STILLWATER — The format might have changed, but the results remained the same. After running through the competition Friday for the Big 12 dual title, Oklahoma State won the 2013 Big 12 Wrestling Championship at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Saturday.
Of the 10 championship bouts, No. 2 OSU won eight matches and placed second and third in two others. The Cowboys scored 118.5 team points, easily beating Iowa State (74), Oklahoma (58) and West Virginia (28).
The top two wrestlers in each weight bracket — excluding 125, 133 and 165 — received automatic bids to the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, on March 21-23. At 125 and 133, only the champion gets the automatic bid. At 165, the top three finishers get their postseason tickets punched.
The common response among most champions on Saturday was simple: on to nationals. But there was still a great deal of pride that went along with each winner.
Twelve of the Cowboys' 20 matches came with bonus points attached. It's a statistic that proves OSU coach John Smith's team was hungry to earn the title.
“They hear how important it is for us to perform in Gallagher; this is our home, this is our place,” Smith said. “We all feel it's a privilege to be a part of this tradition.”
The Cowboys had plenty of success narratives unfold.
There was the freshman and the senior: Eddie Kilmara and Jordan Oliver. Kilmara, a 125-pound freshman, captured his first career Big 12 title with a 15-5 major-decision win against ISU's Ryak Finch.
Oliver, a senior, took home his fourth career Big 12 crown in four years, this time at 149 pounds. The No. 1 wrestler in the nation for his class put on a clinic, pinning ISU's Max Mayfield with 1:41 left in the first period. He finished the two-day championship with four pins and a technical fall. He was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament.
“It means a lot,” Oliver said. “Just to end it here in Gallagher-Iba Arena, right where it started is an awesome feeling.”
And then there are OSU's Jon Morrison and Alan Gelogaev. Both had decorated careers before Saturday, but one thing had been missing — an individual Big 12 title. Over the past few seasons, injuries delayed that goal. But not on Saturday.
Morrison defeated OU's Cody Brewer 6-2 at 133 pounds. Gelogaev pinned ISU's Matt Gibson at 285 pounds in just 58 seconds.
“I had some bad luck with injuries the past couple years,” Morrison said. “The Big 12 title is a big steppingstone, but more than anything, I'm just really grateful that I'm going into nationals healthy this year.”
When Chris Chionuma, a 184-pound senior, got the 5-3 upset win against ISU's Boaz Beard for a Big 12 title, he tore off his headgear and let out a roar. It was the former NAIA national champion's first appearance in the Big 12 Tournament finals, an experience he won't soon forget.
“A huge one for me,” Chionuma said. “My last match here at Gallagher, my mom and brother are here … everything just built up to that.”
Oklahoma notched a title at 141 pounds, with Kendric Maple earning a major decision victory against ISU's Luke Goettl, 13-3. It was bittersweet for Maple, being the only Sooner champion at the event, but he understands the nature of collegiate wrestling.
“It's an individual sport,” Maple said. “You've got to go out there and do what you can for your team, but you've got to worry about yourself most of all; because (an NCAA Championship) is the final goal.”
Now it's time for the wrestlers to focus on the ultimate goal — especially for Oliver.
After coming up short in last year's NCAA final, he had distinct parting words.
“I've got some unfinished business to take care of,” Oliver said.