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What to Watch for at the 2021 Big 12 Wrestling Championships this Weekend

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The second straight weekend of conference wrestling championships is officially here.

Two of college wrestling’s strongest power five conferences will be in action this weekend, March 6-7 as both the Big Ten and the Big 12 conferences meet to determine who the top wrestlers are at each weight. The 2021 Big 12 Wrestling Championship opens on Saturday, March 6 and concludes with the finals on Sunday, March 7, at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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The four Big 12 member institutions (Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and West Virginia) along with eight affiliate members (Air Force, Fresno State, Northern Colorado, Northern Iowa, North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Utah Valley and Wyoming) will compete in the two-day event.

This is the sixth neutral-site conference championship for the sport and the fifth in Tulsa. Last year, the Oklahoma State Cowboys won their eighth-consecutive team title and their 18th Big 12 title overall. The wrestlers participating in the Big 12 Championship will be competing for berths into the NCAA Wrestling Championship. As a conference, the Big 12 has been awarded 45 automatic bids to 2021 NCAA Wrestling Championships.

Five Big 12 squads were ranked in the final NCWA Coaches’ Poll: No. 6 Oklahoma State, No. 13 Iowa State, No. 15 Northern Iowa, No. 19 Oklahoma and No. 25 Wyoming. West Virginia, Northern Colorado and North Dakota State were in the receiving votes category. In the second NCAA Wrestling coaches rankings released on Feb. 25, 72 Big 12 wrestlers appeared in the poll in all 10 weight classes. OSU’s Fix was ranked No. 1 nationally in the 133 pounds category. West Virginia placed a quartet of grapplers in that poll.

Pre-seeds

Brackets for all 10 weight classes can be found here.

Brackets

Brackets for all 10 weight classes can be found here.

2021 Big 12 Wrestling Championship Schedule (times subject to change)

Saturday, March 6

Session 1: Preliminary & Quarterfinal Matches [Big 12 Now on ESPN+] – 12 noon ET

Session 2: Semifinal & Consolation Quarterfinal Matches [Big 12 Now on ESPN+] – 6p.m. ET

Sunday, March 7

Session 3: Consolation Semifinals, Third & Fifth Place Matches [Big 12 Now on ESPN+] – 11a.m. ET

Session 4: Championship Matches [ESPN2] – 6 p.m.  ET

Saturday and Sunday are sure to be fantastic days of high-caliber wrestling. Here are five things to watch for:

  1. As a team, Oklahoma State has owned this event over the last decade. This weekend, the Cowboys will compete for their ninth-consecutive Big 12 tournament title and the 55th overall conference championship in program history. The Cowboys will be led by three OSU wrestlers that claimed the No. 1 seed in their weight classes at the tournament, including Daton Fix (133), Boo Lewallen (149) and Travis Wittlake (165). Also, of note, Kaden Gfeller is bumping down to fill in for Dusty Hone, who surrendered an injury at the Cowboy Challenge. Gfeller may be the third guy to see time at the weight (starter Kaid Brock sustained a season-ending injury earlier this year) but he is no easy out. It should be interesting to see how Gfeller handles such a big weight cut. Wyoming is another team to watch as well. They are putting together a nice campaign during this most unconventional of seasons.

  2. The 197-pound class, oh my goodness. Ask wrestling fans across the country which weight they are most excited for this weekend? This class will surely be included. It is arguably the strongest in the country this season. Additionally, a majority of that firepower resides in the Big 12. The top five seeds are all ranked in the top 14 in the nation. Similarly, these five guys seem to only wrestle extraordinary matches against each other. Here are some storylines for the weight: Noah Adams (West Virginia) is the defending Big 12 champ, taking down Tanner Sloan (North Dakota State) last year. Sloan also enters the tournament undefeated at 13-0. AJ Ferrari is also one of the most talented freshman in the NCAA. He is an impressive 12-1 on the year. His lone loss to Adams at the Cowboy Challenge in a match decided in the final 10 seconds. Both Ferrari and Adams have also edged out , incredibly close matches over Oklahoma’s Jake Woodley as well. Lastly, Stephen Buchanan of Wyoming has gotten the better of the reigning Big 12 Champ, Adams, both times they have wrestled this year. The Coal City, West Virginia native looks to reverse that trend this weekend in Tulsa.

  3. At 133, look out for Daton Fix. The Cowboy lightweight, who is one of the best competitors in the world, not just the NCAA, has taken his game to a new level this season. The Olympic hopeful is 5-0 on the year with four falls on the year, including one over WVU No. 2 seed, Ryan Sullivan in the Cowboy Challenge finals.

The  157-pound weight class is another one that is likely a one-horse race and everyone else is left behind. David Carr (Iowa State) will run away with the bracket. He has had decisive victories over the majority of the bracket already. At 165,  WVU’s Peyton Hall will look to avenge a lopsided decision to Travis Whittlake from the Cowboy Challenge finals. WVU’s Hall fell to Whittlake via a 14-2 major decision.  I would not be surprised to see these two to meet in the finals. Jake Stills (Oklahoma) is a guy capable of making noise at the weight. as well.

  1. We are in for a treat at 174.  Like the 197-pound class, this is a weight where there are multiple seeds capable of bringing home the title. Talent-wise I want to lean toward Oklahoma State freshman Dustin Plott, though health is a genuine concern. He has had a nagging shoulder injury as of late. But his toughness to fight through injury is obvious.

  2. With respect to WVU in particular, they are expected to qualify at least four wrestlers for the national tournament, including Killian Cardinale (125), Ryan Sullivan (133), Peyton Hall (165), and Noah Adams (197). All four are ranked wrestlers. That said, WVU head coach Tim Flynn expects others to have a solid showing and punch a ticket to nationals as well.

Looking ahead, the Mountaineers will travel to St. Louis, Missouri for the 2021 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship, March 18-20.

All team ranking information is via the NWCA Coaches Poll rankings released Feb. 23. All individual ranking information is via FloWrestling rankings released March 1.

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