A week out for the first dual of the season, Oklahoma State wrestling is still trying to iron out its starting lineup, which was decimated by injuries at the start of the new school year.
This weekend will allow Cowboy coach John Smith and his coaching staff to start getting a clearer picture on some of the question marks still surrounding certain weights when the Cowboys compete at the Oklahoma City University Open on Saturday.
“I don’t know if it will determine the lineup, but it sure will help give you an idea,” Smith said. “We’re kind of set at several (weights), but we’ve got a few that we’ve got to decide on.”
According to redshirt freshman Travis Wittlake, the Cowboys have yet to hold ranking matchings, which many NCAA Div. I wrestling programs have completed with the start of the season upon them. But with uncertainty of starting roles in the wrestling room, it’s also breeding more competition.
“It’s been fun going at it,” said redshirt freshman Anthony Montalvo, who is trying to unseat All-American Dakota Geer for the starting spot at 184 pounds. “Just (Monday), coach (Chris) Perry was telling me and Geer to stop going at it so much, and we were like, ‘Why?’ … I love that I’m just getting better and better, so when I do crack that lineup it will be the best product and will continue to grow from there.”
And while Montalvo has a veteran in front of him, the Clovis, California, native is not going to make it easy for Geer – who is ranked No. 5 in the country at 184 by InterMat Wrestling – to hold down his spot in the starting lineup.
“I’m pushing every time, because I wouldn’t be doing Geer any justice if I just went in every day and folded,” said Montalvo, who had a 17-3 record in open tournaments during his redshirt year. “Whoever is at 184 is going to be one of the best guys in the country. That just makes the team better in general.”
It’s possible Montalvo and Geer – along with several other Cowboys throughout the lineup – could meet up during the OCU Open this weekend.
“On the mat, it’s different – even though it is your teammate, it is your friend,” said Wittlake, who had a 16-2 open record at 174 pounds during his redshirt season. “On the mat, it’s business. Business is business. … When we’re out there in the circle, it’s real.”
But there is also a chance Smith moves some of his younger wrestlers out of the main tournament depending on what type of competition turns out for the tournament hosted by an NAIA wrestling program.
“This tournament was a lot better three or four years ago, hopefully OU sends some of their guys and maybe Little Rock-Arkansas sends some of their guys, because you really need Division I matches because those are the only things we can count – and you need so many to get ranked,” Smith said. “Hopefully it’s not just us against us. But you could see me put a lot of our young guys, even some possible starters, into the freshman-sophomore division just because they are going to get a lot more matches.”
OSU will open its dual slate on the road with an East Coast swing. Following this weekend’s open tournament, the Cowboys will travel to Pennsylvania – a hotbed for recruiting – to take on Drexel on Nov. 15, before a meeting with No. 10-ranked Lehigh on Nov. 16.