By Chris Day
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Oklahoma State University wrestling coach John Smith seems a little puzzled by the preseason Division I college wrestling rankings.
The Cowboys are tied with the University of Oklahoma for fourth in the Intermat rankings with 70.5 points. Two-time national champion Penn State is No. 1 with 100.5 points. Iowa and Minnesota are second and third, respectively.
OSU national champion Jordan Oliver and third-place finisher Alan Gelogaev completed their eligibility after the 2013 NCAA Championships. But five All-Americans, including national champ Chris Perry, return from the team that came within four points of dethroning Penn State in Des Moines, Iowa, in March.
“I feel like we have a stronger team, but we came out ranked fifth or sixth in the country in a lot of rankings. It just kind of tells you there are some teams that have kind of stepped up. Oklahoma is one of those. They are going to be a great team this year. There should be some great Bedlam dual meets,” Smith said.
In the past, OSU has earned a No. 1 or No. 2 preseason ranking when it returned five All-Americans, Smith said.
“For us, it’s going to be about developing some new faces that haven’t done a whole lot to this point,” Smith said.
The Pokes must replace Oliver at 149 pounds. Oliver sported a 37-0 record. He often earned extra team points with major decisions, technical falls or pins. He was also a team leader with a tremendous workout ethic.
“It’s not a matter of how do you replace it. It’s a matter of how hard our staff is going to work to develop somebody that is that dominating. Those type of points are points that you really have got to have. What made Jordan strong and successful for us was his capability of pinning people. We have to make sure through the season we have more falls,” Smith said.
Here are the Oct. 29 Intermat rankings for Oklahoma State wrestlers by weight class.
125: Eddie Klimara, sophomore, No. 15
133: Jon Morrison, senior, No. 5
141: No Oklahoma State wrestler in top 20
149: Josh Kindig, junior, No. 10
157: Alex Dieringer, sophomore, No. 2
165: Tyler Caldwell, senior, No. 2
174: Chris Perry, senior, No. 2
184: Jordan Rogers, redshirt freshman, No. 20
197: Blake Rosholt, senior, No. 7
Hwt: Austin Marsden, sophomore, No. 11.
Klimara improved during the season, finishing with a 3-2 record in the NCAA Championships.
“He seemed to grow a little bit toward the end,” Smith said.
Klimara, Rogers, Marsden and OSU’s 141-pounder must grow into potential All-Americans during the season, Smith said.
“We have some guys ranked No. 15 and above, and if you’re ranked No. 15, you’re not going to be in the picture. That’s the area that we’re going to have to improve on,” Smith said.
Smith said he expects Kyle Crutchmer, another redshirt freshman, to battle Rogers for mat time at 184 pounds.
“Both have a lot of potential, but that potential has to be developed for us to do something in the end,” he said.
Oklahoma State should get an early read on its strengths and weaknesses. The Pokes travel to Norman for a Bedlam matchup on Dec. 1, and host Minnesota Dec. 8. They start their dual season against Bucknell at Gallagher-Iba Arena on Nov. 17.
“It’s a chance for us to really gauge ourselves as a staff. Historically, Minnesota has been a top 10 team and even a top 5 team more recently. This kind of matchup is going to tell where you’re at really quickly and what your deficiencies are,” Smith said.
The Minnesota dual will help OSU coaches and wrestlers plot their path to the NCAA Championships which will be held March 20-22 in Oklahoma City.
OSU defending national champion, Perry, is excited about the chance to close out his senior year wrestling in Oklahoma City.
“It’s more exciting from a fan standpoint for us,” Perry said. “Hopefully, we can get as many fans as we can. We will have the fans behind us. That’s a lot of motivation in wrestling. When you start to hear the fans, you feel like you can take it to a new level. You have to embrace it and have fun with it.”
The NCAA wrestling tournament held in 2006 in Oklahoma City was sold it
“People walked away thinking it was one of the best championships that they’d been too. Last time, it was here people loved it. They loved what they saw. The loved the opportunity to be able to eat right there downtown and be able to walk around between sessions and not have to go back to the hotel. Those things make the experience better for fans.” Smith said.
Oklahoma State wrestling won its last national title at the 2006 NCAA Championships in Oklahoma City.