The Oklahoma State wrestling team will go for a four-peat and its 14th Big 12 tournament championship at the Big 12 Conference championships on Saturday and Sunday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
The No. 2-ranked Cowboys have been hit with injuries this season and this week was no different as they received good and bad news. True freshman Joe Smith will return after missing the past two weeks at 157 pounds. But the bad news is 174-pound junior All-American Kyle Crutchmer will undergo surgery next week to repair a broken right foot he suffered Feb. 5 in the Bedlam dual against Oklahoma.
Redshirt freshman Chandler Rogers, who upset No. 2-ranked Ethan Ramos of North Carolina, will likely fill in at 174. He has posted a 3-1 record since taking over for Rogers with two wins against ranked opponents.
Year of firsts
This year's championship marks the first year the event will be held during two days and at a neutral site.
Iowa State, Oklahoma, OSU and West Virginia will be joined by six wrestling affiliate members: Air Force, North Dakota State, Northern Colorado, South Dakota State, Utah Valley and Wyoming. The six teams from the Western Wrestling Conference joined the Big 12 last summer.
The 10-team field will compete for 36 automatic qualifying bids for the NCAA Championships. No weight class will have less than three AQs. The 125-pound weight class will have six bids. There will also be more than 40 at-large bids up for grabs.
Conference universities hosted the wrestling championship on campuses from 1997-2015. Kansas City is no stranger to the conference as it hosted five football championship games. Tulsa will host the 2017 and 2018 championships at the BOK Center.
OSU remains at No. 2 in Intermat tournament rankings. The Cowboys are the top-ranked conference team entering the tournament, while No. 16 OU and NDSU and SDSU are tied at No. 24 are also ranked. Seven Cowboys are ranked, including two-time defending champion Alex Dieringer (165) and 2015 All-American Dean Heil (141), who both are consensus No. 1.
Four Cowboys are ranked in the top-10: Eddie Klimara (No. 6 at 125), Joe Smith (No. 8 at 157), Nolan Boyd (No. 9 at 184) and Austin Marsden (No. 5 at 285). Anthony Collica (149) is ranked No. 11.
Four-peat in sight
The Cowboys will go for a four-peat this weekend. They have won 13 of the last 20 Big 12 titles. Missouri was the last team to win the tournament title aside from OSU in 2012 before they left for the Southeastern Conference and Mid-American Conference. It was the only title this decade the Cowboys have not won.
OSU went 12-2 overall and 6-0 in Big 12 action during dual season. The Cowboys hold wins over OU, SDSU, Wyoming, WVU and ISU. They wrestled the Sooners twice with their last outing a 26-11 win being the closest margin of victory against conference opponents.
OU looks to be the toughest competition with five ranked wrestlers, including two in the top-10: No. 8 Ryan Millhof (125) and No. 4 Cody Brewer (133).
Back for more
There are six Cowboys that return as defending Big 12 champions: Kilmara, Collica, Dieringer, Boyd and Marsden. Dieringer will go for his fourth title, while Kilmara, Collica and Marsden seek their third. Heil and Boyd go for a second title.
Dieringer looks to become the seventh Cowboy to win four individual conference championships. The Port Washington, Wisc. native started his impressive run in 2013 with an 11-3 major decision over Matt Lester of OU then an 8-3 decision over Justin DeAngelis of OU and an 14-4 win over Mike Moreno of ISU last year. With one win this weekend, Dieringer will past Mike Sheets' consecutive win record of 74. He went 33-0 last season and is currently 25-0, including 22 bonus-point wins.
Both days of bouts will feature two sessions.
Session one will be preliminary and quarterfinal matches and session two will hold Semifinal and consolation quarterfinal matches. The first two sessions will begin at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., respectively Saturday.
Session three will have consolation semifinals along with third and fifth place matches and session four will feature championship bouts. Sessions three and four will start at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sunday.
How to watch
Where: Sprint Center, Kansas City, Missouri
Live Stats: trackwrestling.com
Live Stream: flowrestling.org ($), first three sessions
TV: FOX Sports Regional Networks, final rounds Sunday at 1 p.m. CT
Listen: 93.7 KSPI-FM or okstate.com with Rex Holt and Roger Moore on the call.