I chatted with OU wrestling coach Mark Cody on Thursday, and we talked about some changes, both implemented and proposed, in his sport. Some of it is caused by conference realignment. The Big 12 has lost two wrestling schools, Missouri and Nebraska, and added one, West Virginia. That leaves the Big 12 with four wrestling schools: OU, OSU, Iowa State and West Virginia.
Here are a few things we talked about:
* The Big 12 wrestling schools would like to become affiliate members of another wrestling league. And Cody has one in mind: the Mid-American Conference. Six MAC schools wrestle — Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Northern Illinois and Ohio. Missouri and Northern Iowa have joined the MAC for this season, and Old Dominion joins next season.
Cody said the MAC would be a good fit for the Big 12′s quartet. It would make for a competitive conference tournament and of course such an expanded MAC would get appropriately-enhanced qualifiers for the NCAA Championships.
Not since the 1970s have OSU and OU competed in a real conference tournament. Back in the ’70s, seven Big Eight schools wrestled — all but Kansas — but KSU dropped the sport in 1975 and Colorado soon after. For years, the Big Eight (and Big 12) staged a five-team conference tournament, but that’s a shadow of a conference tournament.
* The Big 12 this year will stage a dual championship. On the day before the Big 12 Tournament, the Big 12 will stage a dual round robin — OU, OSU, West Virginia and Iowa State will all wrestle each other.
Coaches love the format, because that gives every team two straight days of hard wrestling, which will more mimic the NCAAs.
The Big 12 dual championship will be determined not just by that day’s results, but by the season round robin, too. So in effect it will be a six-dual schedule.
The downside — and it’s a horrible downside — is that we’ll have only one Bedlam dual before the Big 12 Tournament. The Sooners host the Cowboys on Dec. 9. There is no regular-season dual in Stillwater, though the Big 12 Tournament is at Gallagher-Iba Arena, so we’ll have a Bedlam dual on March 8.
Cody said he preferred to wrestle the Cowboys three times, but John Smith preferred not to. Hopefully that will change. The more these schools wrestle, the better for the sport.
* Wrestling coaches would like to institute a true national duals championship, but the NCAA doesn’t want to sponsor two national championships in wrestling. So keep an eye on this. The coaches will push for two championships, but they might have to pick one or the other, and some want the dual format to determine the championship.