With eight qualifiers, including two former national champions, Oklahoma wrestling coach Mark Cody is confident the Sooners can be a major factor at the NCAA championships.
OU, the tournament’s host school, is healthy for the first time in months.
“Our goal is to finish on top, but if we finish anywhere in the top five you get publicity for your program because you have at least one or two guys in the semifinals, maybe the finals,” Cody said. “I’ll be disappointed if we don’t finish in the top five.”
Senior 125-pounder Jared Patterson returned for the Big 12 tournament after missing two months with a knee injury. Junior 157-pounder Justin DeAngelis was out most of February following nose surgery. Everyone is back for the national tournament.
“The bigger the tournament the better opportunity we have to score points,” Cody said. “At the Vegas tournament there were some pretty heavy hitters and we won that by a pretty good margin. All eight of our guys have had some bright spots.”
The Sooners, ranked 14th entering the tournament, are led by 149-pound junior Kendric Maple, who won the national title last season and 174-pound senior Andrew Howe, who won a national title at Wisconsin before transferring.
“They’ll both have to wrestle hard to get to the finals, but they’re two guys very capable. No stage is too big for either one of them,” said Cody, adding that Howe’s class is viewed as the toughest in the tournament.