Road-tested Cowboys ready for showdown
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.”
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.