Calhoun: A look at Iowa State’s competition for Big 12s

Jake Calhoun

With eight wins in its last 10 dual meets, the ISU wrestling team is feeling confident heading into next weekend’s Big 12 Championships.

This season, the Big 12s will take on a two-pronged format — the new Big 12 dual championships will be held March 8, with the regular conference tournament taking place the next day.

As usual, the Big 12 tournament will determine which wrestlers will secure bids for the NCAA Championships in Des Moines. The automatic qualifying bids have yet to be released by the NCAA, though.

But without further ado, here’s a look at how the other three teams in the conference have fared going into Big 12s.

Oklahoma State (17-1, 3-0 Big 12)

The Cowboys are the obvious favorite to win the Big 12 title a year removed from getting ousted by Missouri, which now competes as an affiliate member of the Mid-American Conference after the school moved to the Southeastern Conference.

Until its loss to Minnesota in the championship match of the national duals last weekend, Oklahoma State had won 17-straight duals by an average margin of 19.8 points per victory. Its closest victory had been a five-point squeaker against Cornell on Dec. 16, 2012, at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

In all honesty, unless half of its lineup is miraculously stricken by injury, Oklahoma State will win the 2012-13 Big 12 title.

The addition of No. 3 Tyler Caldwell, who transferred from Oklahoma following an Olympic redshirt year, at 165 pounds only adds another favorite to win an individual Big 12 title for the Cowboys. As the Sooners’ 165-pounder, Caldwell placed fifth as a freshman in 2010 and second as a sophomore in 2011.

Other favorites for the Cowboys to win Big 12 titles include No. 6 Jon Morrison (133 pounds), No. 1 Jordan Oliver (149), No. 8 Alex Dieringer (157), No. 2 Chris Perry (174) and No. 2 Alan Gelogaev (Hwt).

Oklahoma (6-9, 2-1 Big 12)

The Sooners are having a down year in terms of dual meets, having lost five straight duals since Jan. 25.

Losing Caldwell to in-state rival Oklahoma State was a big blow to the Sooners, but Bubby Graham has stepped up to earn the No. 5 ranking in the nation at 165 pounds. Graham, who is 20-3 this season with bonus points in eight of his wins, will certainly make things interesting at this year’s Big 12s.

The Sooners’ star wrestler is none other than Kendric Maple, the nation’s top-ranked wrestler at 141 pounds. Maple, who is 23-0 this season, settled for a fourth-place finish at nationals last season after getting beat in overtime in the semifinals and beat in two overtimes in the third-place match.

Iowa State’s Luke Goettl is 1-4 against Maple, and even though he did pull off an upset in sudden victory last season, it is unlikely that there will be a repeat performance at the Big 12s.

West Virginia (2-10, 0-3 Big 12)

The newest addition to the Big 12 has been the lackluster addition for wrestling tradition.

The Mountaineers have produced 29 All-Americans in their history. That’s abysmal compared to Oklahoma State (428 All-Americans), Iowa State (281) and Oklahoma (258).

West Virginia only has one ranked wrestler — No. 14 Nathan Pennesi at 141 pounds — so its expectations are not too high.

However, in a conference with only four teams, there’s always the possibility that a couple WVU wrestlers will steal automatic qualifying bids for NCAAs. With that said, don’t write that off, because you never know what could happen.

Jake Calhoun is a senior in journalism from Urbandale, Iowa.