2022-23 Oklahoma State Wrestling

Cowboy Insider: Young Surging Into Season's Stretch Run

Cowboy Insider: Young Surging Into Season's Stretch Run

Carter Young's inconsistency and sub-.500 record earned him a label, but the Oklahoma State sophomore has been red-hot recently.

Feb 8, 2023 by Adam Engel
Cowboy Insider: Young Surging Into Season's Stretch Run
Oklahoma State’s Luke Surber understands the job.

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Oklahoma State’s Luke Surber understands the job. 

To achieve All-American status or national champion at 197, he needs resume-boosting wins. He must survive battles against accomplished veterans. He did Sunday with a 5-4 win over #1 Rocky Elam of Missouri. 

Surber provided several clutch wins this season — a Bedlam-winning pin against Keegan Moore and a 2-1 dual-separating win versus Northern Iowa’s Wyatt Voelker. 

On Sunday, Daton Fix did his job, too. He needed to prevail by 10 points or more against Missouri’s Connor Brown for OSU to win on criteria. Fix won 14-3. 

The necessary events happened for the win. Necessary pieces are falling into place for the team, too.

The #11 Cowboys enter this weekend’s duals against South Dakota State and Stanford with three wins in their last four duals.

“The team is coming together,” Oklahoma State coach John Smith said. “We all know dual meets is different than tournament scoring. The next thing I really need to start seeing is that we position ourselves a little bit better as we go down the stretch for the Big 12 tournament and the NCAA Championships.”

Here are some other notes ahead of the weekend:

Young Finding His Stride

Carter Young embraced his nickname.

Weeks ago, Young lost and lost some more. He lost four of five in early January and sat outside the top 24 in the national rankings. Enough inconsistency for Smith to call him “Seven and eight.” His losing record, the only one among OSU staters, became a label. 

Since, bottom issues dissipated and aggressiveness grew.

Now, Young enters this weekend with five straight wins, an 11-8 mark and a #13 ranking. His most recent loss, 12-4 to #1 Andrew Alirez of Northern Colorado, served as a measuring stick for Young’s progress. Young earned riding time in four of those wins and continued to attack. Young also scored first in those five wins.

But Smith also wants him to score last.

“Six minutes and 30 seconds he wrestled,” Smith said Sunday. “Literally just gave up a takedown in the last 30 seconds. He knew he could and he did. Just don’t give the confidence to the guy who took him down at the end. There was no big effort there from him.”

Young’s turnaround features several ranked wins, including decisions over #8 Cael Happel of Northern Iowa and #15 Allan Hart of Missouri on Sunday.

“These are type of things that really help you develop into what you want to do and how hard it’s gonna be to go win four hard matches in a row at the Big 12s or NCAA Championships,” Smith said. “He had a good match. He outscrambled the kid.”

Wittlake Adjusting To 184, Improving Single Leg

Travis Wittlake needed more than a dozen takedowns to unlock his confidence.

In the preseason, Wittlake bumped to 184 after starting at 165 for three years. Sure, he used his speed to his advantage, but had trouble finishing single legs on bigger guys.

“They got big strong legs, so I was kinda unsure at the beginning,” he said. “I’m building confidence that when I can get to somebody’s leg, I can finish.”

With the help of Smith and assistant coach Chris Perry, Wittlake solved the problem. He scored 14 takedowns in duals against Northern Colorado and West Virginia. Wittlake split this past weekend but sits as a fringe All-American at #11.

“There’s nobody really better than John Smith to show you how to finish a single leg,” he said.

Witcraft OSU’s Guy At 125

Smith is sticking with Reece Witcraft.

Trevor Mastrogiovanni, OSU’s original 125-pound starter, remains out indefinitely with an undisclosed injury.

Freshman Zachary Blankenship replaced Mastrogiovanni but went 0-4 before Smith decided to preserve Blankenship’s redshirt.

Witcraft, a former 125-pound starter, cut from 133 to make the spot. He’s 0-2 entering this weekend. The late start and results put him in a disadvantageous spot for March.

Smith said an at-large bid to the NCAAs is “probably not possible” for Witcraft.

“We have an issue with the number of matches, getting him in the ranking,” Smith said. “Of course, he hasn’t won his last two matches so that doesn’t get you in the rankings. He’s got some guys he can beat that could get him one. There’s one in Iowa City. This weekend he can help himself.”