March 14, 2011

STILLWATER, Okla. - Oklahoma State wrestling coach John Smith and team standouts Jordan Oliver and Clayton Foster previewed this week's NCAA Championships. The highlights:*

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John Smith

On his team going into NCAAs

?This is a team that has overachieved all year, especially since the National Duals. For us to have a great tournament, we have to overachieve again. We have to have our best performance of the year to put ourselves in position to win a championship. When you look at where most of our guys are seeded, it?s in that lower range of six-to-15. That?s not a lot of team points. We?re going to have to overachieve and I very much think that we can do that.?


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* On what he thinks about where his wrestlers are seeded

?Some of them you like, some of them you don?t. In the end, you?re going to have to face somebody that?s pretty good. Whether it?s in your first match or whenever, it doesn?t really matter a lot from the standpoint of being a team that needs to overachieve. We put ourselves in that position, but I believe that we?re getting ready to have our best tournament of the year.?

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On who he thinks will be Oklahoma State?s top competition at NCAAs

?Cornell, Penn State and Iowa, those three in particular. Boise State if they are healthy. I wouldn?t exclude Minnesota or Oklahoma. I think we?re going to see a championship tournament that could come down to five or six All-Americans. Where those All-Americans finish is going to determine the championship. You have got to have some guys on the podium up high because that?s what scores points. On the podium down low doesn?t score very many points.?

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On senior captains Neil Erisman and Clayton Foster

?Both of them have really wrestled beyond my expectations. Neil being injured most of the year, we were concerned if he was ever going to make it back. It was nip-and-tuck there for a while. He drew one of the best young wrestlers in the country in the first round, but Neil?s a tough guy. This kid had to take a look at the bracket and say ?my goodness, I drew Neil Erisman in the first round.? Neil?s a good kid and it will be an uphill battle, but if anyone can win, it?s him.

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?Clayton Foster got the No. 2 seed and it?s well-earned by his performance. I believe he started off No. 9 in the country but has moved up to No. 2. Obviously that is overachieving and he has had performances that made people take notice. For Clayton here at the end, he just needs to lead his team the way he?s been doing all year long and that?s on the mat wrestling hard. He?s got a great gas tank and he can wrestle forever. It?s going to be an exciting time watching him perform.?

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On the importance of Blake Rosholt and Jon Morrison getting at-large bids into the NCAA field

?From the standpoint of getting them experience ? both of them are young ? you love to take them to the NCAA Championships, but if that?s all they?re looking at, that?s all they?re going to get. Both of them are going to have to wrestle above their heads to help the team. If you don?t win a match, you don?t help. Give yourself a shot and get yourself ready to wrestle. Be excited and for our young guys, that?s what it?s about. It?s about getting excited and respecting the fact that you?re as good as anyone in the country. They need to make sure that when they step on the mat, they?re ready to show it.?

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On Jordan Oliver?s development since coming to Oklahoma State

?He?s much more aggressive on his feet. He?s in attack-mode right now. Through his training and through his efforts, when the whistle blows, he?s moving forward and looking to score. There?s not a lot of fear of making a mistake. Not a lot of fear of if he forces something. He creates the action and he goes after points. That?s the true development. He?s been very good on top since we got him. I think he?s gotten better on bottom since he?s been here. From that standpoint, his strength and where he?s really developed is in the mentality of attacking his opponent. It?s pretty impressive after his second year, but he?s going to have to keep that mentality during the NCAA Championships. It?s going to be a tough tournament.?

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On who he would compare Jordan Oliver to at this point of his career

?You don?t like to compare anyone until after the tournament because we judge everything on this tournament. To be undefeated and not win, it?s not satisfying. That said, he?s got a lot of the tendencies of Pat Smith. When I look back at Pat at that age, there was a lot of aggression and not a lot of fear. He wasn?t worried about what his age was and he wasn?t worried about his opponents. He was just worried about performing and pleasing the crowd. Jordan likes to hear the crowd and Pat did, too. It?s because they like to step out and perform. They look at themselves as ?I?m here to get the crowd excited? and that?s putting points on the board and picking up bonus points.?

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On if Jordan Oliver?s discipline with his weight is a significant difference from last year

?Yes, and that?s maturity. He had a year where he had a chance to experience the downfalls and the disappointments and the struggles. Now, he had a great year last year for a freshman by finishing fourth in the toughest weight in the country. You get a little bit wiser. If you have a great passion to be the best, then you correct some of those mistakes. Experience means a lot at this tournament. He?s had a little taste of it. We changed some things and that?s why he?s in position to be considered as one of the best wrestlers at the tournament. He?s got to prove that. That?s the good thing about wrestling. Nobody else can help you out there. You have got to prove it and that?s what makes our sport great.?

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Jordan Oliver

On his preparation for the NCAA Championships

?I plan on sticking to my same routine and sticking to my style, which is to go out and create action and make guys wrestle. I?m feeling pretty good and confident going into NCAAs.?

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On how he got his start in wrestling

?It all started when I was younger. My older brother wrestled before I did so it was a monkey-see-monkey-do kind of thing. I always looked up to my brother and once I saw him wrestling, it was always something that I wanted to follow. I went in and tried out for wrestling and ever since then, it just took off.?

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On if he competed in any other sports growing up

?It was just wrestling and football. I really liked football, but as time went on, I was getting too small to compete at the higher level, so I just focused on wrestling and ended up quitting football in ninth grade.?

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On wrestling only an hour away from his hometown at the NCAA Championships

?It?s definitely going to be comfortable for me going home to wrestle for a national title. It?s where I grew up and it?s where a lot of my fans and supporters are. Just to be able to go home and wrestle for a national title in front of them is awesome and I?m very excited about it. It?s not just about an individual title though, because we?re also chasing the team title. To be able to do that in front of my hometown crowd is going to be awesome.?

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On the biggest thrill of his wrestling career to date

?I would say NCAAs last year, even though it didn?t turn out the way I wanted it and I ended up taking fourth place, it was just an honor to be there and it was awesome competing against all the top guys in the country and looking at my bracket just knowing that I had a tough match every round. Every round it got better and that excited me because I like wrestling the best kids and I believe that if you?re going to be the best, you have to beat the best.?

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On if his career success against this year?s NCAA field will be a factor

?I think it fires them up. If you wrestle a guy two or three times and you have beaten him, he?s not going to come back the next time wanting to lose again. He?s going to come out fired up. I have to take it one match at a time. I?ve wrestled a lot of these guys before and I just have to do what I do best and that?s go out and wrestle.?

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Clayton Foster

On if he?s ready for the NCAA Championships

?I?m definitely ready for it and can?t wait to get there.?

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On if being seeded No. 2 in his weight class bothers him ?It doesn?t bother me. Not this year. It doesn?t bother me at all.?

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On what he enjoys most about wrestling

?Just the every day, being with this group of guys and hanging out. Dual meets are probably the most fun thing.?

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On how the team has evolved since his freshman year

?It?s crazy how much we?ve changed from when I was a freshman until now. It?s hard to explain, but there are tougher guys on the team now than there were in my freshman year. There are more guys that are willing to work hard and put the complaining behind them.?

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On how he got started in wrestling

?My dad was a coach, so I grew up with it.?

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On if he played any other sports besides wrestling growing up

?I played football and baseball in high school, but probably my only opportunity to go anywhere was in wrestling. I was from a small school in a small town and nobody looked for football or baseball players there. I guess I could have gone to a smaller school that wasn?t Division I.?

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On why he chose to come to Oklahoma State

?The wrestling. Coach Smith.?

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On how he has grown since coming to Oklahoma State

?It?s night and day compared to when I was a freshman. I?m a lot tougher. I have more technique and I?m more disciplined in my wrestling.?

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On what he considers his best attribute on the mat

?My conditioning and never-give-up attitude.?

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