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PREVIEW: What to Watch for During Sunday’s Cowboy Challenge



The West Virginia wrestling team treks to snowy Stillwater, Oklahoma, for the Cowboy Challenge on Sunday, Feb. 14th, inside the historic Gallagher-Iba Arena. The Mountaineers join Wyoming and Missouri at Oklahoma State this weekend. The tournament includes an eight-man bracket at each weight class, which will be released later this evening on Trackwrestling. This Valentine’s Day showcase is the only tournament-style event during the entire 2021 regular season. Competition is set to begin at 12 p.m. ET, with finals starting at 5 p.m. ET.

Sunday’s finals will be carried live on Big 12 Now on ESPN+, the conference’s digital platform, and live stats will be available through Direct links to the video stream and live stats can be found on the wrestling schedule page at


The Cowboy Challenge will likely be WVU’s toughest task of the 2021 regular season. There will be a plethora of nationally-ranked wrestlers competing in Stillwater. Per the first NCAA Division I Wrestling Coaches Rank, there could be as many as 31 nationally-ranked competitors: Missouri (10), Oklahoma State (9), Wyoming (8), West Virginia (4).

“I like the change-up in the schedule because we only have had duals,” third-year WVU coach Tim Flynn said earlier this week. “It’s a small tournament, with an eight-man bracket, but we are going to bring a couple guys at different weights, so a total of 14 guys. It will give us a little bit of a different feel, and hopefully, this will help us going into Big 12s.”

Here are five things to keep an eye on throughout the Sunday’s challenge:

  1. First and foremost, there will be a new format. Rather than seeing a dual meet, this event will have a much more individualized feel to it. This will closely mimic the style similar to open tournaments and postseason play. Athletes will be competing largely as individual competitors, but there will be a team scoring component as well.
  2. Oklahoma State’s Daton Fix is eligible to return Sunday. The United States Anti-Doping Agency suspended Fix for a year after the Sand Springs, Colorado native tested positive for a prohibited substance last year. Fix said he ingested Ostarine unintentionally after drinking from a water bottle his father prepared for himself. Still, Fix has remained the consensus No. 1 at 133 according to the latest  FloWrestlingInterMatTrackwrestling, and The Open Mat polls. Fix will be quite the test for WVU redshirt freshman, Ryan Sullivan, who brings a four-match varsity winning-streak into the event.
  3. The lone non-Big 12 team to compete, Missouri, has looked utterly dominant in the Mid-American Conference this season. On the year, FloWrestling’s No. 10 tournament team has completed a perfect regular season. The Tigers currently sit at 10-0, 4-0 MAC.  According to the Coaches Rank, Allan Hart (141) and Brock Mauller (149) are the two highest-rated Mizzou grapplers, ranked No. 4 and No. 3 at their respective weights.
  4. The 197-pound weight class is absolutely stacked. It features Flo’s No. 6 Stephen Buchanan (Wyoming), No. 7 Noah Adams (West Virginia), No. 14 AJ Ferrari (Oklahoma State), and No. 22 Rocky Elam (Missouri). As for the storylines, Buchanan is Adams’ lone loss in his last 42 matches. As for Ferrari and Elam, they are both undefeated true freshmen with a combined record of  16-0. Ferrari sits at 9-0, while Elam isn’t far behind, a perfect 7-0. Both Ferrari and Elam were top-15 recruits on Flo’s Class of 2020 Big Board.
  5. Look for WVU wrestlers to avenge some bad individual performances from its dual with the Wyoming Cowboys last weekend. In that Feb. 5th dual, WVU lost, 22-12, winning just three of 10 bouts.

Looking ahead, WVU will be back home next weekend, Friday, Feb. 19, to take on Flo’s No. 12 Iowa State at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown. The dual will be WVU’s last of the 2021 regular season. Wrestling is set to begin at 7 p.m. The action can be seen via Big 12 Now through ESPN+. After Iowa State, the Mountaineers will have a little more than two weeks free from competition before they travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma for the 2021 Big 12 Championships, March 6-7, at BOK Center. Then, the WVU will head to St. Louis, Missouri for the 2021 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship, March 18-20.

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