It’s the “off-season” right now which means there’s nothing but space and opportunity for theories, speculations, and rumors. So why not do a little indulging with the Cowboys in Stillwater, OK.
At last year’s NCAA Championships, the hosting Oklahoma State Cowboys didn’t exactly defend their home turf. In fact, they had the worst performance in the school’s history at the tournament scoring just 28.5 points that left them tied for 18th place. Those 28.5 points were the lowest they scored since 1953 when they scored just 11 points – for context, Penn State won that year with only 21 points.
It was also the Cowboys first time since 2018 that they didn’t have a finalist as Daton Fix, their perennial finalist, ended up fourth.
But all that is now history and it’s time to look to the future. And what the future holds is…questions. Optimistic questions, but questions nonetheless. The first one that comes to mind is will Fix be making a return for one final crack at winning the title? During his interview at Final X where he claimed a spot on the National Team with a dominant 9-0 win over Austin DeSanto, we asked him what his future plans were and if he would be taking 1 last ride in orange and black.
“We’ll see. Obviously, I want to win an NCAA title too,” Fix said. “It slipped right through my hands 4 times. That leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Since I’ve been granted another year of eligibility, that's a big opportunity for me to attempt to go win something that I’ve dreamt of my whole life. So, we’ll see what the future holds.”
Obviously, Fix left every option on the table as to whether he is coming back, but later on in the interview straight-shooter Zeb Miller rehashed the question to which he replied with a “Yeah, probably. We’ll see.” But Zeb had a follow-up asking “What weight? Maybe 33, maybe 41”.
“I have no idea. Could be 25, who knows. Could be 49,” Fix said with a smirk on his face.
Considering that it’s an Olympic year it could be possible that Fix makes his descent to 125 to prepare for the move to 57kg where he said he will return to with his eyes set on Paris. We’ll get to how this could cause a bit of an issue with the lineup later.
Ok, that was the obvious question. The others all circle around their incoming class. Recently, the Cowboys topped the InterMat Recruiting Rankings with a pretty monstrous class led by #2-ranked heavyweight Christian Carroll, who just claimed his spot on the U20 World Team. Carroll could have an instant impact at 285 for John Smith’s crew.
Now you can’t talk about heavyweight without talking about the 125. Oklahoma State hasn’t had an All-American at this weight since Nick Piccininni graduated. Enter transfer Troy Spratley. After spending his redshirt year at Minnesota, where he had a 10-4 record, he could possibly be the answer to the question of what’s happening for the Cowboys in this weight class where last year’s starter Trevor Mastrogiovanni missed the last few months of competition and Reece Witcraft filled the spot. Most recently, Spratley was a runner-up at U20 at 57kg losing two straight matches to Luke Lilledahl. Getting back to that point about Fix dropping to 125 to prep for the Olympic Trials, this could be where things get hairy. But, I honestly don’t see it happening.
Spratley wasn’t the only gift from the transfer portal. Tagen Jamison also made his way to Stillwater after spending last season with the Gophers. And making the jump from NJCAA is 2-time All-American Mirzo Khayitov. The biggest transfer impact next to Spratley is Izzak Olejnik. Last season while at Northern Illinois he was the 12-seed at NCAAs and ended up with an 8th place finish to make his way onto the podium at 165. Olejnik can jump right in to replace Wyatt Sheets and give the Cowboys some good strength in the middle to go along with fellow AA Dustin Plott at 174.
Along with highly touted high school recruit Carroll, #5-ranked Brayden Thompson, a 2022 U20 World teamer, and #8-ranked Cael Hughes, who also made the finals at U20s but came up short, are very promising additions as well for Cowboys. Both guys can add some very good depth to the lineup at 133 and 184. Upperweights #48 AJ Heeg and #68 Jersey Robb will also be tough additions as well at 197.
The only true unknown is who will be replacing NCAA qualifier Victor Voinovich who left OK State for Iowa? It’s looking like Jordan Williams will be the one to do it. Williams took a redshirt year a season ago competing at a few open tournaments at 149.
Overall, John Smith’s squad could be getting a much-needed new look with the additions of these transfers and recruits making last year’s 18th-place finish more of a historical point and less of a foreshadowing moment.