Oklahoma State wrestling will be without its lone returning national finalist from a year ago during the 2019-20 season.
On Thursday, Cowboy coach John Smith made official what many people had been speculating this past offseason. Redshirt sophomore Daton Fix will use an Olympic redshirt and sit out this season to focus on trying to make the United States Olympic team for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
“We visited with Daton and decided for him to take an Olympic redshirt,” Smith said. “… You never know if it’s the right decision, and that decision could be changed at some time in the season – though I doubt it will be. But I think it was August, when we made the decision, it was the right one at that time.
“The chance of being an Olympian, you want to take advantage of it and you want to put yourself in the best scenario to make the team. Forget about a medal, you can’t win a medal unless you make the team. In August, that’s what we were thinking when we made the decision.”
Fix is certainly a favorite to be a representative on the team.
The Sand Springs native earned a spot on the 2019 World Wrestling Championships team that competed in mid-September, making his first appearance at the senior level on the world stage.
“That was a big opportunity for him,” Smith said. “That was just the second time we’ve had that here at Oklahoma State – maybe some early on, back in the ’30s, but as far as I remember, its the second one in the last 40 or 50 years. And he really didn’t wrestle that bad, he just kind of wrestled to his competition.
“Now, his competition was a world champion a couple of years ago, and a world medalist, and that’s pretty good competition. But the wrestler who beat him, didn’t go on to place, so he wasn’t the same guy he was a few years ago. Daton needed to do more, but maybe the inexperience going in with wrestling the name and the world champion maybe slowed him down just a bit.”
The opportunity to take the Olympic redshirt was originally made possible after having been a bronze medalist at the 2016 Junior World Championships, but then also achieved the ability through other criteria such as being a past national team member, finishing in the top three at the NCAA Wrestling Championships and a top eight finish at the Senior U.S. Open – which he won.
Hurting the outlook for the Cowboys this upcoming season – which begins Nov. 15 with a dual at Drexel – is Fix’s presumed replacement at 133 pounds will miss a good chunk of the season.
According to Smith, the plan was to move Stillwater native Kaid Brock back down to 133 after a rocky attempt at competing at 141 pounds last season. However, shortly after the decision was made for Fix to use his redshirt, Brock suffered a leg injury and his outlook is bleak.
“In about a one-week period, it seemed like it all went south on us,” Smith said. “… Daton and I visited in August to make that decision, and two weeks later Kaid (suffered his injury). Then we were like, ‘Uh oh, what do you do now?’
“So there are some challenges ahead for us. … I think Brock will be back, I just don’t think we’ll see him the first semester.”
Oklahoma State has several registered wrestlers at 133 pounds, but none of them have any dual experience with three of the four being either freshmen or redshirt freshmen.
Smith said the likeliest candidate at the moment to fill in at 133 to start the season is true freshman Reece Witcraft – a two-time state champion and a 2017 Cadet Fargo national champion out of Broken Arrow. He also mentioned redshirt freshman Conner Wilson, a native of Allen, Texas, who missed much of his redshirt season with an injury after going 3-1 with two falls at the OCU Open, as a competitor for that spot.
In other injury news, Smith said Andrew Marsden – his potential replacement for two-time All-American Preston Weigel at 197 pounds – is working back through a health issue and has not even enrolled at Oklahoma State this fall. The only 197-pounders on roster are a pair of redshirt sophomores – Bear Hughes and Austin Harris – though Smith also mentioned the backup for 184 – which would be either redshirt freshman Anthony Montalvo or junior college transfer Alex Kauffman – could also contend for the starting spot.
Smith said Harris might also be an option at heavyweight, where redshirt sophomore Cornelius Putnam is the only wrestler at the weight on roster after the graduate of NCAA runner-up Derek White.
Follow News Press sports editor Jason Elmquist on Twitter @jelmquistSW for updates on Oklahoma State wrestling and other Cowboy athletics.