Picklo ‘super-grateful’ entering NCAA Championships
NORMAN — As November and December rolled along, Tate Picklo could only watch as his Oklahoma wrestling team competed without him.
The Mustang native couldn't argue against his absence from the lineup.
Injuries had kept him off the mat for all but a couple matches in the previous 16 months. When he got back, he lost the match to decide who would wrestle for the Sooners at 184 pounds.
But in early January, OU coach Lou Rosselli gave Picklo the opportunity to wrestle at 174 pounds — and Picklo never looked back.
The Sooner sophomore went 12-4 over the remainder of the regular season, then reached the semifinals of the Big 12 Championships earlier this month.
Now, he goes into the NCAA Championships, set to run Thursday-Saturday at the BOK Center in Tulsa, as the No. 18 seed in the 174-pound bracket.
“First time in the lineup, it's definitely been a very bumpy, up-and-down season,” Picklo said. “To be here right now, it's pretty surreal, just going through all those trials during the beginning of the season.”
Picklo is the second-highest seed among OU's eight qualifiers for the event (141-pounder Mosha Schwartz is a No. 9 seed), but getting here has been quite a journey for the No. 1 national recruit at 195 pounds in the 2021 class.
Picklo injured his knee — in his words, he “tore a couple things” — at the state tournament as he was pursuing a title his senior season at Mustang.
“Everyone knows you're never the same after getting surgery,” Picklo said. “I was terrified of getting to college and never being the same wrestler. During those 16 months, every time I would get another little tweak in my knee, I was like, ‘I'm not gonna wrestle again.'”
Picklo appeared in one match during his freshman year at OU, but didn't get back to fully healthy until last summer, when he participated in a couple of freestyle tournaments.
“That was the moment when I finally got back into the full swing of things,” Picklo said. “The coaches, the training staff, they all did a phenomenal job.”
But getting healthy wasn't all it took to get Picklo in the lineup. When he arrived at OU, he expected he'd be slotted into the 197-pound weight class since that's where he wrestled in high school. He expected to grow some more and physically develop further in the college training program.
But it didn't happen that way.
“He had some baby fat on him,” Rosselli said. “He had to chisel himself down to the right weight class, and I think he's there now. He's really disciplined, so he makes weight relatively easily, compared to most.”
Picklo says he feels stronger and faster at 174, and that seems to show in the results.
“He finds ways to win,” Rosselli said. “He's really competitive and he has a really good IQ when it comes to wrestling. If we can get him scoring some more points, I think he'll be hard to beat soon.”
Now, he gets the chance to wrestle at the NCAA Championships two hours from home.
“I qualified for nationals… and I didn't even know if I was gonna start this year,” Picklo said.