OSU Wrestling: Taking Back The Tradition

Oklahoma State wrestling head coach John Smith always gets a little emotional this time of year. When you are charged with guiding the most prestigious and accomplished dynasty in college athletics you can't help but get emotional as the day nears for the championships to be contested. The NCAA Wrestling Championships open a three-day run in the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb., on Thursday morning.

The Cowboys have moved up to third in the team rankings and have a shot, with eight of their nine wrestlers being seeded, at adding to their illustrious history which includes 34 team national championships and 133 individual NCAA champions.

"Oklahoma State wrestling, the record speaks for itself and that is why it is considered the number one sport (dynasty) from winning the most championships," said Smith with pride.

"I'm a small part of it and consider it is a privilege be a part of it. Pressure, I'm not sure that we could come in with one guy ranked in the top eight in the country and have what we have if it was not for OKlahoma State's tradition. We've had men before us and ones that will come after us that will show us how to do it."

Coming out of a successful Big 12 Championships that saw the Cowboys earn three indivudal titles and a return to the conference crown for the program with another team title, the Cowboys earned eight national seeds ranging from Neil Erisman seeded 11th at 157 pounds to number two seeds with Jamal Parks at 141 pounds and Jared Rosholt at heavyweight.

Smith is happy but seemed a little surprised the Cowboys came out as well as they did in national seeds for the Championships.

"I guess I was a little surprised with them," said Smith. "A lot of respect was shown for this team the way it went down. A long way from where we were at the start of the season. I think at the start we might have had one guy in the top eight.

"It tells you a lot about this team and how hard they worked and that they recognized they were going to have to earn our respect back. As for Oklahoma State when you fall off that ladder like we did last season, you don't automatically pop back up. It is something that you really have to earn and I'm really happy with the effort from this squad."

One of the biggest surprises was Parks at 141 pounds. The sophomore out of Tulsa Union High School has a 28-5 record on the season and is coming off a Big 12 title. It has been anything but a smooth campaign for Parks.

"You know it was good to see that from the standpoint of, it wasn't but about six weeks ago I was about ready to boot him out of here for a couple of reasons," said Smith.

"It was good to see him refocus and put in the energy he needed to do the right things and focus on doing the right things. I beleive that is why he is where he is at right now. It is a tough weight class and they could have thrown a number guys in at number two, but it was his win over the number three guy that probably put him in that position."

Smith loves to point to examples for his team and one shining example of what can happen with hard work was the job 184-pounder Clayton Foster did in wrapping up the Big 12 title for the Cowboys by coming back in the third period to knock off Missouri's Max Askren, an opponent that had beaten Foster four out of four tries in his career.

"The team got to see that and we always take pride in third periods," said Smith of Foster's comeback. "If you score in the third period then you are going to win a lot of matches. For Clayton, he came in down by one and scored six points. He scored five in the first two periods and six in the third. You are going to win a lot of matches. The key for him is to let go of that tournament and move on and I think he has."

The action starts in Omaha with the first round Thursday morning and second round that evening. Friday's action includes quarterfinals and semifinals along with wrestlebacks and consolations.

Saturday will include consolation finals and then on Saturday evening the championship matches which will be televised live on ESPN.

Cowboys First Round Opponents
125 pounds - Chris Notte (10), 23-8 vs. Joseph Langel, Rutgers, 30-8
133 pounds - Jordan Oliver (4), 28-2 vs. Zac Stevens, Michigan, 25-16
141 Pounds - Jamal Parks (2), 28-5 vs. Juan Archuleta, Purdue, 26-12
149 Pounds - No OSU qualifier
157 Pounds - Neil Erisman (11), 27-8 vs. Justin Lister, Binghamton,28-8
165 pounds - Alex Meade (10), 28-8 vs. Rob Morrison, Rider, 26-13
174 Pounds - Mike Benefiel (6), 31-4 vs. Keith Witt, Kent State, 23-12
184 Pounds - Clayton Foster (5), 19-3 vs. Patrick Bradshaw. Edinborough, 29-11
197 Pounds - Alan Gelogaev, 25-7 vs. Chad Beatty (9), Iowa, 14-3
285 Pounds - Jared Rosholt (2), 30-2 vs. Dustin Porter, Gardner-Webb, 32-5

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