John Smith is turning the calendar to 2021 for the upcoming Oklahoma State wrestling season.
“We’re going to have a season that’s going to start in January and end in March,” Smith said during the Perry City Council meeting Monday night. “We’re going to run about eight weeks. It’s going to be short, but our goal is to try to get the NCAA Championships in. I still think that could be a challenge.”
Smith said the Big 12 conference is working to determine what a dual season schedule will look like, but he expects at least one dual every weekend.
“Likely what you’re going to see is we’ll end up probably bringing in two teams to Stillwater on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday probably end up being on a Saturday or Sunday,” Smith explained. “As of right now, we have every intention of starting in January.
I’m sure we’re going to get our five dual meets in probably here at Oklahoma State. Probably have to hit the road seven to eight times. It’s going to be a short season [with] probably 14 [duals] at the max before the Big 12 [Championships].”
According to an OSU press release from Oct. 30, capacity will be limited to 25 percent (3,402) with socially-distanced seating at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Fans older than 2 years old will also be required to wear face coverings to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“I believe we’re making the right decision to have a short season,” Smith said. “We’ve been training since August 3rd. It’s amazing what we’ve done here at Oklahoma State as far as keeping our athletes healthy. We’ve had a strong and very strict protocol of what we do. Of course it’s something that needed to be put into place and then it needed to be followed.
To avoid your team getting in trouble with COVID, it really takes student-athlete behavior to make that happen. It’s not going to be the coaches, it’s going to be the student-athletes’ behavior. Do you want to wrestle? If you want to wrestle, you’re going to do the right thing and make the right steps.”
The Cowboys will have two All-Americans returning to the lineup in 2021 after missing this past season. Redshirt sophomore Daton Fix of Sand Springs will be back at 133 pounds after taking an Olympic redshirt, but will be out until Feb. 10 serving his one-year suspension by USADA for testing positive for ostraine. Redshirt senior Kaid Brock of Stillwater will be back at 141 after recovering from ACL surgery.
Four freshmen from OSU’s No. 1 overall recruiting class could contend for starting spots: Jakason Burks and Trevor Mastrogiovanni (125), Dustin Plott (174) and AJ Ferrari (197).
OSU will look to set a school record with its ninth straight conference title at the Big 12 Championships March 6-7 at the BOK Center in Tulsa. Last March, the Cowboys tied the longest stretch of consecutive conference tournament titles that was set from 1921-28.
While the Cowboys have stood atop the podium at the Big 12 Championships, they haven’t won an NCAA team title since in 2006 in Oklahoma City. OSU, which has won an NCAA record 34 national titles, has finished runner-up to Penn State twice since then by four points in 2013 and 25.5 points in 2016.
The Nittany Lions have won eight NCAA titles since 2011, including four straight. OSU and the rest of the country will look to knock Penn State off the top of the podium March 18-20 at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis.
“We just want to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to give our student-athletes the opportunity to wrestle in the NCAA Championships,” Smith said. “There was nothing worse that not wrestling at the NCAA Championships last year. For our wrestlers, this is something they dream about. It’s something that you grow up thinking about is being able to wrestle in the NCAA Championships.
“The coaches across the country are really committed to doing what we have to do to make sure that we get our student-athletes to the NCAA Championships.”