Oct. 22, 2012
STILLWATER—Fielding a lineup led by four All-Americans plus two other veteran starters, the Oklahoma State wrestling team is in its customary position to figure prominently into the Big 12 and national championship races.
“We’re going into a collegiate season with the top seven or eight programs from last year,” OSU head coach John Smith said. “Most everybody is back on every team, and it makes it really competitive. We helped ourselves out a little bit by getting Tyler Caldwell and I believe that we’ll fill some spots where we were weak last year.”
Despite the departure of All-American Cayle Byers, Big 12 champion Jamal Parks and NCAA qualifier Albert White from last year’s team, the Cowboys enter the 2012-13 season with six wrestlers ranked in the top 15 of their respective weight classes in the preseason Amateur Wrestling News weight class rankings.
Junior 174-pounder Chris Perry is ranked No. 1 nationally with 165-pounder Caldwell and 285-pounder Alan Gelogaev both ranked No. 2 in their respective weight classes. Jordan Oliver enters the season ranked No. 4 at 149 pounds but will factor into the NCAA title discussion no matter where he wrestles. Rounding out the list of Cowboys appearing in the preseason AWN rankings are 197-pounder Blake Rosholt (seventh), 125-pounder Jon Morrison (15th) and 141-pounder Josh Kindig (15th).
The weight classes most likely to show fluidity during the course of the season are 125 pounds and 133 pounds, with Morrison, Ladd Rupp and Tyler Dorrell all in the mix for those two starting spots. Morrison has seen the most meaningful action of the batch, but has yet to assert clear control based on his career body of work. Rupp has been in the Cowboy wrestling room for three years and is a very real candidate to become a starter for the first time in his career. It is probable that Morrison and Rupp will compete for the 133-pound spot while Dorrell sees most of the action at 125 pounds, but it is possible for Morrison and Rupp to see 125-pound action as well.
Oliver’s presence is particularly significant because he spent the first four years of his collegiate career cutting weight to get down to 133 pounds, where he was nothing short of dominant. A three-time All-American and two-time national finalist, Oliver won the 2011 NCAA title as a sophomore. Smith said Oliver’s weight-class switch is done in part with an eye toward the future.
“It’s just a natural move for him,” Smith said. “We haven’t decided if he’ll be at 141 or 149 yet, but for his progression of moving into international wrestling after this season - he sees himself at 145 there - this move would be a good transition for that.”
It should come as no surprise that Oliver developed a taste for world-level wrestling given that he spent the summer of 2012 with the U.S. Olympic team as a training partner for bronze medalist Coleman Scott and Jared Frayer.
“That experience that he got during the summer - sometimes you don’t see it right away - but as he moves on into the future, it will benefit him greatly,” Smith said.
The final weight class where there is some question as to who will start is 157 pounds, where junior Dallas Bailey and redshirt freshman Alex Dieringer will likely compete for the starting spot with senior Joe Ali also an option. While Bailey is an experienced member of the program, he hasn’t put together the kind of career résumé that would make him a lock to start over the decorated redshirt freshman Dieringer.
Things get more solidified as you move up in the weight classes and it starts at 165 pounds, where two-time All-American and 2011 NCAA runner-up Caldwell is likely to make an impact from the start. After spending his first two years competing for Oklahoma, Caldwell took an Olympic redshirt year in 2011-12 before transferring to Oklahoma State. He should be a national presence for the Cowboys at a weight class where they haven’t had an All-American since Johny Hendricks in 2007.
For the first time in his collegiate career, Perry carries the No. 1 ranking nationally in his weight class. The Stillwater native placed third at NCAAs in 2012 and is a two-time Big 12 champion. The two wrestlers who finished ahead of him last season are both out of the mix this year, with NCAA champ Ed Ruth of Penn State moving out of the weight class and Nick Amuchastegui of Stanford out of eligibility.
OSU is likely to start a newcomer at 184 pounds in Chris Chionuma, who was impressive in the wrestling room and in open tournaments while redshirting last season. Chionuma wrestled the first three years of his career at Lindenwood University, where he was a three-time NAIA All-American, two-time NAIA finalist and 2011 NAIA champion at 174 pounds. Other options at 184 pounds include Zach White and Colton Hill.
After wrestling at a high level last year, Rosholt will start at 197 pounds for the Cowboys. Rosholt was part of an embarrassment-of-riches scenario a year ago, as both he and Byers wrestled at an All-America level throughout the course of the season but only one could compete in the postseason and the nod went to the senior Byers. Rosholt now holds commanding control of the weight class and is positioned for a big year after taking his lumps as a fill-in heavyweight his freshman year and sitting out of the postseason as a sophomore.
One of the most intriguing wrestlers to watch nationally will be Cowboy heavyweight Alan Gelogaev, who established himself as an NCAA title contender by stringing together a 24-0 record with nine wins over ranked opponents before suffering a season-ending injury last year. He’s back this year with a title squarely in his sights. Should he go down, Tyson Yoder is a capable veteran backup. Austin Marsden, who stepped in for Gelogaev last season, is ticketed to redshirt this year.
“Right now, it’s all about developing the weight classes where we struggled last year,” Smith said. “It’s also really important that we keep everyone healthy. I’m excited for our veterans in the lineup. We have a really good atmosphere in the room and great team unity. There’s where great seasons start.”