Showdown In GIA: Cowboys vs. Hawkeyes

It's a rare opportunity that fans get a chance to answer back, but Oklahoma State wrestling fans get the chance to answer back to those that love the black and gold of the Iowa Hawkeyes. Last January a record crowd of more than 14,000 crammed into Carver-Hawkeye Arena to watch Oklahoma State upset the top-ranked Hawkeyes.

The Cowboys will need similar heroics on Sunday as the Hawkeyes are again ranked number one in the nation. Iowa is favored, by ranking, in six of the 10 matches.

Oklahoma State is definitely the underdog, a word that Cowboy wrestling coach John Smith obviously doesn't like. It comes out of Smith's mouth with some distaste and disdain but the Cowboys are underdogs against their fiercest of of rivals.

"I don't preach the underdog role, even though that may be where we are at this point," said Smith seeming like he wanted to spit out the word underdog. "We talk to our athletes about high expectations and we are preparing to have our very best effort Sunday.

"I don't use the word underdog. I tell our guys to be excited for this. This is your chance to be in one of these big meets. If we relax and wrestle like I know we can, we'll do well.

"These are the things you look forward to, even back to when you were a little kid," continued Smith. "You want to have good memories of your time as a wrestler and the only way to have those good memories is to win. Big matches like this are why you come to a place like Oklahoma State."

Smith understands that it was his team that faced the favored Hawkeyes and their record crowd last season and came away the winner. He'd like to give Iowa the chance to return the favor. There is no doubt that Iowa and its lineup, including top-ranked 141-pounder Alex Tsirtsis and No. 1-ranked 149-pound wrestler Brent Metcalf, will be fired up to beat the Cowboys after last season's 19-14 loss to OSU. But Smith believes a full house of fans in orange will push his guys to another upset.

"I don't know of anyone that doesn't compete a little bit harder with fans in the stands that are rooting for them," said Smith, who has always wanted to see a full house of 13,611 for wrestling Gallagher-Iba Arena. "It is always an advantage and should be an advantage. I guess we could have 6,000 to 8,000 and we could all say that's a good crowd, but my expectations are higher. I'm looking for 13,600."

The Cowboys lone top-ranked individual is Jared Rosholt, fresh off being named Outstanding Wrestler at the Virginia Duals. Rosholt is ready and realizes that if it's close at the end, winning may require his best effort and bonus points against a quality opponent like Iowa's 12th-ranked Dan Erekson.

"This dual is going to be a good one," stated Rosholt. "It was good last year and whenever you get two teams like this, you see them rise to the occasion. If you go to Oklahoma State or to Iowa to wrestle, people know you are (the best) and what you have done in your career. Oklahoma State and Iowa are the two best."

Of the two Cowboys that are in really deep, going against top-ranked Hawkeye wrestlers, Cowboys' 141-pounder Jamal Parks, who is 20-4 on the season, looks forward to facing the number-one ranked Tsirtsis, who is 15-1 this season.

"I have watched Tsirtsis his whole career at Iowa so his style is no mystery," said Parks. "If anything, I'm the mystery to him in this match because I redshirted last year. I'm sure we have both seen tape of each other though."

Parks is on to something here that may be the best fun of this event, which starts at 2 p.m. This OSU-Iowa dual has mystery to it and a very reasonable ticket price of $12 and is free for all OSU students with an ID.

It is not just that it's the two greatest collegiate wrestling programs, two of the greatest collegiate programs ever, but that none of the wrestlers in the dual have faced each other on the collegiate mat. Iowa's Charlie Falck, ranked fifth, is not expected to wrestle for Iowa at 125 pounds because of an ankle injury, setting up OSU's Obe Blanc to face Iowa freshman J.J. Krutsinger. The matches contain plenty of mystery.

"I truly believe if we come out and wrestle the best we can wrestle, and we haven't done that to that level that I know that we can, then we will win," said Smith acknowledging that the mystery could also help.

"Sometimes you have teams where you're maxing them out, getting the maximum effort that we can and the potential. This team hasn't done that yet. They haven't reached their maximum potential on the mat. Why, I don't know. That's what we're working on. Let's start this Sunday and if we do that we may surprise ourselves and be where we want to be in this dual meet."

(Oklahoma State University Sports Information contributed to this report with the stats and notes. You can see more at www.okstate.com.)

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