STILLWATER — Former Oklahoma State wrestler Steve Mocco is still the same person who won two national championships with the Cowboys and wrestled for another. Only thing is, there's less of him now.
Mocco made the U.S. Olympic team thanks to a strong showing in the June trials, beating former Ohio State star Tommy Rowlands for a spot on the team. Rowlands had beaten Mocco in the finals of the U.S. Nationals in April. None of that might have been possible had Mocco not changed his lifestyle. The New Jersey native weighed 264 pounds at the trials. In his one season at OSU playing football in 2006, he was listed at 295 pounds. "I spent a lot of time in the weight room and doing a lot of cardio,” he said. "I took it really serious as far as my diet and everything else and I felt a lot better at a lighter weight. I felt quicker. It was something that happened over time. It transformed my lifestyle to be more professional on a daily basis.” And part of that change was stepping away from his comfort zone. While fellow former Cowboy Daniel Cormier trained in Stillwater for his Olympic bid, Mocco chose to train in Colorado Springs, mostly because he had the chance to face better heavyweight competition there. "It was a good decision for Steve,” OSU coach John Smith said. "He had the opportunity to go out to Colorado Springs and be in front of three or four heavyweights per day. I think part of being an Olympic champion is finding your own path.” But that doesn't mean Smith hasn't been there when Mocco needed him. They kept in touch. Smith has trained for and won Olympic gold in the past. "He changed a lot of facets of my career and changed a lot of other stuff about me as far as training goes,” Mocco said. Playing football might have been the start of Mocco's physical transformation. He spent just one year with the Cowboys football team, but picked up on the training football players endure to prepare for the season.
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The Steve Mocco file•Age: 26 •Born: North Bergen, New Jersey •College: Two-time heavyweight national champion (2003, 2005) at Oklahoma State and Iowa. •Road to the Rings: Mocco defeated longtime rival Tommy Rowlands from Ohio State 2-1 in their best-of-three series at the Olympic Trials in June. •Rest of the field: Fardin Masumi (Iran) and Bilial Mahov (Russia) are the highest ranked wrestlers in the field. Masumi won gold at a pre-Olympic event last summer. •Up next: Mocco will take the mat Aug. 21. By Matt Patterson