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Wrestling Notebook: OSU’s ‘Biggest Challenge,’ Plott’s Big Weekend and an Update on 149

‘… this is a team that we’re gonna have to have upsets.’

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[Devin Wilber/PFB]

What a 24 hours the Cowboys have ahead of them.

Fifth-ranked Oklahoma State hosts No. 22 Northern Iowa at 7 p.m. Friday before welcoming No. 4 Iowa State at 6 p.m. Saturday in Gallagher-Iba Arena.

John Smith met with media Wednesday ahead of the big weekend. Here are storylines that stood out and you can watch the full media availability here.

Iowa State Might Be OSU’s ‘Biggest Challenge’

The Cowboys have already upset the No. 4 team in the country once before this season, but Smith still believes Iowa State will be their “biggest challenge” of the season come Saturday.

OSU upset then-No. 4 NC State 22-12 on Jan. 5 in Raleigh and catapulted into the top-5 of the next rankings. Just ahead of the Cowboys in the rankings since has been the Cyclones, who are 9-1 with a lone 18-14 loss to No. 3 Iowa. The Cowboys still have Iowa ahead for themselves, plus a trip to No. 2 Missouri.

“I think Iowa State will probably be our biggest challenge all year,” Smith said. “Not taking anything away from North Carolina [State] or how our team performed there, but this is a team that we’re gonna have to have upsets. If we don’t, we can’t win. As of now, where we’re at, I think we got a chance to be a lot better seven weeks from now, but for now, where we’re at, this will be our toughest test. There’s no question. They’re a good team and a balanced team.”

Dustin Plott’s Bigger Weekend

OSU’s weekend as a team doesn’t look nearly as tough as Dustin Plott’s individually, though.

Plott has a pair of top-10 matchups ahead of him at 184 pounds. He gets top-ranked Parker Keckeisen of Northern Iowa on Friday and No. 7 Will Feldkamp of Iowa State the next day.

An undefeated weekend could get Plott Big 12 Wrestler of the Week honors twice in a row. He earned the honor Tuesday after beating No. 4 Trey Munoz of Oregon State 4-1 on Sunday. Plott accomplished the feat after missing two days of practice because of sickness.

The win improved the second-ranked Plott to 18-1 in his first season at 184 since bumping up from 174 pounds.

“His experiences have really, he’s growing to be a much tougher individual, both mentally and physically on the mat,” Smith said. “It was just good to see. In the past I’m not sure he could have got anything close to that.

“It’s good to see him get healthy, get over the problems he had last week. Take a crack at No. 1, right?”

No Answer Coming at 149 Pounds

The biggest question surrounding OSU’s lineup has been at 149 pounds.

Redshirt freshman Jordan Williams seemingly had control of the spot, then Smith said Williams was dealing with a hamstring issue so senior transfer Sammy Alvarez got the nod in the Cowboys’ road duals against Pitt and West Virginia two weeks ago. After an impressive showing on the East Coast and with Williams healthy, Alvarez got the start again Sunday against Oregon State.

I wrote more in-depth about the 149-pound situation earlier this week, but Smith made more comments on it Wednesday. It sounds like not much has changed, though.

“One thing to make clear, whoever I wrestle this week that that’s not a finalized weight class for us,” Smith said.

Alvarez transferred from Rutgers last January during the season and wasn’t eligible to compete until this semester, which started earlier this month. He was ranked as high as eighth at 141 pounds last season for Rutgers before the transfer. This season, Alvarez is 2-1 in duals against all ranked opponents, with the lone loss being to a top-10 foe.

“I think he knows that it’s time to challenge himself a little bit,” Smith said. “Here you are at the end of your career, and it’s time to challenge yourself and ask something out of yourself and actually play a role on a team that you can help. I think a lot of his personal outings in the last couple of weeks, he has placed the team as a motivator to wrestle well. It’s about time. Good for him. We need more of that. And he’s showing up early for practice, leaving late, doing a lot of things that are pretty exciting.”

Williams is 9-4 this season and 2-2 in duals. He was ranked 18th at 149 in the first individual coaches rankings of the season this week, which are used for postseason seeding. However, no matter who wrestles for the Cowboys this weekend, it still won’t be clear yet who will represent OSU by the postseason.

“Yeah [the competition has pushed both wrestlers to be better],” Smith said. “Clean up, work out, everything, show up on time. If it doesn’t motivate you, then you’re not that hungry to be competing. Yeah, it’s motivated both of them. You can’t relax. If you relax and you look like you’re going through the motions, not good.”

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