Persuasion from old friends changed Trevor Mastrogiovanni’s life.
Mastrogiovanni was nearing a verbal commitment to an Ivy League school when Oklahoma State freshmen Dustin Plott and Konner Doucet encouraged their former middle school teammate to visit OSU.
Conflict, however, plagued Mastrogiovanni’s mind.
A New Jersey native, Mastrogiovanni wasn’t fond of departing the lush, forested landscape of northwestern Jersey for the flat great plains of north central Oklahoma. Yet, he eventually succumbed to peer pressure and joined his former teammates on the visit. And then he joined them as Cowboys.
Before two Oklahomans and a New Jerseyan joined forces in Stillwater, the relationship traced back to the Mastrogiovanni household in Sparta, N.J.
“Doucet, Plott, AJ Ferrari and I have been hanging out since sixth grade,” Mastrogiovanni said. “All of us want to go win individual and national titles under coach Smith.”
Summers back home were full of activity for the aspiring collegiate wrestlers.
“Plott and Doucet practically lived at my house in the summer,” Mastrogiovanni said. “All of us were home-schooled so they stayed at my house often.
“Plott and Doucet are like family to me.”
Before AJ Ferrari moved from New Jersey to Allen, Texas and became the No. 1 overall national recruit according to FloWrestling, and before Ferrari and Mastrogiovanni were teammates at Blair Academy, a middle-school aged Mastrogiovanni was wrestling with Ferrari in duals across the country.
But how did Plott and Doucet, two Oklahomans, become involved with the wrestling activities of a New Jersey based team?
“In middle school, there are a lot of national dual teams that meet up in different cities and wrestle,” Plott said. “We were together on the Buxton Red Beards which was the best team at the time. We spent weekends together at different places, so naturally, we became close.”
Cowboy coach John Smith didn’t coincidentally sign a group of friends within the 2020 class, it was a calculated move.
Smith, a wrestling legend in his own right, was able to easily notice a special bond between the highly touted freshmen.
“You find that some student-athletes have a real level of drive to be successful and it rubs off on you,” Smith said. “These guys bonded because they are all similar.”
In retrospect, visiting OSU was an opportunity Mastrogiovanni felt like he had to accept.
“Not only did I see that these guys are willing to sacrifice everything for wrestling and education, but I had to follow them,” Mastrogiovanni said. “If I want to be the best, I have to follow.”
As for Plott and Doucet, Mastrogiovanni owes a bit of gratitude towards them.
“If it wasn’t for those guys, I wouldn’t have met coach Smith, coach Perry, Tyler Caldwell and now I love those guys,” Mastrogiovanni said. “None of this would’ve happened if those guys didn’t call me and say, ‘Get your butt over here.’”
Despite earning high school All-American honors three times, Mastrogiovanni’s arrival in a college wrestling room was accompanied by a feeling of shock. Mastrogiovanni credits 2019 NCAA runner-up and Olympic hopeful Daton Fix for making him a more mature wrestler.
“I’ve always wrestled with technique, but I have to be tough,” he said. “Fix beats me up for two hours during practice if I just sit there and be a wimp. I have to fight and battle through things.”
Assistant coach Zach Esposito, a Blair Academy product, has also contributed to the freshman’s growth.
“When I mess up in practice, I call him (Esposito) and talk it out rather than just going home and being pissed about it,” Mastrogiovanni said. “ He’s able to recommend film to watch. I was never a big film guy. I just wrestled my way for 15 years so why not do it at OSU? He’s showed me that I need to watch film when I’m wrestling the best of the best.”
While Mastrogiovanni faced a dilemma with OSU, Plott, a Tuttle native, had an easy choice to make.
“Growing up in Oklahoma, I really love Oklahoma,” Plott said. “There’s no place I’d rather be. I was given the opportunity to wrestle at a program that is historically the most successful out of all other D-1 sport in my home state. It would’ve been stupid not to come here.”
With many championship teams in the past, the Cowboy wrestling program is one of the more successful in the country. After all, the program has produced a nation-leading 34 NCAA team titles.
This is mixed in with an unordinary freshmen class. What may be considered blasphemous goals and expectations elsewhere is the norm in Stillwater. Nine consecutive Big 12 titles have been claimed by the Cowboys, but a team national title is a void hoping to be filled.
“Most of us in this freshmen class have the same goal of becoming four-time national champions,” Plott said.
Mastrogiovanni and Co. have chased their wrestling dreams all their lives and converging upon one of the meccas of college wrestling is just the beginning.
Although Smith brought in a coveted 2020 freshmen class, the next generation of legendary Cowboys is just beginning.
“This freshmen class is legit. It’s loaded all around,” redshirt sophomore and 2020 Big 12 champion Travis Wittlake said. “They will be ready quick. Things are looking good for that class. We have a really solid next couple years coming up.”
In fact, Mastrogiovanni will be joined by his younger brother Travis next year in a highly touted 2021 class. In a sport where community creates a tight-knit relationship, Smith has already continued the Ferrari legacy with the verbal commitment of Anthony Ferrari a junior at Stillwater High School. Jordan Williams, a junior at nearby Collinsville High has also vowed to become a Cowboy upon graduation in 2020.