(TULSA, Oklahoma - March 5, 2017) – With its 51st conference championship locked up on Saturday, March 4, 2017, eight members of the Oklahoma State wrestling team earned Big 12 titles Sunday afternoon to tie a program record. As a team, the Cowboys accumulated 176.5 points to set a Big 12 record, while the 83-point margin of victory is also a new conference record.
Individual title winners included Nick Piccininni, Dean Heil, Anthony Collica, Joe Smith, Kyle Crutchmer, Nolan Boyd, Preston Weigel and Austin Schafer. Collica became the eighth wrestler in school history to win four conference titles, while Heil and Boyd claimed their third and Smith, Crutchmer and Weigel each won their second.
All 10 OSU starters advanced to Sunday’s final round, setting up a dual-like event where the Cowboys were matched up with many of the Big 12’s best at every weight. If the event had used dual scoring, the Pokes would have come out on top, 30-6.
“We had some closer matches than that this season,” Smith said. “I don’t want to rub that in. We have some great coaches in our league and we have some historically great teams and some teams that I know are going to be coming (in the future), so I’ll just say that when it counted most this weekend, we were punching people right in the nose and that’s what you hope for.”
Nick Piccininni opened things up for the Cowboys with a big win over No. 4 Josh Rodriguez of North Dakota State for his first career Big 12 Championship. Tied at four at the end of regulation, Piccininni and Rodriguez battled through a couple of overtime periods before the Cowboy redshirt freshman tallied the decisive takedown in the second sudden victory period.
“It’s an awesome feeling finishing a shot like that in overtime and getting the win,” Piccininni said. “It was a fun one. It was exciting and I was happy with the outcome.”
After a tough loss in a back-and-forth match between Kaid Brock and South Dakota State’s top-seeded Seth Gross that served as the Cowboy redshirt freshman’s second defeat of the season, Dean Heil got the Pokes back on track at 141 pounds in a 10-7 decision over Bryce Meredith of Wyoming for his third conference title. Heil led throughout the match, tallying four takedowns and a reversal to clinch the championship. The win capped off an impressive weekend for Heil, which saw the NCAA Champion rack up his first two pins of the season on the way to the title bout.
“I know Bryce is a tough opponent,” Heil said. “Every time we wrestle, he gives me a go. Coach Smith came up to me before my match and told me to be ready for anything and to come out and continue wrestling. I expected scrambles and they happened. I was ready for them, so they all basically ended in my favor.”
Senior Anthony Collica registered a 7-4 decision over Oklahoma’s Davion Jeffries in Sunday’s 149-pound finals, claiming his fourth Big 12 crown and becoming only the eighth Cowboy to complete such a feat. Collica. With his lead cut to 5-4 with a minute to go in the match, Collica scored a takedown in the final seconds to lock up his win.
“It’s always fun being here,” Collica said. “The finals match didn’t go how I wanted, but I got the win and felt pretty good up until that match but to get out of here with a win feels great.”
Sophomore Joe Smith defended his title at 157 pounds in dominant fashion over second-seeded Clay Ream of North Dakota State. Smith shut out Ream in an 8-0 major decision to finish off a spectacular weekend in which he outscored his opponents, 32-0.
“It was a good tournament overall,” Smith said. “The Big 12 is getting a lot tougher and the teams that came here are tough. There are a lot of guys ranked in the top 20 or top 10 in the nation, and overall I thought it was a good tournament for both myself and the team. I thought I wrestled well. I wrestled a couple of tough kids. I’ve been working on top a lot, so I really felt my top game start to roll on as the tournament went on.”
The Cowboys’ final loss of the day came at 165 pounds, where redshirt sophomore Chandler Rogers came up short against West Virginia’s Dylan Cottrell in a 5-4 match. Tied at three in the third, Cottrell won a scramble for a takedown with just over a minute left. Rogers broke free and after nearly catching Cottrell on his back in the final seconds, was not awarded a takedown after review.
Competing in his hometown, Crutchmer got the BOK Center crowd on its feet after finishing off an 8-4 decision over Oklahoma’s Matt Reed. The senior was in control throughout, building his lead to as large as five in the third period to finish off his second career Big 12 title.
“It’s surreal,” Crutchmer said. “I’m excited and I’ve got a bunch of friends and family here. For me being a senior and getting to wrestle at my last Big 12 Championships here in Tulsa is awesome. I’m glad I came out on top.”
Senior Nolan Boyd claimed his third conference championship at 184 pounds with a 15-4 major decision over Northern Colorado’s Dylan Gable for his third major of the weekend. Boyd had no problem with Gable, racking up six takedowns in the match to get the win.
“That match felt good,” Boyd said. “Some of the other ones, I didn’t felt like I cut loose and had the matches I wanted, but that’s in the past, so we’re going to keep moving. My team wrestled incredibly and that was fun to watch. We’ve got stuff to work on, and it was a fun tournament.”
Preston Weigel picked up his second-straight Big 12 crown at 197, defeating the bracket’s top seed in No. 5 Jacob Smith of West Virginia. Late in the first period, Weigel converted on a takedown and was initially awarded a fall; however, it was ruled that Smith injured himself as he was falling to the mat, and the pin was changed to an injury default.
Senior heavyweight Austin Schafer finished off his first Big 12 Championship run with a 9-0 major decision over Utah Valley’s Dustin Dennison. The win wrapped up an outstanding weekend for the Edmond, Okla., native, as he earned a pin and a pair of majors to earn top honors.
“It was a pretty cool environment,” Schafer said. “It felt like a dual. When guys lost, the other guys picked up the pace and kept us all in line and kept the motivation going. We really wrestled for each other out there and that’s what you want to see in the postseason.”
The Cowboys will bring all 10 starters to this month’s NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Mo., which is set for March 16-18 at the Scottrade Center. OSU will be looking for its 35th national title.