The enthusiasm has been really good and not just for matches involving former Oklahoma State wrestlers. Below are some of my thoughts after seeing two straight days of the best wrestlers in the United States and the world compete along with a recap of the former OSU wrestlers.
Sunday, the juniors were competing, including nine current Cowboys wrestlers in the competition.
I like the new presentation of wrestling with a ringmaster in addition to the public address announcers Sandy Stevens (voice of Amateur Wrestling) and A.L. Haizlip. The spotlights, the cheerleaders and the grand entrance during the finals each night add to the entertainment value of the sport, and I think it can continue to be improved upon.
The slight in February by the International Olympic Committee of dropping wrestling from the core program of the 2020 Olympic Games caused the sport to examine itself and realize in today's world you have to compete with all entertainment and not just sports. I hate that, but it's true.
During the finals on Friday night the match between Olympic gold-medal winner and former Nebraska Cornhusker Jordan Burroughs and recent Cornell graduate and four-time NCAA champion at four different weights Kyle Dake was worth the price of an all-tournament ticket.
The second match between the two went to overtime and Dake fought through the intimidating presence of Burroughs as he started to match the current king of the sport with moves and physicality on the mat. Burroughs won in overtime to take the spot on the World Team, two matches to none, but this is a budding rivalry and the two best in the world at this weight may very well be the two Americans.
The most physical matches of the event came on Saturday in the early afternoon during the challenge tournament at 66kg (145.5 pounds) as Bret Metcalf formerly of Iowa and Jon Reader formerly of Iowa State had blood flowing.
The blood was on the back of Reader's singlet in what was a monster physical match as Metcalf held on to meet up in the challenge bracket final with former Cowboy Jordan Oliver. Those two staged a match just as physical that Metcalf won in a slight upset. Iowa coach Tom Brands made a fool of himself and Oliver left the mat without shaking officials hands or the Iowa coaches. It just goes to show you again why Oklahoma State and Iowa have always been and continue to be the biggest rivalry, collegiately, the sport has to offer.
The ladies can wrestle, and I think the fans in Stillwater that didn't know that learned it this weekend. On Saturday night they saw Elena Prozhkova, who is ranked number one in the world at 138.75 pounds, dominate Erin Clodgo, a pretty good wrestler in her own right. Prozhkova is a technician and tough too.
You want really tough, then there is Helen Maroulis at 121 pounds. Maroulis wrestles like a man and that is as good a compliment as you can get. She has good technique, is tough, and knows how to finish a match. She's ranked second in the world and that should change in September in Budapest, Hungary.
Unfortunately, the weekend did not go as well as most Oklahoma State fans hoped it would. It started off rough and sad as defending Olympic bronze medalist Coleman Scott only made it a few seconds into his first match in the challenge bracket before he apparently tore his left pectoral muscle.
Scott had to injury default and is now set to go to Colorado Springs to confer with the Olympic medical staff on surgery, future treatment and rehab. Be sure to know that Scott will come back from this.
Chris Pendleton did a marvelous job on Friday winning his challenge bracket as the number-two ranked wrestler at his weight. But the battling by his opponents all day is a tremendous advantage for the top-ranked wrestler that waits for the challenge winner. It is tough and even though the matches were close, Pendleton lost both of his matches on Friday night.
Jordan Oliver was wrestling well and marched into the challenge bracket final against former Iowa wrestler Bret Metcalf. Metcalf was able to defeat Oliver with late points in the match. Oliver finishes third in the tournament and to his credit, Metcalf became the only freestyle wrestler to come out of the challenge bracket to beat a top-seeded competitor when on Saturday night he beat Kellen Russell, 7-0 and 8-1. That is a very tough weight Oliver is breaking into.
Also on Friday, former Cowboy Clayton Faster was wrestling extremely well as he sailed through the challenge bracket before battling Kevin Gavin in two hard fought matches, 6-4 and 3-2 but lost both. Foster needs to keep pushing as he has a real strong chance to get past Gavin and any others at the 84kg (185 pounds) in the future.
Oklahoma State will have one former wrestler in Budapest at the World Championships as Obe Blanc delighted the home crowd in Stillwater on Saturday night with 4-0 and 3-1 wins over former Indiana wrestler Angel Escobedo.
Blanc has continued to improve and push his training since spending one season as a Cowboy following a transfer from Lock Haven. He lives and trains in Stillwater and credit Cowboys assistant head coach Eric Guerrero with an excellent job of working with Blanc, along with John Smith and Zach Esposito.