John Smith has built a wrestling dynasty at Oklahoma State, to say the least.
At any weight there is a competition brewing and no starter has a guaranteed spot when they step on the mat at Gallagher-Iba Arena. But, no battle is tougher this season than the one at 133 pounds.
Redshirt freshman Dean Heil was expected to begin the season starting at the weight, but since then has moved up a weight to 141 pounds. Heil had a weak showing in the preseason ranking matches, losing in both of his opportunities.
After Heil's lackluster performance, Brian Crutchmer was awarded the job, and Smith plans to keep it that way.
"Brian Crutchmer is probably the guy right now, and could be the rest of the season," Smith said.
Crutchmer has not been impressive as the lead man. The sophomore was the only wrestler to lose both his matches in Oklahoma State's opening duals at Miami, Ok. Crutchmer dropped his first match to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M's Josh Ailey, 17-3, in a major-decision. In the following dual, South Dakota State's Brance Simms defeated Crutchmer 6-1.
Crutchmer received is first opportunity of the season in tournament action last weekend at the Joe Parisi Open in St. Charles, Mo., where he placed sixth in the gold open division. Kyle Garcia also represented the Cowboys at 133, but did not place.
"It looks like both teams are little shaky at 133," Smith said of Saturday's dual at Minnesota.
Smith may keep overlooking his most stable option.
Freshman Gary Wayne Harding has proven to be the best wrestler at 133 pounds for the Cowboys, since going undefeated in ranking matches. Harding handled Crutchmer, 10-4, and also pinned Heil in 1:38.
If a strong showing against his teammates wasn't enough, Harding has yet to lose in his very young career and has claimed three open tournament titles. His most recent title was at the Joe Parisi Open in the freshman/sophomore division to improve his record to 10-0.
Harding already had an impressive resume coming into Oklahoma State after claiming four Oklahoma Class 5A state titles at Collinsville High School. He compiled a 166-14 career record while wresting under his father, West Harding.
Before the season began, Smith said he planned on redshirting Harding and the twelve other freshmen on the roster. But, if Harding continues to dominate like he has it will be hard for Smith to keep the diaper dandy off the mat.
"We'll take a couple of guys up there (to Minnesota) and make a decision when we get up there," Smith said.
Minnesota is also struggling at the weight, tallying 1-3 dual record at the spot. Jordan Kingsley was responsible for the three deficits, but Chris Dardanes started the Gophers' last dual and came out victorious. Dardanes is currently ranked second in the country, but usually wrestles at 141.
Whoever Smith sends out there Saturday will have trouble with Dardanes, but a tough showing by Harding could be just what the Cowboys need to complete their roster.
"Somebody's going to prevail and maybe set the tone for the rest of their season," Smith said.