John Smith has always held Boo Lewallen in high regard for everything he has gone through in his college wrestling career.
Lewallen missed seasons for an ankle injury that required a metal plate and six screws inserted – that Lewallen says he feels when the temperatures gets as cold as they have been in recent weeks – and shoulder surgeries.
And each time, he’s come back with a goal of being a national champion at Oklahoma State.
It looked like this season would be his last chance to do so, but Smith informed the media on Tuesday that Lewallen had been granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA for medical hardship.
“He’s definitely a guy who deserves it,” Smith said. “It wasn’t too tough to get when you look at his chart. … I’m excited that he got an opportunity, but right now, we’re in a season and let’s make this one count – you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Lewallen isn’t thinking right now about that extra year he’s been awarded.
He’s in the middle of a campaign in which he is undefeated and ranked No. 3 at 149 pounds.
Why think of next year, when he’s positioning himself to win a national championship this year?
“It’s nice, I guess, but I haven’t really put too much stock into it, just because of the season I’m in right now,” the Yukon native said. “I’m just really focused on what’s going on right now.”
Focusing on the now is something Lewallen has learned over the past four years.
Being sidelined so often from injury since graduating as a three-time Oklahoma high school state champion in 2015, Lewallen has gain a new perspective on life.
“I haven’t really been able to compete a whole lot – where as Nick (Piccininni) just got his 100th win, that’s amazing,” Lewallen said. “… It’s just a lot of time on your own, outside of the sport, and realizing who you want to be as a person. And that wrestling is really small, you can’t just put an emphasis on it as far as who you are.
“I just try to focus on what I want to be as a person, because during those times, I certainly went down wrong paths are certain moments. It’s all about learning and getting better, and wrestling’s taught me that.”
Lewallen may not be the only Cowboy wrestler that could be granted an extra year of eligibility due to medical hardship.
Smith confirmed Kaid Brock could be a candidate for applying if he is unable to returning to compete in the postseason this year.
Brock suffered a knee injury prior to the wrestling season, but hoped he could make it back for a run to the NCAA tournament. But Brock did suffer a setback around 10 days ago – on a timeline that already would have been pushing him to the brink to return at the beginning of March.
“I’m going to be real careful about what we do,” Smith said. “He’s a little bit over four and a half months in, almost five, and normally it’s a six-month process for this injury, so is that going to give him enough time?
“He’s been injured twice, so we have that option to apply for a sixth year. … I’d say right now, I’m probably more leaning toward not bringing him back because of some of the things I’ve seen.”