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FloWrestling correspondent Seth Duckworth brings you the top 10 storylines from Oklahoma State Wrestling in 2019-20, ranked.
10. Wittlake & Montalvo Developing
With the recruiting classes OSU has coming in the next two years, there’s a lot of forward-thinking with the program currently. So there’s a lot of focus on the young guys on the roster and what they’re developing into. Travis Wittlake and Anthony Montalvo were the two top-ranked recruits for OSU’s 2018 recruiting class, and fans have been watching both closely to see how they develop.
Wittlake finished the season at 27-2 with his only losses coming to Shane Griffith of Stanford and Alex Marinelli of Iowa. Anthony Montalvo went 25-6 and was one of the top freshmen in the country at 184. Both clearly look as though they’ll be solid long-term assets for Oklahoma State and improved considerably from their true freshman campaigns.
9. Two Bedlams Return
For most of the history of the Bedlam rivalry, the Sooners and the Cowboys have wrestled a home and home each year with one in Norman and one in Stillwater. A few years ago, when Lou Roselli came on as the new head coach at OU, that home and home went away and they went to a singular dual in Stillwater each year.
Naturally, Oklahoma State fans didn’t like that as it took away a televised dual that’s within driving distance of most of them. This year, the home and home was brought back and Bedlam, and the fans saw two duals with one in Stillwater and one in Norman.
8. Scuffle Champs
This should have maybe been a bit higher on the list, but with the tournament as a whole being a little down comparative to previous years, I left it at number eight.
Oklahoma State traveled to the Southern Scuffle to kick off the new year against a field of teams that included NC State, Pitt, Stanford, and a number of other teams. Notably they did it without Boo Lewallen, who did not pass skin checks here. Nick Piccininni was crowned as the only champ for the team and in a really gritty fashion most of the rest of the lineup slogged out bonus and fought through consolation matches to stack enough points to walk away with the team title.
7. Witcraft & Hone Step in
This storyline plays into two other storylines that are a bit higher on the list. After it was announced that Kaid Brock was likely done for the season with an injury, and after it was announced that Daton Fix was taking his Olympic redshirt, two questions seemingly formed: Who would take their places at 133 and 141?
At 141, most expected to see Kaden Gfeller, who had started at 149 last year after Boo Lewallen went down with an injury. For reasons I’m not really sure of, that never happened, but Dusty Hone turned out to be a really solid piece for the Cowboys and even qualified for the NCAA tournament before it was canceled due to COVID-19.
Probably the bigger storyline was 133 as the question became will they start Conner Wilson or pull the redshirt of Reece Witcraft? That was quickly answered as after the first few preseason tournaments Witcraft was announced as the starter for the Drexel dual. Like Hone, Witcraft managed to put together an NCAA qualifying season and win some key dual matches throughout the season for the Cowboys.
6. Nine NCAA Qualifiers
The biggest story in all of wrestling this year was the cancellation of the NCAA tournament. Before that announcement officially came down the Cowboys locked down bids to the NCAA tournament from 125-197. Even though we ultimately don’t know how they would’ve performed, qualifying nine guys in a bit of a rebuilding year where OSU started three freshmen and was without Daton Fix, Kaden Gfeller, and Kaid Brock, who all started last year, is a pretty solid performance and something that wasn’t a given to start the season.
5. Football Players Step Onto The Mat
This one ultimately didn’t result in any shifts in the lineup or things of that nature but it certainly created a buzz amongst Oklahoma State fans. All-Big 12 linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez and defensive end Brock Martin both joined the OSU wrestling team midseason. Many prognosticated that Martin, a 250-plus pound defensive end and three-time Oklahoma state champions, might have a shot to claim the starting spot at heavyweight. That ultimately never happened, but it certainly created a lot of intrigue around the situation for the next few months.
4. Daton Fix Takes Olympic Redshirt
This one was kind of a given. I don’t think many fans going into the season expected Daton Fix to step onto the mat this year and compete. After Fix made the World team in 2019 the natural presumption was that he would take the year to focus on an Olympic bid. Eventually that was made official with an announcement by John Smith. Fix is now expected to return next season as a sophomore alongside Travis Wittlake and Anthony Montalvo. He will also be joined for the next few years by the best recruiting class in the country.
3. Kaid Brock Out
With the offseason expectation that Daton Fix would be taking an Olympic redshirt, many presumed there was a possibility that Kaid Brock would return to 133 and really stack up OSU with a pretty solid group of experienced lightweights. That didn’t happen as Kaid Brock tore his ACL before the season started and was unable to compete.
This ultimately resulted in one of the notes listed above being a story and Reece Witcraft and Dusty Hone stepping in at 133-141. This actually turned out to potentially be a bit of a blessing in disguise as Kaid Brock has been granted an additional year and will return to the Cowboys lineup next season.
2. 2020 Recruiting Class
This could easily be argued as the #1 story surrounding Oklahoma State this year. In previous years the Cowboys have had some struggles in the recruiting department. Most classes seemed to be filled largely filled by OSU family legacies like Daton Fix, Wyatt Sheets, and Joe Smith, or local talent like Kaid Brock, Kaden Gfeller, and others.
A few years ago, John Smith made the decision to restaff and it seems to have paid off in the recruiting department. This class top to bottom could easily be considered John Smith’s best recruiting class ever and they have a fan buzz surrounding them unlike anything I’ve seen. People are fired up for this group to get to Stillwater and with a lot of young talent already in the room and possibly the #1 class for 2021 as well, the next few years for OSU wrestling are set up to be pretty exciting for Oklahoma State wrestling fans.
1. Big 12 Championship
With a historic program like Oklahoma State it’s not often that records are broken or tied. This year, Oklahoma State did that by winning their eighth straight Big 12 title and tying a program record of back to back conference titles set in the 1920s.
For the first time in a long time, this wasn’t a given heading into the season and certainly wasn’t a given heading into the conference tournament. As mentioned earlier in the list, the Cowboys were without Daton Fix, Kaid Brock, and Kaden Gfeller, and Iowa State was charging in with more talent than they’ve had in years. Then in the regular season, the Cowboys stepped out in a dual against an always-tough Northern Iowa team and lost 15-19.
The Sunday morning round for OSU was unbelievable. The team championship was still in doubt and the Cowboys went unbeaten on the consolation side with Dusty Hone, Joe Smith, and Anthony Montalvo all finishing in third place. This separated the Cowboys from Iowa State and locked down a record-setting eighth straight Big 12 title.
Seth Duckworth is a Stillwater-based writer who covers Oklahoma State University wrestling for Pistols Firing Blog, the best OSU news and community site on the internet. Follow Seth on Twitter.