Wrestling: Five of a Kind

STILLWATER, Okla. (http://www.okstate.com) – Oklahoma State will be gunning for its third consecutive national title when they take the mat to start the 2004-05 season. For five Cowboy seniors it will be their final year to compete as a collegian.

Chris Pendleton and Ronnie Delk are the two returning starters from last year. Pendleton will be favored to win the national championship at 174 after capturing his first title last season.

Delk was the starter at the 141-pound weight class as a junior during the 2003-04 season. He has high expectations for his senior year and expects to get on the podium at the NCAA Championships.

"?I have never been able to get over that hump and make it to nationals,?" Delk said. ?"I know that I am going to make it to nationals this year, and do well when I get there. I feel that I am going to All-American this year.?" For guys like Brett Munson, Clark Shouse and Mike Christian, they will have to spend the season as a backup. All three of them happen to wrestle in the same weight class as a returning All-American.

Sophomore Johny Hendricks moved up a weight class after finishing fifth last season, and he will wrestle in front of Munson at 165.

Munson will wrestle at any weight class if there is an available spot. Last season he held his own against 184-pounders, while Jake Rosholt was recovering from injury. His role now is to provide depth behind Hendricks.

Munson is like a middle infielder that can play any position on the baseball diamond. He is willing to fill any position that has a hole, and head coach John Smith appreciates that kind of attitude on his team.

"?I am willing to help out wherever I can,"? Munson said. "?I was behind Tyrone (Lewis) the last two years. I would go in wherever I got the chance to go in.?"

Steve Mocco transferred to Oklahoma State after winning a national title as a heavyweight at Iowa in 2003. Christian will get to watch one of the best heavyweights ever to take the mat, instead of wrestling against him or any of the other top heavyweights.

Christian was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school after he was a Dave Schultz Regional Award winner. This looked like it was finally going to be the year that he would have a chance to crack the lineup, but then came the news that Mocco was transferring.

Shouse was unfortunate enough to arrive at OSU a year before Zack Esposito showed up on campus. Shouse has been behind Esposito on the depth chart for the last three years.

Shouse had a stellar high school career that included four state championships and a cumulative record of 132-7. He was also a four-year lettermen in baseball and football at local Morrison High School.

High School achievements mean likttle a thing to coach Smith. The best man is going to wrestle. When Esposito arrived on the scene, Shouse did not factor into the plans at the 141-pound weight class. His junior season, he was the backup to his good friend Delk. Shouse is once again behind Esposito on the depth chart after he moved up to 149 pounds this season.

Every wrestler on the team has a role. The seniors understand what their role is, and they help the younger guys understand what their role is going to be on this team.

Pendleton still has a future in wrestling beyond this season. For Delk, this is his last shot at glory, and his last chance to get over the hump and get into the NCAA Tournament. The other three seniors will keep working hard and will wrestle when they are called upon.

The seniors will all be honored on Feb. 20, when Oklahoma comes to Stillwater. For these five seniors it will be an emotional time as they begin to go their separate ways.

"?I think it will be pretty emotional finishing my career up against Oklahoma,"? Delk said. "?I am never going to wrestle in the Bedlam dual again, and that will be tough. I am just going to leave it all out on the mat.?"

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