Second-ranked Oklahoma State and unranked Oklahoma hope to end unpleasant streaks this weekend when the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships begin Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa.
The Cowboys, who haven't won a team title since 2006, are considered the strongest threat to two-time defending champion Penn State. The Nittany Lions are a 9.5-point favorite when projecting team points according to seeding. Minnesota, winner of last month's National Duals, and Iowa are deemed darkhorses in the team race.
But there's no question that coach John Smith's Cowboys are contenders, led by three title threats: 149-pounder Jordan Oliver, 174-pounder Chris Perry and heavyweight Alan Gelogaev.
“We've got to go wrestle our best and not only win but score bonus points every chance we get,” said Smith. “We need all 10 wrestlers to be at their best this weekend.”
Oklahoma 141-pounder Kendric Maple hopes to be the Sooners' first individual champion in eight years and is considered no worse than cofavorite with Ohio State's Hunter Stieber. Both are unbeaten. Despite being ranked No. 1 in both the RPI and final Coaches Panel, Maple was seeded second behind Stieber. A junior, Maple was fourth last year, and Stieber was sixth. But previous years' records are not used in determining seedings.
The Cowboys' trio likely needs to produce two champions and a runner-up or third-place finish to give the Cowboys a shot at the team crown. The top-seeded Oliver (32-0) is the clear favorite at 149 after jumping up two weight classes. He was fourth, first and second in his three years at 133 pounds. His only close match this year was a 6-4 decision over Minnesota's Dylan Ness, the NCAA runner-up last year.