STILLWATER — Save the dramatics for Saturday. Day 1 of the Big 12 wrestling championships was reserved for domination — courtesy of Oklahoma State.
The No. 2 Cowboys rolled through all three conference foes en route to a team Big 12 Championship at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Friday. It improves OSU's dual record to 20-1 this season, giving the Cowboys their fourth Big 12 championship in the past five seasons. Iowa State placed second, Oklahoma was third and West Virginia finished fourth.
“I think it was important for us,” OSU coach John Smith said. “More importantly, we won the regular-season championship. I know it's going to be a lot tougher tomorrow.”
OSU began its day with a record-setting performance, dismantling WVU 57-0. It set the program mark for largest margin of victory in a dual.
The Cowboys followed with a 28-6 victory against ISU. Between the two duals, OSU pinned five wrestlers and lost just two matches; both to the Cyclones. At 165-pounds, No. 18 Mike Moreno upset No. 3 Tyler Caldwell, 5-2, and at 197 pounds, No. 7 Kyven Gadson took down No. 11 Blake Rosholt, 4-1.
“The matches that were tough today, I thought we wrestled pretty well in,” Smith said. “We let a match get away from us at 165 against Iowa State, (but he's) a good kid. But overall, pretty good effort on our part.”
The two dual victories set up a Bedlam rematch Friday night. The Sooners split their previous duals with a 38-7 loss to ISU and a 34-9 win against WVU. But the momentum of a big win against the Mountaineers couldn't carry the Sooners past OSU. With an orange-clad GIA crowd behind them, the Cowboys rolled from the start.
“They've got a really good team,” OU coach Mark Cody said. “They don't have any weak weight classes, and that's big, especially in a dual meet like that. Hats off to them, they've done a really good job getting this program where it is right now.”
OSU breezed through the first three matches of the OU dual — a 9-3 win at 125, a forfeit win at 133 and a 4-1 win at 141. If it wasn't already over then, No. 1 Jordan Oliver put the stamp on the Cowboy victory.
Oliver pinned OU's Dillon Dennis with 1:32 left in the first period. Oliver pinned all three opponents he faced on Friday.
“I think any time you get a pin in college, you're pinning a state champion, a two-timer, a three-timer — you're pinning a pretty good kid,” Smith said. “Most of these kids on these teams have been pretty special kids at one time. You never grow to expect it; you just enjoy it every time it happens. (Oliver) looked good today.”
The Cowboys lost just one match, when OU's Keldrick Hall defeated Tyson Yoder at 285, 5-4. But the Sooners recorded only two takedowns in the dual, both in their lone victory. OSU won handily, 40-3, and stood center mat with the Big 12 trophy held high.
While it was a banner day for the Cowboys, they gained a distinct advantage due to gamesmanship used by their opponents. Saturday's tournament will determine the individual champions, with bracket seeds based on the outcomes of previous matches during the season and current wrestler rankings. That resulted in teams sitting out most of their top wrestlers to avoid losing a seed advantage, depending on the predicted matchups for Saturday.
And because of travel and health reasons, the Mountaineers forfeited half their matches throughout the day, saving their best wrestlers for the individual tournament. The Sooners didn't use their top two wrestlers on Friday: No. 1 Kendric Maple (141) and No. 5 Bubby Graham (165). In their match against OSU, they didn't start a single ranked wrestler.
“If there's something to win, we're going to try and win it,” Smith said. “That's what it's about. I can't imagine not trying to win a dual meet. I'll just say that.”
But Cody said the Cowboys' road to conference glory won't be so easy on Saturday.
“We've got the horses back in there tomorrow,” Cody said. “Anything is capable with these guys. They fight hard. They work hard. To have those five guys back in here tomorrow, we're excited.”