The wrestling mat gets elevated for special occasions only.
Sunday will be one of those occasions when No. 3 Iowa comes to Stillwater to face the No. 2 Oklahoma State wrestling team.
The elevated mat has always symbolized big matches, most notably the final day of the NCAA championships. Daton Fix, who hopes to find himself wrestling on the final day of the NCAA championships, said he has wrestled on elevated mats a few times and thinks it heightens the intensity.
“I’ve always loved wrestling on raised platforms,” Fix said.
Fix has a top 5 matchup at 133 pounds on Sunday. He will wrestle against No. 3 Austin DeSanto, who is 16-1. DeSanto was suspended for Iowa’s dual against Maryland on Feb. 8 after being penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct against Nebraska on Feb. 3.
He was penalized for picking up his opponent, and before executing the match-clinching takedown, walking toward the Iowa bench and giving a thumbs up. After the takedown, he then did a shushing motion toward the Nebraska bench. It was the third time this season DeSanto had been penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.
OSU coach John Smith doesn’t see DeSanto’s antics being a factor in the match.
“You can’t really focus on that,” Smith said. “Daton Fix goes out there and wrestles. Nothing’s gonna affect him in anyway. Maybe a little of it’s been exaggerated, maybe it hasn’t, I don’t know. Seems to be something that’s distracting for everyone but the student athlete… I don’t really see it being important.”
Fix echoed Smith’s thoughts, saying he doesn’t think DeSanto’s wrestling style will affect him.
“I’m pretty good at staying pretty composed when I’m on the mat,” Fix said. “I’m just gonna go out there and wrestle like I always do, let my wrestling do the talking.”
Fix said rather than be a distraction, he sees DeSanto’s antics as motivation to win.
“It definitely motivates me,” Fix said. “Big matches always motivate me. I’ve always been the type of guy that loves wrestling those big matches and those big moments. This is just another one of those opportunities.”
Smith said he expects eight of the 10 wrestlers in the lineup on Sunday to be from Oklahoma.
“That’s rare,” Smith said. “Possibly three kids from Stillwater that wrestled for Stillwater high. That’s rare. Not only are you sporting Oklahoma State and this wrestling program, but Oklahoma kids.”
The last time OSU had a marquee matchup in Gallagher-Iba Arena was against Penn State on Feb. 19, 2017.
A familiar face was in the stands that day, cheering on the Cowboys.
“I was a fan last time we packed the house against Penn State, so I was just sitting there watching,” Fix said. “Just kinda sitting back going, ‘Wow I could wrestle in front of this many people some day in Gallagher.’ Sunday I’m going to get that opportunity, so it’s definitely a dream come true.”