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Five Ways Coronavirus Could end up Impacting Oklahoma State’s Wrestling Season

Every scenario is in play.



We’re currently living in one of the craziest times in history. COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on sports everywhere, and with it basically everything has changed. Just announced in the last few days, we have some conferences that are going to be playing football and some that aren’t. Wrestling is an entirely different sport both financially and in other ways so I thought with all this crazy going on, I’d throw out some discussion on a few things that theoretically could happen as it relates to Big 12 wrestling and Oklahoma State. In reality just about anything could take place, but here are a few topics I thought I’d speculate on.

1. The season will be shortened

This is going to happen. Football, which draws in tons of revenue and is the lifeblood of most athletic departments, has cut two non-conference games and shortened the season to 10 games. This will certainly happen with wrestling, and all signs point to it being a spring sport instead of a split fall/spring sport as we’ve always known it. Ninety-two percent of NWCA D1 membership voted to postpone the season to spring.

I actually believe that this may become permanent. There’s been a push for this in the sport for a while and it does make a lot of sense for it to move to a spring-only sport. Having a few matches then practicing through Christmas and Thanksgiving breaks then getting back at it again afterward is not liked by everyone, and more than anything it puts wrestling conference tournaments and the NCAA tournament competing with the basketball tournament for fans. A lot of wrestlers and coaches don’t like that as it is right now, so if this goes to a one-semester sport this season and it works, it may become permanent.

2. Crowds will be minimized (but maybe still decent)

The crowds being minimized is certain to happen, but given that football is having fans, it’s reasonable to expect wrestling to.

Unfortunately Iowa, which is always the biggest fan draw for the Cowboys, was slated to come Stillwater this season. Also, the last two years OSU has had their home and home with OU which is another good fan draw. But even with those two accounted for in the tally, the average crowd is usually only around 5,000. This means most duals have 3,000-4,000 people and some have even less. In a 13,000-seat arena you can socially distance properly, wear masks, and still have room to follow pretty much every CDC guideline out there when it comes to being in public during the virus.

Ultimately, with the exception of those two marquee duals and their huge draws, your season ticket holders that attend most duals I don’t think should have much of an issue getting into the average event. The more casual fan that just goes to bedlam or Iowa though, that may be a different story.

3. Maybe there’s some conference shifting?

I don’t know if anything will happen with realignment, but it is something to think about considering it’s been mildly discussed with football. Personally, I think it’s unlikely that Iowa or Penn State or any of the marquee Big Ten programs come over to the Big 12 unless there’s a mutiny within the conference due to the cancellation of football and they legitimately jump ship from the conference over it.

That said, the Big 12 in wrestling is not the same Big 12 in other sports. It’s four core programs with OSU, OU, ISU, and WVU, then there’s a bunch of affiliates. So what I actually see as more of a possibility is a situation like this. Say the Pac-12 stays shut down and does not wrestle, but a school like Little Rock, which is a Pac-12 affiliate and only a few hours from Tulsa, does not. Is there a possibility that the coaches in the Big 12 would allow them to get a conference tournament with the Big 12? I would guess that it at least could happen. And to me that’s a lot more likely than any prominent Big 10 programs joining in on the Big 12’s conference tournament, though it’s certainly not out of the question as all bets are off on what could happen with all of this.

One other example would be Missouri returning to the Big 12 for this season. The SEC does not sponsor wrestling so Missouri is now in the MAC for wrestling. Again this is all speculative, but the MAC has canceled fall sports and the SEC has not, so if the MAC cancels winter sports as well and the SEC does not, the wrestling team is stuck in limbo and would need to find a conference. Maybe they jump back into their old one.

4. What if the Big Ten doesn’t wrestle or there’s no NCAA tournament?

The Big Ten, which is without a doubt the premier wrestling conference in the country, has already canceled fall sports and postponed their biggest revenue generator with football. It stands to reason that they could do the same for wrestling.

This would eliminate Iowa, which is the favorite to win the NCAA title going into this season, along with Penn State and Ohio State from any NCAA title conversation. Theoretically that could open the door for Oklahoma State to hoist the team title at the NCAA tournament.

But will they even have an NCAA tournament? Maybe the Big 12 decides to have wrestling and a conference tournament, but the NCAA may not step out and host an actual NCAA tournament? They’re saying the priority is to have them for winter sports, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty. Around a hundred years ago the national tournament was run by the AAU. Maybe this year some other entity would get together and host something and that tournament is viewed as the national tournament? I don’t even know if that’s possible, but it’s something to ponder.

5. Maybe the wheels fall off during football and wrestling doesn’t happen

I’m obviously no epidemiologist, but I’m just being honest about the scenario. It’s a real possibility that cases and deaths continue to rise and this football season doesn’t finish. If that’s the case it’s unlikely that wrestling would happen. Hopefully that’s not the case and we finish football and have wrestling. Let’s all do out part and hope this thing gets under control and we can have a wrestling season.

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