Daton Fix was destined to dominate.
It’s nearly a foregone conclusion that when he somersaults onto the mat, he will soon be proclaimed winner. Fix carries a 43-2 career record, including a 9-0 mark this season, into this weekend's NCAA Championships, where he is the favorite at 133 pounds.
Cowboys coach John Smith has been around Fix for a long time, having coached his father, Derek Fix, in his first year as Oklahoma State’s coach. Then 25 years later, Smith watched closely as Daton went 168-0 with four Oklahoma state championships in high school.
“I knew he was a good wrestler,” Smith said. “Once I got to know him personally, there’s things I saw that (only) a few wrestlers in the world have.”
At OSU, Fix has dropped a mere two bouts while on his way to two Big 12 titles. Competing -- and winning -- is Fix’s life, but the chance to do either was nearly taken away forever.
Last year, he tested positive for ostarine, a prohibited substance. The United States Anti-Doping Agency suspended him from competition.
The suspension could’ve lasted up to four years, thus ending his career.
But Fix pleaded his case, saying he was unaware of taking ostarine during a polygraph test. The USADA ultimately agreed and shortened his suspension to one year.
Fix was saddened to be punished for bad luck, but he also saw an opportunity to become a better wrestler.
“I wrestled with a bunch of different people over that year I was out. I feel like I developed some skills I didn’t have before,” Fix said. “I never stopped training even though I was on a suspension and COVID was going on. Training and competing aren’t the same, but I still stayed sharp.”
Before the suspension, Fix wanted to score as many points as possible, but he spent the year learning how to earn falls.
“I never really tried to pin people,” Fix said. “It’s something that I decided I wanted to work towards more.”
He pinned three opponents at the Cowboy Challenge Tournament, his first competition since the suspension.
He followed that performance the next week by pinning Oklahoma’s Tony Madrigal.
That’s four pins in five matches. He previously had only two through 36.
“I feel like I’m wrestling the best I’ve ever wrestled in my career right now,” Fix said. “I have a different love for the sport after I’ve been off for so long. You forget how much it means to be able to go out there and compete. When you have that taken away from you, it’s something you don’t want to lose again. It has helped me jump levels in my wrestling.”
Fix has been on a tear after regaining eligibility. He has earned major victories in all but one match this season.
That one match was in the Big 12 finals. A major would’ve given the conference championship to OSU over OU. The two schools share the title instead.
Fix was not happy after winning his second individual title. He blamed himself for failing to secure the outright team victory.
Smith said that’s what separates Fix as a special wrestler.
“He held himself responsible for a 6-1 victory at Big 12. I didn’t need to say anything to him,” Smith said. “When you have guys like that, they are quite often your guys that will compete for a championship.”
Fix is the clear favorite to win a national title.
He is the No. 1 133-pounder in the country and he maintained that ranking even while he was serving his suspension. The selection committee knew he was still the best.
Now, Fix will try to prove them right. More importantly, he has to prove himself right for believing in himself while he was gone from the sport he loves.
“I’ve always looked at myself as someone who could compete for national titles, even when I was a senior in high school or as a redshirt freshman,” Fix said. “I expect the most out of myself.”