Connect with us


Wrestling Notebook: ‘Tough’ Big 12, Being ‘Big Boys,’ a Better Team and the Main Event

Top storylines heading into the Big 12 Wrestling Championship.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

Things matter now.

We’ve heard Oklahoma State coach John Smith and Cowboy wrestlers mention throughout the season during media availabilities about “when it matters.” Well that time is here with the Big 12 Wrestling Championship this weekend in Tulsa.

Smith, Troy Spratley and Tagen Jamison met with media Wednesday ahead of the postseason starting. You can see videos from the full availability here, but here are storylines that stood out.

‘This is a Tough Conference’

There might not be a bigger hype man for the Big 12 than John Smith.

Smith has always been an advocate for the conference, from adding new teams to be more competitive, to praising how a great a venue its championship has in the BOK Center. Marshall actually asked Smith about all the young guys on his team getting their first taste of the postseason, but even that question resulted in Smith hyping up the Big 12.

“You better be tough,” Smith said. “You better have your singlet pulled up and ready to go. This is a tough conference. And it’s not going backwards. It’s gonna get tougher.”

Smith has celebrated how competitive the Big 12 has become as it continues to expand in the sport and also keep programs like OU as an affiliate member that are leaving the conference in every other sport. He’s also publically commended Tulsa and the BOK Center as host of the Big 12 Wrestling Championship. Smith’s admiration of the site played a role in Tulsa getting enough attention to host the NCAA Wrestling Championship last year after seven successful years of housing the Big 12 tournament.

The Big 12 and Tulsa Sports Commission announced last week that the BOK Center will remain the host of the Big 12 Wrestling Championship through 2028.

“They’ve committed a lot of years,” Smith said. “They put on a great event for the athletes. There’s not a lot of conferences are doing that. Not a lot of cities are stepping up and doing that for conference events. Everyone wants the national tournament. But the BOK has been first-class with Big 12 wrestling. I mean first-class.”

‘You Gotta Be Big Boys’

Smith did eventually go into more detail about his young lineup heading into unchartered waters despite all its accomplished this season so far.

This weekend will be the first experience at the Big 12 Wrestling Championship for six Cowboys. Four of those guys are freshmen.

“You gotta be big boys,” Smith said. “If you act like a freshman going in, we can’t have you acting like a freshman. You need to act like you’ve been kicking ass all year and had a great year and let’s finish up having a great year. This is what you’ve looked forward to doing your whole life. Let’s do it. Let’s do it and do it well.”

Although it may be nerve-racking right now, the perk of a young lineup, especially as talented as OSU’s, is that one day those freshmen will be seasoned veterans like Daton Fix and Dustin Plott.

“Oh, yeah,” Smith said. “And the ones coming.”

This Team is Better

Three years probably seems like an eternity for Smith.

It’s been three years since the Cowboys have claimed a Big 12 title. Missouri has won the past two, ending OSU’s run of nine straight seasons that ended with the Cowboys getting at least a share of the conference crown. OSU finished second last year and fourth the year before that.

But if the 14-1 dual record wasn’t enough to let you know, Smith assures this 2024 squad is better than the last two teams that fell short in Tulsa.

“This is a better team than both of those teams the last two years. Period,” Smith said. “I feel a lot better going into this Big 12 right now than I did the last couple of years. That’s a good feeling.”

The Main Event

There’s still a day and a half of wrestling and a plethora of matches to get through first, but there might as well be a pay-per-view for the main event the 184-pound final could provide Sunday night.

The Big 12 final at 184 could very well be a preview of the NCAA final in two weeks between OSU’s Dustin Plott and top-seeded Parker Keckeisen of Northern Iowa. Both have won multiple Big 12 titles. Keckeisen is the defending three-time champ at 184, while Plott won a pair of conference titles at 174 before bumping up at the start of this season. Outside of Big 12 action, Keckeisen has placed second and third at the past two NCAA Wrestling Championships. Plott is a two-time All-American himself.

This season, Keckeisen looks to be on track to not only appear in the 184-pound NCAA final again but step up a spot on the podium. And it may be Plott that Keckeisen has to go through to win his first national title. But first there’s the Big 12 tournament this weekend.

The two have already met once this season in a dual at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Keckeisen won 12-6. It’s one of Plott’s only two losses this season, while Keckeisen is 20-0, ranked as the best 184-pounder in the country by every outlet.

“That kid from UNI is gonna be a finalist at the NCAA championships,” Smith said. “That’s how good he is. And Plott is every bit as good as him. Dustin’s been pretty consistent this year with his behavior and just his attitude on the mat, not giving up easy takedowns, not giving up cheap points. Been really consistent and stingy with what he’s been doing.”

Most Read

Copyright © 2011- 2023 White Maple Media