The scenes of a wrestling tournament can be chaotic.
Wrestling mats upon mats are laid out expansively throughout a large arena or even a wide-open convention center. Hundreds, maybe thousands of wrestlers compete at different time slots on an ever-changing schedule. The soundtrack of the day is usually constant whistles and mumbling over a PA speaker.
But not in 2021.
Not during the coronavirus.
In early November, Cowboy wrestling coach John Smith announced the wrestling regulations for this condensed season. No more Southern Scuffle in Chattanooga. The UCO Open in Edmond was also scratched. Even the highly-competitive Reno Tournament of Champions never occurred.
“I need anyone wrestling as many matches as possible,” Smith said. Any non-starter would typically wrestle 20-25 matches. This year, I hope they can get 10-14 matches.”
However, the atmosphere in Gallagher-Iba Arena on Sunday was reminiscent of a low-scale tournament. Two mats were displayed horizontally. OSU debuted a brand-new mat featuring a large wrestling Pistol Pete in the middle surrounded by orange in the circle. Orange and white Chevron stripes ran diagonally from Pistol Pete’s shoulders.
OSU’s counterparts — Oregon State, Chattanooga and Arkansas-Little Rock — all wrestled competitive matches on the classic orange OSU mat.
“I liked how Sunday was an experience for the Big 12s and NCAA tournament,” freshman 125-pounder Trevor Mastrogiovanni said. “We’ll be sitting in the arenas from early morning to late night. You have to be patient.”
At one point, OSU’s Jalin Harper and Chattanooga’s Grant Lundy were so eager to wrestle an exhibition match that the pair had to exit and wait for the mats to be cleaned. Instead of blowing off snow with leaf blowers on the 30-yard line of Boone Pickens Stadium, event workers were spraying disinfectant onto the mats with machines that resembled leaf blowers.
“I was pleased with the number of matches some of our backups wrestled but not pleased with our efforts,” Smith said. “I thought we wrestled really poorly with some of our backups. That is a focus this week in practice.”
While Oregon State, Little Rock and Chattanooga brought many backups along for extra reps, Smith hopes to do the same on Sunday.
“I could end up with 25 guys in Little Rock,” Smith said. “I have 21 ready right now. It just depends on effort, weight and responsibility.”