The biggest obstacle facing Oklahoma State wrestling’s quest to a national title may be the schedule.
It’s not going to be a difficult schedule. And that’s the problem.
Coach John Smith has often said his wrestlers need to have major competition to challenge and prepare them. That won't be the case this season. The schedule won't even start until sometime in January, with an opening match still to be determined.
“It appears that we’re going to get to wrestle one day a week and with that, we have an opportunity to wrestle multiple dual meets in a day,” Smith said “It’s a short schedule.”
OSU has a stranglehold on the Big 12 Conference, winning six straight and eight of the last nine tournament titles competed. Smith said in recent years the Cowboys haven’t been able to rely on conference foes to provide the competition they need to sharpen them for the NCAA Tournament.
That's traditionally put an emphasis on several nonconference matchups, along with regular-season tournaments, to truly test them. But due to the impact of COVID-19, several traditional duals won't take place this season, and the Cowboys likely won't compete in any tournaments.
“The challenges of wrestling someone outside of your conference is they've got to have the strict policies of the Big 12," Smith said. "They need to be tested three days (for COVID-19) a week in a seven-day period.
“You may not see an Iowa match this year. I think the Minnesota match is gone already.”
Also, Smith could use more wrestlers, including freshmen, in duals this season, further reducing the number of matches for any given man.
Where there would usually be plenty of matches for him to experiment, doing so in the shortened season would further limit appearances.
“(The starters) have wrestled anywhere from 30 to 50 matches every year and all of a sudden, we’re hoping to get 14 or 15 matches before the Big 12 Tournament,” Smith said. “That could be a struggle for some of them.”
Despite the challenges senior Kaid Brock said the goal is the same.
“We’re trying to win,” Brock said. “That’s the goal every year. I think we have a solid team and we have a good chance to showcase everything our team has to offer.”