Could this be the year of the heavyweight in Stillwater?
Quite possibly. Junior Jared Rosholt enters the 2008-09 season as the top-ranked heavyweight in America, a distinction he earned by compiling a 33-5 overall record last season that was highlighted by his first Big 12 heavyweight championship and a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Championships. The 2008 Cowboy All-American is the highest finisher returning in his weight class from last year?s NCAA Championships.
Rosholt?s top competition for the title of 2009 NCAA heavyweight champion would appear to be Iowa State?s David Zabriskie, who enters the season ranked No. 2 in the weight class. Rosholt beat Zabriskie, 9-5 in the 2008 Big 12 title bout, then followed that up by claiming a 6-1 win over the Cyclone standout to advance to the third-place match at NCAAs.
He was 4-1 last year against wrestlers who comprise the top five in this year?s preseason heavyweight rankings.
?Jared really grew from his freshman year to his sophomore year, and if he improves the same way this year, he will be the best in the country,? Coach John Smith said. ?He came here weighing 215 pounds and wrestling heavyweights who were much, much bigger than him. Now he looks like a good heavyweight. He has really grown and is strong with good flexibility. Jared needs to make another jump in confidence and he can be the best heavyweight in the country.?
Though Rosholt is the highest-ranked Cowboy entering the 2008-09 season, he is far from the only one who can succeed on the national level, as 125-pound transfer Obenson Blanc and 165/174-pounder Brandon Mason are both returning All-America honorees as well. Blanc earned the distinction while wrestling for Lock Haven University in 2007 and Mason claiming that title with OSU the same year.
Blanc placed sixth in the125-pound bracket at the 2007 NCAA Championships, then sat out the 2007-08 season while training with hopes of earning a berth onto the Olympic team in 2008. Though he did not make the Olympic squad, Blanc is still a threat to do damage at the NCAA level in this, his final season at the collegiate level. Blanc brings with him an 88-32 career record that includes a 34-8 mark his junior year, a 26-10 mark his sophomore year and a 28-14 mark as a freshman at Lock Haven.
As a 2007 All-American, Mason is a proven commodity for Oklahoma State, but he has all the motivation he needs to take the next step in his career, as he remains in search of his first Big 12 championship. A bonus-point specialist, Mason enters 2008-09 with an 80-33 career record. He set career highs last year with three wins by fall, eight by major decision and six by technical fall. The plan is for Mason to make the move to 165 pounds this year. He wrestled at 165 as a redshirt in 2004-05 before competing at 174 his first three years of varsity competition.
Though he does not have All-America honors on his resume like some of his teammates, sophomore 197-pounder Clayton Foster figures to be a mainstay for the Cowboys in 2008-09. Foster comes off a productive summer that saw him take the bronze medal at the FILA Junior World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. He rolled through his bracket at the U.S. World Team Trials in May and has caught the eye of Smith as someone who can take the next step this year.
Wrestling as a true freshman for the Cowboys last season, Foster strung together a solid 22-11 record that included an 8-8 mark in dual matches, but he fell victim to being in what was arguably the Big 12?s stiffest weight class, as each of his conference opponents were nationally ranked. Consequently, Foster was left out of the NCAA Championships field. Things won?t be much easier for Foster this year, as Big 12 197-pounders occupy the No. 1, No. 3, No. 5 and No. 10 spots in the preseason national rankings. Foster is No. 11 nationally in the preseason, and his aggressive nature provides reason for optimism. He scored 40 takedowns as a freshman last year. That total ranked second on the team, trailing only Nathan Morgan?s 62 takedowns.
Once you get past Rosholt, Blanc, Mason and Foster, the picture is a little less clear at the remaining weight classes for OSU.
?We have good young talent, but performance will be what dictates who actually starts for us,? Smith said. ?This season will be a little different for us in that I am going to have to show more patience than usual and I am going to have to think more long-term than normal. With the same goals and standards that we have always had, I am going to have to be patient and understand that we have a lot of first-time starters and individual wins and losses may not be as important right now as if a guy is wrestling with heart and an attitude of aggressiveness.?
Senior 157-pounder Newly McSpadden and junior 133-pounder Tyler Shinn are both two-time NCAA qualifiers, but McSpadden will have to fight off sophomore Neil Erisman and Shinn will have to earn his spot over junior college national champion Chris Notte.
McSpadden enjoyed his best season to date last year, stringing together a 23-11 overall record that included an 8-6 mark in dual match action. He claimed a pair of wins at the NCAA Championships but was eventually eliminated after losses to national runner-up Mike Poeta of Illinois and All-American Cyler Sanderson of Iowa State. He placed third at the Big 12 Championships and figures to improve daily with the presence of Erisman in the room. Erisman was 16-9 last year and took over as the starter for OSU?s last five duals. He compiled a 2-3 mark in those final five duals, opening the door for McSpadden to reclaim the starting spot for the postseason. Regardless of who gets the starting nod for the Cowboys at 157 in 2008-09, OSU will have someone capable of winning matches.
As for Shinn, the junior from Newkirk was seeded third entering the 2008 Big 12 Championships but placed second. He was 16-8 on the year with a 7-4 dual-match record. He is capable of winning big matches and claimed an impressive win over teammate and eventual NCAA champion Coleman Scott at the 2007 Central Missouri State Open, however, he was 1-2 at the 2008 NCAA Championships and has some work to do this season to be able to firmly claim the right to the starting spot at 133 pounds. Notte is a good option at 133 pounds as well after going the entire 2007-08 season ranked No. 1 nationally in the junior college ranks then winning the NJCAA title at the end of the year. He was 31-2 as a sophomore and wrapped up his junior college career with a 67-8 record.
The Cowboys feature young but unproven talent at 141 pounds and 149 pounds, but it wouldn?t surprise anyone if redshirt freshman Jamal Parks emerges as a mainstay in the OSU attack at 141. Similar to Clayton Foster, Parks came to Oklahoma State as one of the top national recruits in the class of 2007. Parks redshirted last year and compiled a 16-1 record competing in open tournaments a year ago. Parks? only loss last year came to teammate Tyler Shinn at the Central Missouri Open, but Parks returned the favor by knocking Shinn off at the Oklahoma Open.
At 149 pounds, Quinten Fuentes returns with 11 dual match starts under his belt. Fuentes got the nod as the starter at the beginning of last year, but was eventually overtaken by a fifth-year senior in Ryan Freeman. He is not quite entrenched as the starter going into this year, as redshirt freshman Luke Silver is a viable option as well coming off a redshirt year in which he compiled a 15-7 overall record that included four pins and five major decisions.
With Brandon Mason now competing at 165 pounds, his old spot at 174 is open for the taking. Sophomores Cody Hill and Kyle Griffin and junior Kevin Wainscott are all good candidates to start. Hill makes the move from 184 pounds, where he wrestled last year. He was 11-6 in 2007-08 and sported a 4-4 dual match record. He was OSU?s starter for eight of the first 10 duals, but was taken over by senior Jack Jensen who went on to earn All-America honors at the end of the year. Griffin was a California junior college state champion with a 30-0 record in 2006-07 before stringing together a 16-5 record as an OSU redshirt last year. Wainscott was 14-7 last year and owns a career record of 27-13. He started five duals for the Cowboys last year, winning three of those bouts.
The 184-pound weight class will likely be manned either by former 197-pounder Jared Shelton or redshirt freshman Chris McNeil. Shelton started for the Cowboys in 2006-07 but fought injuries and the emergence of Clayton Foster last year. For his career, Shelton owns a 24-16 record. McNeil was 16-7 as a redshirt last year and won the 184-pound bracket at the Kaufman-Brand Open.
As usual, Oklahoma State is set to wrestle one of the more difficult schedules in the nation. Conference opponents Iowa State, Nebraska, Missouri and Oklahoma will be joined by non-conference duals at Minnesota on Jan. 1, at home vs. Iowa on Jan. 18. Trips to the Northeast Duals on Nov. 29 and to the Virginia Duals on Jan. 9-10 also await.
?We set our schedule with the thought of doing what?s best for our team and helping our team compete at a championship level at the end of the year,? Smith said. ?We see all the top teams in the nation during the dual match season and we know that we will get the very best from every opponent we face.?
Smith said this season will be key for the development of his young but talented squad.
?I like the makeup of this team and I believe this team has a lot of guys who are on the edge of becoming stars,? Smith said. ?The key is that we as a staff need to be patient and we as a team need to be aggressive on the mat. You?re going to see a lot of youth and guys you are going to see for the next few years. There is a standard of excellence here and every wrestler in this program has that standard in him and wants to contribute to the history and tradition of how we do things.?
Weight Class-by-Weight Class Breakdown
Starter: Obenson Blanc
John Smith says: ?Obe is our guy at 125. He sat out last year and the challenge for him will be getting readjusted to getting back into this level of competition. I remember taking a year off and then trying to get back in and it wasn?t easy. I took a year off, won the world championship, then came back to college and lost my first match. So the adjustment isn?t always easy. What excites me about Obe is that he has experience winning at a high level.?
Starter: Tyler Shinn
Keep An Eye On: Chris Notte
John Smith says: ?When you look at a guy like Tyler Shinn, you see someone that you hope will make wrestling a way of life. Dieting should be a non-issue with him this year now that he has moved up to 133 pounds. Chris Notte will be on his heels from the very start. I do not see us wrestling Jordan Oliver here because we have two guys who can both do well with Shinn and Notte.?
Starter: Jamal Parks
John Smith says: ?Jamal is a redshirt freshman who is eager to wrestle. He was one of our top recruits a couple years ago and is an exciting wrestler. He needs a season to develop and has got to focus on getting better as the year goes on. Perhaps not at the beginning of the season, but he?s someone you can see at the end of the year contending for All-America honors. That?s what he came here for. We develop freshman All-Americans and NCAA champions and I can see that happening at the end of the year for Jamal.?
Starter: Quinten Fuentes or Luke Silver
John Smith says: ?Quinten had a tough year last year as a freshman. Both he and Luke Silver I believe are mature and need to find their way and have success. The year that Quinten had as a freshman last year was a struggle, but it will give him experience. He has shown some toughness getting through injuries. Silver looks very tough in the wrestling room and it would not surprise me if he ends up being the starter. Both guys have it in them.?
Starter: Newly McSpadden
Keep An Eye On: Neil Erisman
John Smith says: ?Newly wrestled his very best at the end of last year. He was good at Big 12s and his only losses at NCAAs were to the national runner-up and another All-American. This is Newly?s senior year and he needs to build on the momentum he established late last year. He should be a guy that takes the mat at the very beginning of this year and is competing at that same level from the start. Neil is a very consistent guy in the room. He might have been the starter last year, but injuries set him back. Right when he gained momentum and was wrestling well out at Reno, he got injured. Don?t count him out. Neil is what you want to see on your team. He wants to be great. He takes care of his academics and it shows in his habits. I can?t say enough good things about Neil.?
Starter: Brandon Mason
John Smith says: ?Brandon cannot have another year like the one he had last year. We need consistency from him in how he wrestles one opponent to the next. We teach our guys to go and make things happen and to take the match to your opponent and we need to see that from him. He will be able to make the move to 165 pounds work. He?s committed to going down a weight. He?s responsible and weight melts off him during the season.?
Starter: Cody Hill, Kevin Wainscott or Kyle Griffin
John Smith says: ?This is a weight class that is wide open with Cody Hill, Kevin Wainscott and Kyle Griffin. Kevin has some experience at this weight and I like how he competes when he?s in good condition. He is a darkhorse who has sometimes underestimated himself. I like his maturity. Kyle Griffin needs to continue to grow and be stronger. When Cody Hill makes wrestling a way of life, he?ll be a heck of wrestler.?
Starter: Jared Shelton
Keep An Eye On: Chris McNeil, Adam Rosholt
John Smith says: ?We?re pulling Jared Shelton down from 197 pounds, plus we have the freshman Chris McNeil. Both of these two need to find their way. Jared is in his third year here and Chris is just getting started. Jared wrestled well before his injury last year, but that has been his issue since he?s been here. Jared Shelton can wrestle, but he?s got areas where he needs to improve. Chris is one of the hardest workers we have and is a great example of what you want in your room. He really needs to believe in himself and his abilities. He?s not quite developed in his confidence, but he has worked hard enough to earn it.?
Starter: Clayton Foster
John Smith says: ?You look at history and see that it is very difficult for a true freshman to succeed at 197 pounds or at heavyweight, but we didn?t have a choice last year and we had to put Clayton in there as a true freshman. It was a valuable year, though it was a miserable year for him. The thing is, he didn?t come out of it pouting. He came out of it saying that he does not want to have another year like that. We like what he?s done in the offseason, winning the bronze medal at the junior world championships. He?s still developing, but he?s closing the gap on some of those wrestlers around the league and around the country. There is a glorious upside for him and he has a great opportunity.?
Starter: Jared Rosholt
John Smith says: ?Jared really grew from his freshman year to his sophomore year, and if he improves the same way this year, he will be the best in the country. He came here weighing 215 pounds and wrestling heavyweights who were much, much bigger than him. Now he looks like a good heavyweight. He has really grown and is strong with good flexibility. Jared needs to make another jump in confidence and he can be the best heavyweight in the country. He is a guy who identified his weaknesses and attacked them. I like Jared. He?s got his heart in the right place.?
Posted on November 12, 2008 by viratas