Road-tested Cow­boys ready for show­down

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - SPORTS - BY SCOTT WRIGHT Staff Writer swright@ok­la­homan.com

STILLWATER — Ok­la­homa State wrestling coach John Smith didn’t have to sched­ule a dual for his Cow­boys at Wy­oming. He didn’t have to take them to Italy to face fifth-ranked North Carolina State.

He chose to put his team in for­eign en­vi­ron­ments away from Gal­lagher-Iba Arena for six of their first seven events — and seven of eight with Sun­day’s show­down at Iowa that will have the at­ten­tion of the wrestling world across the coun­try.

“I think Coach likes it like this,” 165-pound ju­nior Chan­dler Rogers said. “I think he does it to chal­lenge us in the be­gin­ning, and get those road matches un­der our belt.

“I feel like he’s chal­leng­ing

us to make weight, be able to go com­pete at a higher level, and the odds are against us — ev­ery­thing is against us.”

The third-ranked Cow­boys are only nine days re­moved from the trip to Naples, Italy, where they scored a 19-16 win over North Carolina State.

The Cow­boys will face the No. 7 Hawkeyes for the 52nd time in a ri­valry that is the OSU wrestling equiv­a­lent of Bed­lam in foot­ball or bas­ket­ball.

“It’s al­ways been a ri­valry,” Smith said. “It’s a match we want to win. It’s a match that makes a dif­fer­ence in re­cruit­ing, and makes a dif­fer­ence in ev­ery­thing.

“Is it a match that de­ter­mines your suc­cess or fail­ure at the end of the year? I doubt it. But is there pride on the line? Ab­so­lutely.”

OSU’s win over the fifth-ranked Wolf­pack is big. But this is Iowa.

“We can go and scoot away with wins with all th­ese other teams, but Iowa, this is se­ri­ous,” Rogers said. “It doesn’t mat­ter if you say that you beat Iowa. It mat­ters if you go and de­stroy Iowa.”

The busy road sched­ule to start the sea­son has brought ad­ver­sity. OSU 141-pounder Dean Heil, who lost only one match the last two sea­sons in pick­ing up a pair of na­tional ti­tles, has lost two in a row, against Wy­oming and NC State.

“I’ve told him this sea­son will be harder than any sea­son he’s had,” Smith said. “If you just em­brace the hard­ness, things will come to­gether. I see no prob­lem with what’s hap­pened. Men­tally, you get tougher, and you get stronger.”

Smith wants to see his lighter weights con­trib­ute more on Sun­day, fol­low­ing a cou­ple of duals where the heav­ier classes have car­ried the team.

“Let’s get the lower weights to par­tic­i­pate a lit­tle bit this week­end,” Smith said. “It’s gonna be real im­por­tant. The lower weights, if they don’t par­tic­i­pate this week­end, it’s gonna be real tough for us to es­cape out of Iowa with a win.”

[PHOTO BY SARAH PHIPPS, THE OK­LA­HOMAN]

Ok­la­homa State wrestling coach John Smith will take his third-ranked Cow­boys to face No. 7 Iowa in a dual at 3 p.m. Sun­day.

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