Oklahoma State wrestling has become an annual staple on a nationally televised stage the past few years.
For the third-straight season, Bedlam – which has its roots in the wrestling rivalry – will be showcased on the national level with the Cowboys hosting Oklahoma at 5 p.m. Sunday for a dual on ESPNU. It marks the fourth-consecutive year the Cowboys will have a dual featured on ESPNU, with the first being a home dual versus Northern Iowa in February 2018.
“I think (ESPN) wants them and are coming after them,” Cowboy coach John Smith said. “Up until this year, attendance has been incredible all over the country, so the competition is good. It’s not just two or three teams who are good, there are 20 teams that are good, very competitive.
“I think as you see that competitiveness, it gives you a better product all the way around, and that’s what we’re seeing.”
College wrestling has slowly been growing its presence on the ESPN family of networks over the years. The NCAA Division I National Wrestling Championships have become an annual event on ESPN and ESPNU, and the Big 12 Conference announced Friday it’s move of the Big 12 Conference Championships to the ESPN family.
In previous years, the Big 12 Championships have streamed action up to the finals on FloWrestling, with the championship matches being on Fox Sports Southwest. However, the league announced all of the action prior to the finals will be available on ESPN+, with the championship round being on ESPN2.
While the postseason tournaments have a foothold on the cable channel, Smith repeated Wednesday a statement he’s made the past few years in regards to getting viewership via dual meets.
“As long as we get our dual meets in and present the sport through our dual meets, there’s no better way,” Smith said. “You don’t present it like we did it the other day (with the all-day Cowboy Challenge Tournament). … You still want to present your Bedlams and your Iowa and Oklahoma State, or Iowa State or Missouri. Present them in a two-hour event, but this is something that we have an opportunity to do.”
Sunday’s Bedlam dual will be the second of the season, with the Cowboys winning the dual in Norman two weeks prior, 24-10, for its 12th-straight Bedlam victory.
In that previous meeting, several Cowboys were still getting their feet under them after riding the bench – either due to injury or as a backup – the better part of the season.
Dusty Hone (141 pounds) had just three dual appearances prior to the first Bedlam, while Wyatt Sheets (157) had made his dual debut the weekend prior. Both suffered losses, with Hone losing by decision to the No. 8-ranked Dom Demas, and Sheets losing in overtime to No. 11-ranked Justin Thomas.
There is some uncertainty with Hone this time around.
The senior from Cedar City, Utah, who is filling in for Kaid Brock – who suffered a “likely” season-ending injury – sustained a knee injury in the championship match of last weekend’s Cowboy Challenge Tournament and had to injury default out of the match.
“I don’t have an update yet,” Smith said Wednesday. “But he has every intention of weighing in and wrestling. So that’s our plan with Dusty for the week.”
There will also be a new Cowboy in the lineup who wasn’t available for the first meeting.
Sand Springs native Daton Fix came off of a one-year USADA suspension a few days after the first matchup, and is excited to get into this round of Bedlam after opening up his season at the Cowboy Challenge with four bonus-point wins – including three falls to close out his day.
“Having the team travel to Bedlam and me not being a part of it, it was hard – really every time the team leaves and I’m not with them, but especially Bedlam,” Fix said Sunday. “Bedlam is important in this state. I’ve always been an Oklahoma State fan, I have not ever been a big fan of Oklahoma.”