For the past two months, Joe Smith has been wearing a neutral uniform while competing in college wrestling tournaments.
But come Friday, the Stillwater High graduate and Oklahoma State true freshman, will get to sport the orange and black as he makes his official college debut for the Cowboys when they travel to West Virginia and Pittsburgh, which will be Sunday.
A pair of unfortunate circumstances has led to inserting the hometown wrestler – who this past summer won a Junior Nationals title in Fargo, North Dakota – at 157 pounds.
According to Cowboy coach John Smith, redshirt freshman Chance Marsteller, who has been OSU’s regular wrestler at the weight, will be out for the rest of the year after violating team rules – same with 197-pounder Austin Schafer, which led to freshman Andrew Marsden having his redshirt pulled at the Southern Scuffle.
The only other wrestler listed at 157 pounds for Oklahoma State is redshirt freshman Ryan Blees, who John Smith said is sidelined with an injury.
“Joe will wrestle this weekend in both dual meets, unless there is any major changes,” said John Smith, who is also the father of the former Stillwater wrestler who won three state titles at the high school level. “It kind of puts us in a position where we need Joseph, and we need him in the lineup.”
The OSU freshman that also goes by the name Jo Jo has been wrestling in college tournaments this year, but did so unattached as to preserve his redshirt status.
He made the finals of three tournaments, winning the Joe Parisi Open in November and taking runner-up honors at the Reno Tournament of Champions in late December and the Southern Scuffle two weeks ago. The loss in Reno came at the hands of 2015 NCAA champion Isaiah Martinez, who won the match 11-5, while the loss at the Scuffle was to Penn State’s Jason Nolf, who is ranked No. 3 in the country by InterMat.com, by 7-3 decision.
“The college level is so much different from high school, it’s such a higher pace. Guys are so much more physical and stronger than the kids in high school,” Smith said. “Going through a full five months of lifting before the college season really helped me.”
Included in his victories is the opponent against whom he will likely make his college debut – West Virginia junior Dylan Cottrell, who is ranked 12th in the country on InterMat.com. Smith beat Cottrell in the championship match of the Joe Parisi Open – after winning his semifinal match against another highly ranked wrestler in Missouri’s Joey LaVallee, who was ranked 11th at the time.
“I wrestled the kid from West Virginia at the finals in Missouri and beat him I think 8-2, but he’s a pretty tough opponent so I can’t go out there and assume anything,” Joe Smith said. “I’m going to have to wrestle my best if I’m going to try to win that match.”
The freshman Smith said he has been talking with fellow OSU freshman from Stillwater High Kaid Brock, who is out for the year with a knee injury he suffered at the Southern Scuffle, about officially wearing the orange and black singlet for the first time.
Smith did weigh in for the Bedlam dual in mid-December – the same dual that Brock had made his college debut by pinning a reigning national champion in under a minute – but did not wrestle once the Cowboys began blowing out Oklahoma.
“I didn’t necessarily know it was going to happen like this, but I’m excited,” Smith said. “It’s been my dream my whole life to be able to throw on an orange singlet and wrestle for the Cowboys. I’m really excited and motivated that I have a chance to really help our team out.”
While this is a moment the younger Smith has been looking forward to for years, it will also be a unique moment for John Smith who will get his first chance to coach his son at the college level.
“I think it will be all-coach out there,” the elder Smith said. “It would probably be nice if some of it could be dad, because I’d probably be a little bit more understanding. But it’s going to be all-coach.”