandemic. Olejnik is a senior that won’t return, but this was his first and only season at OSU after transferring from Northern Illinois.

No matter the experience, that experience does matter. In a world where everyone wants everything, especially success, immediately, these Cowboys proved the benefits of experience and being a veteran on a team.

4. Talent Gained Experience

Young talent, especially when it comes back, is beneficial, too.

Redshirt freshmen Jordan Williams and Troy Spratley both finished short of getting All-American honors in their first NCAA tournaments, with Spratley being just one win shy. Fellow freshmen Tagen Jamison and Brayden Thompson went 0-2 this week.

These freshmen were written and talked about a lot this season because of their talent. Now they have at least some experience, too.

The first step is keeping them all in Stillwater. But if that’s accomplished, there will be a lot of hype for Cowboy Wrestling next season. And rightfully so.

Bold statement to make a year in advance, but all four of these guys will finish better than they did this year. They showed this season how far their fresh talent could take them. Those three seniors who are all repeat All-Americans proved how valuable of an asset gained experience will be for those freshmen, too, now that they have some of it.

Plott wasn’t an All-American in his first trip to NCAAs. Now he’s a finalist.

5. Day of Revenge

Every OSU wrestler competing Saturday will be looking for revenge.

Olejnik will take the mat first Saturday morning against Iowa’s Mike Caliendo, who beat Olejnik earlier this season 7-2. Fix will be the only one looking to avenge a loss from last season against Cornell’s Vito Arujau, who beat Fix in last year’s semifinals. The 184-pound final will be Plott’s third meeting with Northern Iowa’s Parker Keckeisen, who has won both matches.

Revenge is sweet, but it’s even sweeter when it’s for medals and national championships.

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