The Cowboy rides away
Kaid Brock entered Gallagher-Iba Arena on Senior Night to a zealous applause with tears trickling down his face.
For the better part of seven years, he stood at the center of the mat with a referee who held his arm high above Brock's head in victory.
This time, he slowly hobbled his way over to the center on crutches to meet coach John Smith for a hug.
The last goodbye is the hardest one to say.
Moments earlier, Brock appeared on the jumbotron to deliver a sendoff message to a Stillwater crowd that has been watching him wrestle since he was in high school.
“Wrestling here has been a wild, tough ride for me, but we create Cowboys,” Brock said. “You get knocked off, you get back on. That’s just how it is here at OSU.”
Brock has been knocked off three times during his college wrestling career. He suffered season-ending knee injuries as a true freshman and in back-to-back years as a redshirt senior.
Four days after Senior Night, Brock confirmed what every fan in attendance expected to hear. His wrestling career is over.
“A Cowboy always climbs back on for the next ride. However, this time it’s time to hang up my hat and my spurs,” Brock said on Instagram. “My body is telling me it’s time.”
When his career was lost, his teammates and coaches were devastated. Smith took it especially hard.
“I had a really tough time seeing Kaid get hurt again,” Smith said. “My gut was just turning.”
Wrestling was Brock’s life. He won three consecutive state titles at Stillwater High School. He pinned Oklahoma’s defending national champion Cody Brewer as a true freshman. He is a two-time All-American with a 104-19 overall record.
Smith was concerned about Brock's transition away from a sport that had been a huge part of his life, but Brock helped him cope.
“It was fun to be around him, fun to watch him train, fun to watch him chase his dream and it’s just gut wrenching,” Smith said. “He said he’s gonna be OK with this. It’s not going to be a hangover for many years to come, and it’s good for him to move forward. It’s the message we all needed to hear.”
Next, Smith needed to find Brock’s replacement in the lineup.
Nuthin’ but a g thang
All but one OSU starter has received preferred seeding for the Big 12 championship tournament this weekend.
The sole weight class that hasn’t, of course, is 141 — Brock’s weight.
Dusty Hone was the obvious replacement.
After Brock’s second season-ending injury, Hone filled in and performed well as he placed third in last year’s Big 12 tournament.
But Hone was lost to an apparent season-ending knee injury, as well during this year’s Cowboy Challenge Tournament.
The options at 141 were slim and dire, but Smith was forward thinking. He knew the depth at 141 was nonexistent when Brock was lost, and he needed a backup should anything happen to Hone.
So at the end of January, Smith had Kaden Gfeller drop weight.
The redshirt junior spent the season wrestling in extra matches at 157 pounds. Gfeller has a good history at 141 though, as he placed second at the 2020 Southern Scuffle at the weight.
Now, at the perfect time, Gfeller is ready to wrestle at 141 again.
“He’s done a nice job over the last three weeks managing his weight and getting it down,” Smith said. “If he has his mojo with him, he could be really dangerous. We know that because we’ve seen him wrestle.”
Gfeller’s first round match will be against Clay Carlson — the No. 3 seed.
Smith said he doesn’t know what to expect, but if Gfeller finishes in the top four, he’ll be an automatic qualifier for nationals.