Nolan Boyd Gets Help In Preparing For NCAAs

A couple of weeks ago leading up to the Big 12 Championship, Oklahoma State head coach John Smith put his team through one of those real grinder practices that often happens in the wrestling room. The first period went three minutes, and then a second for two minutes. Then a third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh period. But that was not good enough for Smith, who ordered an eighth period.

It's those practices that build the stamina needed to carry through a long, grueling tournament like the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships that start Thursday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

It's a practice like that which can get a top welterweight UFC contender a late takedown and the UFC Welterweight World Championship. Former Cowboys two-time NCAA champion Johny Hendricks was up in the room that day and he was working on his conditioning and wrestling skills for his UFC 171 battle that he won last Saturday in Dallas over Robbie Lawler.

Hendricks chose 184-pounder Nolan Boyd as his sparring partner during that long John Smith grinder of a session. The rumor was Hendricks chose Boyd because the Deer Creek High School red-shirt freshman with a 29-11 record is from Edmond.

"I don't know if that was it," Boyd answered when asked why he got the honor of sparing with Hendricks. "I just know I got picked."

Boyd hung in there and got his shots, but Hendricks was a machine and never let Boyd have a lot of control.

"Yea, the dude doesn't quit," Boyd said of his famous workout partner. "I could tell he was gassed and he seemed like he was done, but he wouldn't quit. He is so mentally strong. I can take that from him, learn from him in that he doesn't quit."

Especially now that Hendricks won his five (five-minute) round championship match against Lawler for the UFC belt, can Boyd take added confidence as he prepares for Ed Ruth of Penn State or his opening opponent seventh seed Kevin Steinhaus of Minnesota?

"It's kind of cool to think about it, that I'm hanging with a guy that I grew up idolizing," Boyd added. "I had a poster of Johny Hendricks in my room when I was growing up. It's incredible to get to wrestle him and take him down. That is a dream."

While Boyd may have been a little awestruck, that doesn't happen to some of the older Cowboy wrestlers. They have seen many greats come back to the OSU wrestling room, and remember there are three Olympic medals and seven NCAA individual championships in that room everyday when you just count the current coaching staff.

"It's nice to have those guys come back and wrestle with us, but when they come into the room it's like I said there's no respect," defending NCAA individual champion and top seed at 174 pounds Chris Perry explained.

"That is the only way we win. I don't care who comes in the room and if they want to strap it up then it's no respect. Out of the room we have total respect for Johny and we know he is one of the best competitors to ever come through here. Same thing with Johny, he doesn't care who he is wrestling or who he is fighting, it's no respect.

"We take matches personal and we take practices personal and this week we found out that Johny is one of the most competitive persons in the world. We knew that in wrestling and now he's starting to make his reputation the same way in UFC," Perry said.

Hendricks is expected to be in Oklahoma City for the NCAA Championships. He is expecting to see the Cowboys and Boyd come through with similar results that he delivered on Saturday in Dallas. Hendricks' title match was a roller coaster that had its ups and downs. The Cowboys will experience those over the next three days, but need to make sure they finish up more times than down.

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