In pursuit of its 35th national title this weekend, the Oklahoma State wrestling program is looking forward to having the support of a largely orange crowd at Chesapeake Energy Arena when the NCAA Championships begin on Thursday.
The Cowboys have all 10 starters in the tournament and are widely considered as serious championship contenders along with Penn State, Iowa, and Minnesota.
“They choose the locations a couple years in advance, so it's something we've kind of been waiting on for a couple of years,” said OSU’s Chris Perry, who is the No. 1 seed at 174 pounds. “Getting to wrestle in Oklahoma City is a special thing. We only have a one-hour drive, which is nice. We're used to driving six or seven hours or flying somewhere. It's awesome, and I hope we have a big crowd like we did in 2006 when they had nationals here. We're going to use that to our advantage.”
After competing in six different states throughout the season, including two trips to Pennsylvania, the Cowboys have had the luxury of spending the last month competing in state.
“We've traveled all over the country this year,” said coach John Smith. “This whole month we've been able to stay home, with the Big 12 (Tournament) being down in Norman and of course the championships being in Oklahoma City. It's an exciting time. Having it right here in our backyard is nothing but a benefit.”
ONLY FOUR UNBEATENS HEADING TO OKC
After a season full of upsets, only four wrestlers remain unbeaten heading into the NCAA Tournament.
Edinboro's Mitchell Port (141 pounds) will bring a 26-0 record to Oklahoma City, Penn State's David Taylor (165 pounds) is 29-0 and Maryland's Jimmy Sheptock (184 pounds) enters at 28-0. All three are the top seeds in their weight class.
Virginia Tech’s Devin Carter (141 pounds) is also undefeated, but he comes in as the No. 4 seed after wrestling just 14 matches this season. Carter suffered a torn hamstring, which required surgery in December. He returned two weeks ago to win his third ACC title.
SOME SEEDS TOUGH TO FIGURE, ESPECIALLY AT 197 POUNDS
No matter the sport, there are typically some head scratching after the seeds are announced for an NCAA Tournament.
This year’s wrestling seeds are no different. While it seems head-to-head outcomes carried the most weight, it doesn’t appear to have been used consistently as a determing factor in the seeding process..
Iowa State’s Kyven Gadson, slotted as a No. 5 seed at 197 pounds, is one of the most puzzling seeds. Gadson enters the tournament at 25-2 and on an 11-match win streak after claiming the Big 12 title two weeks ago.
Gadson has clashed with No. 2 J’Den Cox of Missouri and No. 4 Scott Schiller of Minnesota. What’s puzzling is he defeated Cox in their only match this season, and while he’s 1-2 against Schiller, he owns the most recent win, which came Feb. 23. Still, the top-ranked wrestler at the weight slid to No. 5.
ESPN COVERING EVERY SESSION, EVERY MATCH
For the first time ever, ESPN will televise every match of this year’s tournament.
The semifinals on Friday night and championship finals on Saturday night will be televised on ESPN; ESPNU will televise the first and second sessions on Thursday, the quarterfinals on Friday and medal round on Saturday.
ESPN3, the network’s digital platform, will carry feeds from each mat throughout the entire tournament and debut a special — “Off the Mat” — during the championship finals.