3x Big 12 champion Daton Fix (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
2023 Big 12 Conference Preview
64 total allocations/58 in 2022
Where: Tulsa, Oklahoma
How to Watch: ESPN+/ESPNU
Two weeks before the DI wrestling world descends on Tulsa, Oklahoma for the 2023 NCAA Championships, the BOK Center will conduct a trial run of sorts for the Big 12 Championships. This Saturday and Sunday, to be exact. Tulsa has become the unofficial home of the Big 12 Championships, one of the most important conference qualifying events. Only the Big Ten will be responsible for more wrestlers at the 2023 NCAA Championships than the Big 12.
All year our Big 12 correspondent, Seth Duckworth, has gone back and forth over who was going to win the conference. Since there was a tie during the dual season, we have to extend this question into the conference tournament. From day one this year, Iowa State has looked like one of the best dual teams in the country. As the year progressed, they’ve turned out to be a really strong tournament team as well. Defending champion Missouri is responsible for Iowa State’s only Big 12 loss this year and can get it done in any format. At one point this season, the Tigers had two wrestlers ranked #1 in the nation at their respective weights. Oklahoma State may have been written off too early. The Cowboys came back and edged Missouri to hand the Tigers their only Big 12 loss.
While the Big Three battled for supremacy schools like Northern Iowa, North Dakota State and South Dakota State showed that they belong in the discussion as well.
Digging deeper, both schools in Colorado, Air Force and Northern Colorado come into the tournament with number-one seeded wrestlers.
Long story short, we’ll likely see an incredible team race, while at the same time getting wrestlers from a variety of schools a chance to shine atop the Big 12 podium. There probably won’t be one team that runs away with the title….and that’s generally fun.
Below is our weight-by-weight preview of the action, along with predictions for top-eight finishers at all ten weights and a team race projection. Wrestlers bolded are the ones we have pegged to receive automatic qualifying bids at their respective weight classes.
1. Killian Cardinale (West Virginia)
2. Jore Volk (Wyoming)
3. Noah Surtin (Missouri)
4. Stevo Poulin (Northern Colorado)
5. Kase Mauger (Utah Valley)
6. Tanner Jordan (South Dakota State)
7. Joey Prata (Oklahoma)
8. Eli Griffin (California Baptist) - Removed/Injured
Best first round match: #7 Joey Prata (Oklahoma) vs. Tucker Owens (Air Force)
Projected Semifinals: #1 Killian Cardinale (West Virginia) vs. #4 Stevo Poulin (Northern Colorado); #3 Noah Surtin (Missouri) vs. #7 Joey Prata (Oklahoma)
Right off the bat, we have one of the most unpredictable weight classes in the Big 12. There’s a lot of talent here and plenty of different permutations as to how they could finish. The top seed is undefeated Killian Cardinale. The 2021 All-American did not get his 2022-23 season underway until at the Midlands. He hasn’t faced most of the top contenders nationally, or even in this weight class, so it’s hard to judge where he’s at. If healthy, he’s capable of collecting his second Big 12 crown in a row.
As is often the case at 125 lbs, freshmen will play an important role here. True freshman Jore Volk gets the second seed. Many true freshmen start the season strong, but hit a wall. Volk is the opposite, he started slow, but has picked up steam as the year progressed. He comes in after winning 11 of his last 12 matches. The only Big 12 opponents who defeated him are not in the field. One of which was eighth-seeded Eli Griffin, who was removed due to injury on Wednesday. The second prominent freshman in this bracket is fourth-seeded Stevo Poulin. Poulin entered the Southern Scuffle with a perfect 13-0 record and took sixth in Chattanooga. He’ll represent the first major test of the tournament for Cardinale in the semifinals.
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