The NCAA Wrestling Championships begin at 11 a.m. Thursday at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.
Oklahoma State went undefeated during the regular season and is looking for its first NCAA title since 2006. The Cowboys, who hold the NCAA record with 34 team titles, finished second to Penn State in 2013 and 2016. The Nittany Lions have won seven of the last eight team titles.
Here are three things to watch for the Cowboys on Day 1:
The first day of the tournament is when the Cowboys can rack up the most bonus-point victories. OSU’s top four seeded wrestlers in No. 1 seeds Daton Fix at 133 and Derek White at heavyweight, No. 2 Nick Piccinni at 125 and No. 3 Preston Weigel at 197 need to deliver bonus-point wins early for the Cowboys to have a shot at a NCAA team title.
Can Joe Smith knock off No. 1 Alex Marinelli of Iowa?
Joe Smith didn’t wrestle at 165 pounds until the Big 12 Championship, where he took fifth place to receive an automatic qualifying spot. The two-time All-American at 157 was given the last spot in the bracket at 165 for this weekend and will wrestle a pigtail match for the right to face Marinelli. It’ll be a quick turnaround from the pigtail match to facing Marinelli in the first round, so it’ll be interesting to see how Smith fares on a hard weight cut. A win for Smith would be huge for his confidence and the team race.
Can Kaid Brock upset No. 2 Joey McKenna of Ohio State?
Much like Smith, Kaid Brock is up a weight class at 141 after being a two-time All-American at 133. If Brock wins his opener against Buffalo’s Bryan Lantry, he’ll meet Joey McKenna. The Buckeye has two third-place finishes at nationals at 141, and is the No. 2 seed. A win for Brock would loom large in the team race as Ohio State and Oklahoma State figure to be PSU’s biggest competition.
Oklahoma State seeding at NCAA Championships
125: Nick Piccininni (30-0) — No. 2
133: Daton Fix (30-1) — No. 1
141: Kaid Brock (19-7) — No. 15
149: Kaden Gfeller (28-4) — No. 7
165: Joe Smith (18-6) — No. 33
174: Jacobe Smith (27-3) — No. 7
184: Dakota Geer (25-5) — No. 26
197: Preston Weigel (11-0) — No. 3
HWT: Derek White (28-1) — No. 1
How to watch
First round, 11 a.m. on ESPNU
Second round, 6 p.m. on ESPN
Quarterfinals, 10 a.m. on ESPNU
Semifinals, 7 p.m. on ESPN
Medal round, 10 a.m. on ESPNU
Finals, 6 p.m. on ESPN