NCAA Wrestling: How The Cowboys Stack Up

The Ford Center in downtown Oklahoma City is spiffed up like it has never been before. Wednesday afternoon there were eight colorful wrestling mats with scoreboards marking the number of the mat. Milling around on the mats, and getting used to the environment, were wrestlers in more different colored workout gear and college logos than you could count. The NCAA Wrestling Championships have returned to Oklahoma City and one wrestler was overheard saying, "This is an amazing building, isn't it?"

It is amazing and it's amazing that Oklahoma State is poised to win its fourth straight NCAA championship right in the Cowboys' own backyard. However, nobody is going to hand the trophy to the Cowboys. It will be earned by the nine wrestlers wearing the respected orange singlet. Here is a look at how the Cowboys shape up at each weight class heading into the championships which commence Thursday at 11 a.m. with first round and pigtails.

125 pounds
Coleman Scott, who had a record of 24-5 this season, is the sixth seed at his weight. He earned All-America status last season as a true freshman and is looking for bigger and better in Oklahoma City. The top seed is Nick Simmons of Michigan State. He and Scott have met twice including Scott's first collegiate dual match last season when Simmons decisioned him 6-5. This season Simmons beat Scott with a 6-0 decision in East Lansing. In his career Scott is 17-9 against the wrestlers in this year's NCAA meet. He is a perfect 3-0 against the wrestlers in his quarter of the bracket, including a 5-3 decision early this year against first-round opponent Bryce Leonhardt of Wyoming. He also has a 6-2 decision over Matthew Fisk of Lehigh and a 12-0 major decision over Luke Smith of Central Michigan, either of which he could see in the second round.

133 pounds
Nathan Morgan is the fourth seed at 133. This season Morgan shied away from interviews with the media proclaiming he had done nothing to earn the attention, but the sophomore from California went 28-1 this season, worthy of an interview or two. He is a career 16-2 against wrestlers in the NCAA bracket, but has never met top-seed Shawn Bunch of Edinboro. He also has not wrestled his opening round opponent Michael Mormile of Cornell, who he will meet in the pigtail. His first-round opponent would be Andrae Hernandez of Indiana. Another first time opponent in college. In fact, he has only seen two opponents in his quarter of the bracket. He is 2-0 with decisions over seventh-seed Jake Strayer of Penn State and Tommy Vasquez of Cal-Poly.

141 pounds
There is no Oklahoma State wrestler at this weight.

149 pounds
Zack Esposito returns looking for another national championship. With a 22-3 season record Esposito is the third seed. Top-seed Dustin Schlatter of Minnesota has a decision and major decision over Esposito this season, but Esposito may have had more to do with each of those than Schlatter taking chances that put him in bad spots in each match. Against the field in the bracket Esposito is 25-3, including three wins over opening round opponent Darren McKnight of Michigan State. In 2003 Esposito scored an 8-0 major on McKnight. Last season he posted a 14-4 major in a dual with Michigan State, and this season scored a 21-6 technical fall in a dual in East Lansing. The senior from Pennsylvania is 10-0 against wrestlers in his quarter of the bracket, including four wins over sixth seed and potential quarterfinal opponent Jonathan Masa of Hofstra.

157 pounds
Senior Kevin Ward gained an automatic berth in the NCAA with a nice finish in the Big 12 Tournament. He is unseeded and very unfamiliar with his quarter of the bracket. Ward had a 20-11 record this season and is 17-15 against the field at his weight in the NCAA, but he has never met first-round opponent Ben Cherrington of Boise State. The only opponent in his quarter he has met is Bedlam rival Will Rowe of OU. Those two split this season with Rowe winning 7-5 in sudden victory in Stillwater and Ward coming back for a 6-5 decision in Norman. The top seed is Trent Paulson of Iowa State and Ward is 1-3 against the Cyclone. The lone win came last year at the Big 12 with a 7-4 decision. Paulson's wins have all been by decision 8-3, 5-3, and 2-0 just two weeks ago at the Big 12 in Ames, Iowa. Ward is not a threat to win the weight, but could be strong enough to gain All-America status.

165 pounds
Most people have Johny Hendricks ranked number one at 165 pounds, but it is Ryan Churella of Michigan that is the No. 1 seed over Hendricks, a defending national champion and the second seed. Last year Hendricks decisioned Churella in their only meeting, winning 6-2 in the NCAA Championships. Hendricks is 28-1 on the season, and he is 26-3 overall against the field in the 165-pound division at the NCAA. He is 3-2 against the wrestlers in his quarter of the bracket. Whoa! What was that? Lehigh standout and seventh-seed Troy Letters is waiting for a potential quarterfinal matchup. Hendricks decisioned Letters 5-2 this season, but lost two decisions last season, one on a tie-breaker. Hendricks has never met opening-round opponent Brian Busby of Cal-State Bakersfield.

174 pounds
Redshirt freshman Brandon Mason qualified for the NCAA with a wild card given at the Big 12 Tournament. The Iowa native deserved it with a 22-11 record this season, and is seeded 11th for the event. He is 8-10 against the field in his first NCAA Championships and has never met opening-round opponent Jeremy Larson of Oregon State. He has met possible second round opponent and sixth-seed Richard Boudro of Michigan State. Boudro scored a 3-1 decision over him in November. Mason is 1-1 with wrestlers in his quarter of the bracket, having decisioned Brandon Sinnot of Central Michigan and Mason was major decisioned by third-seed Mark Perry of Iowa. The top seed at 174 is Missouri's Ben Askren and Mason lost a 13-4 major decision to the top Tiger in January. Mason needs to fight it out and he could earn All-America honors.

184 pounds
Senior Rusty Blackmon qualified at the Big 12 Championships and finishes his career where he always wanted to – in the NCAA Championships. He is unseeded, had a 17-14 season record, and is 7-12 against the wrestlers in his bracket at 184 pounds. He lost a 12-6 decision to his first-round opponent C.B. Dollaway of Arizona State back in January. Blackmon is 1-6 versus the wrestlers in his quarter of the bracket. The top seed at 184 is Joshua Glen of American University, and Blackmon has never met him. The chances are very good he won't meet him in Oklahoma City either.

197 pounds
Jake Rosholt didn't win the Big 12 title, losing to NCAA third-seed B.J. Padden of Nebraska for the third time this season after beating Padden four times previously in his career. That is a good thing on the omen scale. Rosholt has never won Big 12 and NCAA titles in the same season. Rosholt is the fourth seed and finished the season 22-4. He is 19-6 against the wrestlers in Oklahoma City for the NCAA. Rosholt is a perfect 5-0 against the wrestlers in his quarter of the bracket, but he has only met two - Joel Flaggert of OU and Casey Phelps of Boise State. Rosholt opens with either Mike Heist of Pittsburgh or Willie Breyer of Michigan. The top seed is Wynn Michalek of Central Michigan, another wrestler Rosholt has not met in college. Rosholt had better win his individual championship because he he won't be a pleasant person to be around for quite some time if he doesn't.

285 pounds
It's very simple for second seed and Cowboy heavyweight Steve Mocco - find a way to beat top seed and Minnesota heavyweight Cole Konrad. These two dominate this division. Mocco has won the crown twice, last season he finished unbeaten. Mocco went 23-2 this season, with both losses to Konrad. He is 16-2 against his competition in the bracket, both losses to Konrad. He is 4-0 against wrestlers in his quarter of the bracket and they were all against Jacob Hager of OU. Mocco has worked against OSU offensive linemen trying to find a better way to beat the taller Konrad in the NCAA.

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