Oklahoma State sophomore Carter Young (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Every year there are wrestlers that have â€œbreakoutâ€ seasons. Whether it's wrestlers that are coming off a strong redshirt season, or young wrestlers who have a big jump from experience in the next season, it is always fun to see which athletes separate and improve from year to year In this article series, I am going to highlight a wrestler from every school in each of the seven different conferences that have the potential to breakout. That could mean anything from making a surprising splash at the national tournament, to qualifying for the first time, or even getting some important dual wins for a school. Up next are the thirteen schools that make up the Big 12 Conference.
Cal Baptist - Mitchell Mesenbrink, 157lbs (Fr)
Mesenbrink was the #59 overall recruit on the 2022 Big Board, but had his stock shoot up after a Junior World silver medal finish this summer. There he was able to show off his impressive motor and scrambling ability as an Askren Wrestling alum. Mesenbrink has the opportunity to redshirt, but with this being Cal Baptist's first official year in Division I, they'll likely look for him to start early.
Iowa State - #24 Kysen Terukina, 125lbs (So)
A two-time qualifier, Terukina is still looking for his first win at NCAA's. After a true freshman season going 8-7, he improved and went 18-8 last season. Terukina had impressive wins over Killian Cardinale and Trevor Mastrogiovanni in the regular season. Last year, he had a rough Big 12 tournament with an eighth-place finish, which hurt his national seed. If he takes another jump and can finish stronger at conferences, he'll have an opportunity to improve his NCAA record.
Missouri - #18 Sean Harman (So)/Colton Hawks (Fr), 184lbs
In what could be one of the bigger roster battles, Harman and Hawks are both contenders to start for the Tigers. Last year, Harman was the backup to Peyton Mocco at 174lbs, but stepped up with some ranked wins in duals. He beat Dustin Plott and Hayden Hastings, who beat him three times the year prior. Harman hasn't wrestled any matches at 184lbs yet, but he has shown he can wrestle with the top. Hawks was a top 50 recruit who has shown he can compete with top talent, but hasn't turned all those close matches into wins, just yet. He has one-point losses to Parker Keckeisen and Brit Wilson, and a win over Tate Samuelson. Whoever wins this spot is likely to be in the rankings while trying to qualify for the first time.
North Dakota State - #22 Mikey Caliendo, 165lbs (Fr)
Mikey Caliendo is coming off an impressive redshirt season that saw him go 14-2 and win four tournaments. That record includes wins over qualifiers Austin Yant and Tanner Cook. With the graduation of Luke Weber, the Bison are going to be looking for another qualifier to reload at this weight. 165lbs is stacked in the Big 12, and Caliendo only adds to the depth.
South Dakota State - #28 Gabe Tagg, 133lbs (Jr)
After two years at North Carolina, Tagg transferred to South Dakota State midway through the season and saw his first opportunity to start. He had a solid year going 13-6 and was the third seed at his first Big 12 tournament. He had regular-season wins over Connor Brown, Anthony Madrigal, and Kellyn March. Unfortunately, he had a disappointing Big 12 tournament going 1-2. Now with a full offseason to get comfortable at SDSU, Tagg will be looking to qualify for his first national tournament.
Northern Colorado - #26 Stevo Poulin, 125lbs (Fr)
The #30 overall recruit in 2021, Poulin was originally committed to NC State. He wrestled his redshirt season there and went 6-0. He didn't get any ranked wins but did beat two Division I starters and James Joplin, another accomplished redshirt. Poulin slots in perfect to be a career 125lber for the ascending Bears team.
Northern Iowa - #28 Cael Happel, 141lbs (So)
Happel started for the first time as a redshirt freshman last season and just missed making his first NCAA tournament. He had a 17-10 record that included wins over Allan Hart and Dylan Droegemueller. Happel was the 6th seed at Big 12's, but an 0-2 performance kept him from qualifying. If he is able to get more ranked wins plus a stronger end-of-season finish, he should be a contender for qualifying.
Oklahoma State - #13 Carter Young, 141lbs (So)
A popular breakout candidate last season, Young qualified for his first NCAA tournament but went 0-2 with a rough draw against Grant Willits and Stevan Micic. His 12-9 record only had two wins over qualifiers, but he also saw plenty of tight matches against top competition. Young was originally planning on going at 133lbs at Northwestern, but after transferring to Oklahoma State, he bumped up to 141lbs. He recently made the finals of the U20 trials at 65kg. Now with a full offseason to grow, Young is a candidate to potentially challenge for a podium spot this season.
Oklahoma - Tate Picklo, 197lbs (Fr)
Picklo was the #19 overall recruit in 2021, but only wrestled one college match before getting injured. He wrestled at 184lbs in that match, but was the top recruit at 195lbs in high school. The graduation of Jake Woodley opens up a spot for Picklo to come in and start. If he can stay healthy, he will have a much better opportunity to show why he was such a highly-ranked recruit.
Air Force - Sam Wolf, 174lbs, (Jr)
Going into his second year as a starter, Wolf will be looking to qualify for his first NCAA tournament after being named an alternate in 2022. Wolf was active in both folk and freestyle during the season, as he won gold for Team USA at the Junior Pan Ams. His folkstyle record was 17-7 and had wins over Adam Kemp and Rodrick Mosley. He dropped from 184lbs in 2021, so another year at 174lbs could see Wolf improving and getting more ranked wins.
Utah Valley - #23 Evan Bockman, 197lbs (Jr)
Bockman transferred from Cal Baptist to Utah Valley and qualified for his first NCAA tournament in 2022. A 14-11 record included wins over Alan Clothier and Jake Koser. He also had overtime losses to Rocky Elam and Luke Stout. Bockman is a stingy wrestler and can hang with the best of them. If his offense improves, then he is someone that could certainly climb the rankings.
West Virginia - Jordan Titus, 141 lbs (Fr)
Another freshman coming off a great redshirt year, Titus went 20-7 at 133lbs and won the Edinboro Open. He didn't get any ranked wins but did beat starters Gable Strickland of Lock Haven and Kyle Gorant of Davidson. He also beat fellow impressive redshirt freshman Andre Gonzales of Ohio State and Dylan Chappell of Bucknell. Now with an opportunity to start, Titus will look to give the Mountaineers some consistent points.
Wyoming - Jore Volk, 125lbs (Fr)
The #64 overall recruit in 2022, Volk's stock shot up after not only winning the U20 trials, but also winning a world title at 57kg. Volk could redshirt, but Wyoming has had different starters at 125lbs since 2019 with none establishing themselves. Adding Volk would be a big jump in points, and he would be a strong candidate to be a true freshman qualifier for the Cowboys.