Oklahoma State won its eighth consecutive Big 12 title (Photo/Oklahoma State Athletics)
TULSA, Okla. -- The Oklahoma State wrestling team claimed three individual titles at the finals of the 2020 Big 12 Wrestling Championships Sunday night, as the Cowboys finished with 147.5 team points and a 31-point lead over the field to win its eighth consecutive Big 12 tournament title.
The run of eight-straight conference tournament titles marks the longest streak in Big 12 wrestling history and matches OSU's longest stretch of consecutive conference tournament titles that was set from 1921-1928.
"Those are important stats for a program," coach John Smith said. "That's something that you haven't done since 1921-28. Anytime you say you tie or break a record at Oklahoma State, you're doing something. I'm glad this team got to feel a little of that this year. It's been a little bit of a struggle for us, but we did wrestle the best that we've wrestled all season (this weekend)."
OSU's 2020 Big 12 champions include Nick Piccininni (125 pounds), Boo Lewallen (149) and Travis Wittlake (165). Piccininni became just the ninth wrestler in program history to win four individual conference titles, while Lewallen claimed his second title and Wittlake earned his first. Additionally, Piccininni became just the third Cowboy in school history to win four team and four individual conference titles, joining Alex Dieringer and Anthony Collica.
With the addition of three individual champions, Oklahoma State now has 111 Big 12 champions and 290 conference champions in its wrestling history. With Wittlake's title, OSU now has 26 freshmen conference champions in its history.
The team championship marks coach John Smith's 22nd career conference title, as well as OSU's 52nd conference tournament title and 54th overall conference title in wrestling. Additionally, Oklahoma State has now claimed 18 of the 24 Big 12 tournament trophies that have been awarded in the conference's history as well as the 2012 and 2013 regular season titles in the only years it was awarded. Including the regular season titles, OSU has won a Big 12 championship in 11 straight seasons.
Sunday night's final round started with a 3-1 decision from top-seeded Piccininni over No. 3 Alex Mackall of Iowa State. The Cowboy senior scored a takedown with 10 seconds to go in the opening period and traded escapes to open the next two. He then held off Mackall for the remainder of the final period to become the seventh four-time champion in the history of the Big 12.
"It's is a good accomplishment," Piccininni said. "It's something that will last my whole life."
Piccininni was voted Most Outstanding Wrestler for his performance in the tournament, marking OSU's 10th Big 12 Outstanding Wrestling honor and its first since Dieringer received the honor in 2015. It marks the 21st time a Cowboy has been honored as Outstanding Wrestler at a Big 12 or Big Eight conference tournament.
OSU's next champion came in the 149-pound final, as top-seeded Boo Lewallen finished off a great tournament run with an 8-5 decision over second-seeded Henry Pohlmeyer of South Dakota State. Pohlmeyer struck the first two takedowns in the bout to take a 4-2 lead early in the second, but Lewallen answered with a pair of takedowns of his own and skillful riding to close out the win.
"It's good," Lewallen said. "It's real good, but that's just one of the goals I've had set. In two weeks I've got to go chase my other goal (at the NCAA Championships)."
Wittlake was the final Cowboy to claim his title as he closed out the tournament with a win in the 165-pound final. Matched up with No. 2-seeded Andrew Fogarty of North Dakota State, No. 1 Wittlake scored a takedown in each period and added riding time to win an 8-4 decision.
"It's crazy," Wittlake said. "It's still all pretty surreal. I started wrestling when I was four years old and I haven't stopped since. It's been a grind. There's been ups and downs in it, but it's paying off right now."
The fourth Cowboy finalist was sophomore Wyatt Sheets, who nearly upset top-seeded David Carr in the 157-pound championship match. Sheets battled through a scoreless first period and forced a stalling point against Carr, but couldn't finish his final shot as he fell in a hard-fought 6-4 decision.
The Cowboys now turn their attention to the 2020 NCAA Wrestling Championships, scheduled for March 19-21 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn. OSU claimed nine automatic berths into the 2020 NCAA Championships this weekend, with every weight other than heavyweight securing a spot.
Final Team Standings
1. Oklahoma State - 147.5
2. Iowa State - 116.5
3. Northern Iowa - 111.5
4. South Dakota State - 94.0
5. North Dakota State - 90.5
6. Oklahoma - 83.0
7. Wyoming - 75.5
8. Northern Colorado - 72.5
9. Fresno State - 57.0
10. West Virginia - 41.0
11. Utah Valley - 33.0
12. Air Force - 25.5