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OSU Wrestling: Making an All-Time Lineup from the John Smith Era

An absolutely loaded lineup

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[Devin Wilber/PFB]

It’s hard to imagine John Smith will never put together another lineup for Cowboy Wrestling.

Smith retired after leading Oklahoma State for 33 seasons. During his tenure, Smith coached 153 All-Americans, 33 individual NCAA champions and two Dan Hodge Trophy winners. Since those numbers will no longer be added to, I thought it was a perfect time to create an all-time lineup from the John Smith era.

Here’s how it worked: I filled out a lineup just like a coach would for a dual using 10 of the greatest wrestlers to compete under Smith. However, weight classes have fluctuated since Smith started his three-plus decade coaching career, so I used modern-day weight classes and used the weight that was closest to where that wrestler found the most success.

Below is the full lineup, followed by an explanation of why I chose who for each weight.

125: Eric Guerrero
133: Johnny Thompson
141: Dean Heil
149: Jordan Oliver
157: Pat Smith
165: Alex Dieringer
174: Chris Perry
184: Daniel Cormier
197: Jake Rosholt
285: Steve Mocco

125: Eric Guerrero

Guerrero would be the first to step on the mat for this lineup in a dual, and, boy, what a start. Speaking of duals, Guerrero has the fourth-most dual wins in OSU history with 69. Overall, he was 117–13 in his career as a four-time All-American. He placed fifth as a freshman before finishing his career with three NCAA titles in a row. Guerrero was dominant during that stint, too, with 74 bonus-point wins (10th-best all-time), 28 of which were technical falls (second-most all-time). In this theoretical dual, it’s almost a lock the Pokes would start this thing with more than three points.

133: Johnny Thompson

The recency bias urged me to put Daton Fix here, but at the end of the day, Thompson won a pair of NCAA titles while losing only once in the finals. Thompson was a four-time All-American, reaching the NCAA finals every season but his last, during which he placed third. He’s tied in eighth for most wins OSU history with 125. Thompson was also responsible for the fourth-most dual points in a season with 102, which was the second-best during the Smith era.

141: Dean Heil

There tends to be a knock on Heil for not being as dominant as these other Cowboy wrestling greats, but the dude won a lot. And more than anyone else at this weight. Heil struggled at first as a 133-pounder, but then Smith once told me of Heil, “That’s the difference in an extra sandwich.” Heil emerged as an All-American after bumping up and placing fourth at NCAAs. He then won back-to-back NCAA titles in 2016 and 2017. He did fail to reach All-American status as a senior but ran into a young Yianni Diakomihalis in the quarterfinals and suffered from the NCAA adding the neutral danger zone. Heil ultimately finished his career with 116 wins, 55 of which came in a row to tie for the eighth-longest winning streak in OSU history.

149: Jordan Oliver

It’s a bold statement, but Oliver is one of the most dominant wrestlers in Cowboy history, regardless of era. He was a four-time All-American with three NCAA finals appearances and a pair of national titles, but how he accomplished that was most impressive. He’s tied for fifth in OSU history with 127 wins. Of those 127 wins, 98 earned bonus points. Only Smith has more bonus-point wins than Oliver in OSU history. No one, though, that’s worn an orange singlet has more falls than Oliver, who pinned 54 opponents during his career. He pinned 42.5% of the opponents he wrestled. And his 77.2 bonus-point win percentage is best in OSU history. He also accounted for more dual points than anyone else under Smith with 334.

157: Pat Smith

It’s hard to imagine John Smith wasn’t even the best college wrestler from his family. Pat Smith isn’t just the best athlete from the John era after wrestling for his older brother, but he’s one of the greatest college wrestlers of all-time. The only argument here would be that Pat didn’t start his career wrestling for John, as John was hired toward the end of Pat’s career. Regardless, Pat was the only wrestler under John to win four individual NCAA titles and the first to accomplish that feat ever. He was 121-5 in his career with a 98-match winning streak, which is still the longest in OSU history.

165: Alex Dieringer

Cowboys who wrestled at 165 for Smith could make their own lineup by themselves and win a natty. This weight was loaded with other names like Mark Branch and Johny Hendricks, but Dieringer is in another tier as a three-time NCAA champion. He was a four-time All-American and four-time Big 12 champion. He had a 133-4 career record, going undefeated during his last two seasons while stringing together 82 straight wins, which is the second-longest winning streak from the Smith era. His 133 wins are also the second-most in OSU history, behind only John Smith. At 97.08%, he also has the best wining percentage from the Smith era and fourth all-time. Most impressively, of all those greats to wrestle for Smith, Dieringer was one of only two to win the Dan Hodge Trophy.

174: Chris Perry

This was the biggest toss-up in the lineup and nearly came down to a tie between Perry and Chris Pendleton. I struggled with this one so much that I took it to the PFB editors Slack, the Chamber and even my wife. Both were three-time All-Americans who placed third before finishing their careers with back-to-back NCAA titles. It ultimately came down to career records. Pendleton was 118-12, while Perry just edged him at 122-11. Pendleton was on better teams, but this was based solely on individual success and stats to make the best lineup.

184: Daniel Cormier

No disrespect to DC, but this was the thinnest weight from the Smith era. In fact, Cormier is the only wrestler in this lineup without a national title. However, he did finish second in both of his only two seasons at OSU, and he unfortunately shared a weight at the same time with probably the greatest college wrestler ever, Cael Sanderson. Cormier lost only 10 matches as a Cowboy and six were to Sanderson, who also wrestled in the same conference at Iowa State. Sanderson was a four-time NCAA champion and never, never lost a match while in college. Had Cormier been at a different weight or time, I truly believe he’d have a pair of NCAA titles to go along with his two NJCAA championships.

197: Jake Rosholt

Rosholt showed up when it mattered most, becoming a four-time All-American and three-time NCAA champion. He placed third as a sophomore. Rosholt was 105–20 in his career. He also won a team title every season of his career as the Cowboys won four in a row between 2003-06.

285: Steve Mocco

Mocco made the absolute most of only two seasons in the Cowboy wrestling room after transferring from Iowa and before using his final year of college eligibility to play on the Cowboy football team. In his first season in Stillwater, Mocco won an NCAA title while going 36-0 and became the first wrestler under Smith to win the Dan Hodge Trophy. Mocco then lost in the finals in his last season of college wrestling. He was 137–6 in his college career, and had all those wins been in Stillwater, he’d be second in OSU history for wins.

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