By Andrew Glover
STILLWATER, Okla. —
With its first tournament on Saturday, the Oklahoma State University wrestling team took time Thursday to interact with fans and teach them some of the basics of college wrestling.
“It shows how much wrestling means to the community,” junior Tyler Dorrell said. “Everybody showed up for the meet and greet and stayed through all (the program). A lot of people already knew about wrestling and still sat through that.”
“We want to teach people about wrestling,” coach John Smith said. “We got a great culture in this area. From programs in the high schools like Cushing, Stillwater, Perry, Blackwell and Ponca City. We’ve got an unbelievable culture in a sport that’s been over 100 years. We need to get this new generation caught up and excited about wrestling.”
The night started with the introduction of the coaching staff and the wrestlers. Junior Ladd Rupp from Perry talked about a typical day for Oklahoma State wrestlers. Dorrell educated the crowd about his journey on losing weight.
“I’m kind of an underdog,” Dorell said. “I’m not looked up on. I haven’t made a name yet. I’m trying to get my name out there and make something of myself. This is my opportunity wrestling at 125 and I did what it took to get there.”
Most of Friday’s program was Wrestling 101. Smith and his staff explained terminology and rules of the match. Some of the wrestlers demonstrated moves. Wrestling 101 ended with an explanation of things the crowd should yell during a match.
“Anyone that comes to a wrestling event needs to know the rules,” Smith said. “They will appreciate it more when they know about it. I don’t think anyone can come to one match and get an understanding. We’re going to try to help people understand.”
Oklahoma State opens the season at the Lindenwood Open in St. Louis, Mo. Saturday. Both Dorrell and Smith are excited to get the season started.
“I can’t wait,” Dorrell said. “It’s been a ride so far. It’s been long journey from cutting weight in June and nothing to show for it yet. It’s finally here and I can have something to show for it.”
“We’re ready to start our season,” Smith said. “We got a chance to meet really good competition in our first outing. Of course our first home dual next Sunday on the 25th of November, we’re excited about having our first match at home as well.”
The Cowboys finished fifth at the NCAA Championships last spring. Smith said his team has had a good offseason.
“It was a good year (last year),” Smith said. “We made a lot of advancement in personal attitude. The thing I’m enjoying right now is a lot of these men have grown up and have a great passion for the things they want to achieve this year. It makes your job a little bit easier and a lot more enjoyable.”
Oklahoma State returns most of its roster from last season, including senior Jordan Oliver, who finished second in the NCAA championships, and junior Chris Perry, who finished third. Perry said he spent a lot of the summer preparing for this season.
This season, Oliver is wrestling two classes higher at 149 compared to 133 last season. The senior said he is prepared for the challenge.
“I’m just focused this year on getting stronger, improving my technique and getting better rather than focusing on my weight and other things like that,” Oliver said. “I definitely feel way more comfortable and great at 149.”
Smith said he is looking for Perry and Oliver to take a leadership role.
“I just want to make sure that both of those guys take the team along with them,” Smith said. “I want them to lead by example on the mat and off the mat. They’re two good wrestlers.”
The heavyweight class will be led by Alan “Z” Gelogaev, who has battled injuries the past two seasons. Smith said he hopes he can stay healthy.
“It’s been two years since he has had a full season,” Smith said. “He needs to go back through that. I think the key for us is to try to keep him healthy. He has had two pretty devastating injuries. I don’t think you approach the season trying to avoid it. I think you do some different things to have his best effort at the end and stay healthy at the end.”
Smith said there will be competition for the lower weight classes.
“We have Ladd Rupp and Jon Morrison, who have competed at 125,” Smith said. “In their two years, they really have not broken into a point where they’ve helped the team in the end. Now, they’re moving up a weight. ... This is a breakthrough year. These guys are good enough. They just need to put it together mentally.
“Tyler Dorrell from Del City will start for us on Nov. 25, our first match here. ... I like him. He’s a worker. ... He’s been cutting his weight since the start of August. ... We need to see where he’s at and grow with him throughout the season. If anyone’s tough enough, it’s him. At 141, Julian Feikert will probably be our starter. I like what I see in him.”
The Cowboys first home dual is against Penn University. Then Oklahoma State travels to Minnesota on Dec. 2 before meeting Wyoming at home on Dec. 8. The next day, the Cowboys face their Bedlam rival, Oklahoma, in Norman. Another match circled on the calendar is on Dec. 16, when OSU takes on Chattanooga and Cornell in Madison Square Garden.
“I’ve never been to New York,” Perry said. “I’m really excited to go to New York. It’s another match. It’s against Cornell and we never get to dual them. It’s going to be fun. Definitely hoping we have a good match. It’s going to be something everyone is hyped up for.”
Oklahoma State is seeking its first national title since 2006. Smith said he isn’t ready to say he has the team but likes his athletes’ attitudes.
“I don’t know if we were the best team in the country but definitely in the picture with everyone healthy,” Smith said. “I do believe we have chance to be a better team than last year. ... I think there isn’t any question that I’m excited about where we are at.”