2021 NCAA Champion Daton Fix (Photo/Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
InterMat has released its preseason All-Big12 first and second teams (and honorable mentions), along with preseason conference Wrestler of the Year, preseason Newcomer of the Year, and preseason team favorite. We've used the term "Newcomer" since there is the possibility of wrestlers that competed at the national tournament in 2021, being called "freshmen."
1st Team: Brody Teske-Northern Iowa
2nd Team: Taylor Lamont-Utah Valley
Honorable Mention: Killian Cardinale-West Virginia
This one falls exactly how it finished at the conference tournament with Teske in the #1 slot, Lamont at #2 and Cardinale at #3. Lamont and Cardinale both finished as All-Americans last season, whereas Teske did not, but most of that is due to the way the bracket broke, which matched up Teske with the eventual third-place finisher McKee from Minnesota on the consolation side. I still think Teske will be the guy this year in the Big 12 though Cardinale and Lamont definitely could give him a run.
1st Team: Daton Fix-Oklahoma State
2nd Team: Matthew Schmitt-Missouri
Honorable Mention: Everyone else
I'm being a little facetious here, but not really. Daton Fix is the clear #1 and I believe Matthew Schmitt, conference newcomer for Mizzou, will be the #2 guy this year. But the rest of this weight is completely wide open. OU's Tony Madrigal made a finals run last year but didn't even come in seeded. There are really 5-6 guys that you could make an argument for as the #3 in the conference at 133.
1st Team: Dom Demas-Oklahoma
2nd Team: Allan Hart-Missouri
Honorable Mention: Clay Carlson-South Dakota State, Andrew Alirez-Northern Colorado
Demas was the Big 12 Champion last year and should still be the favorite this season. Allan Hart will come in from Mizzou and could challenge Demas. Interestingly, neither finished as All-Americans last year. Clay Carlson, who was seeded below both Demas and Hart at the NCAA tournament, did. Andrew Alirez also makes the list as he's on the move down from 149. Alirez is still a bit of unknown with some of the injuries and the new weight class, but the pedigree is certainly there for him to compete with the other three.
1st Team: Brock Mauller-Missouri
2nd Team: Mitch Moore-Oklahoma
Honorable Mention: Ian Parker-Iowa State
Brock Mauller comes in as the #1 guy at 149, with last year's conference runner-up Mitch Moore in the #2 spot. The interesting thing here is Ian Parker at 149. We're hearing he's moving up from 141. Parker's obviously been great at 141, but I put him at a tier just below Moore and Mauller until we see what he can do at 149.
1st Team: David Carr-Iowa State
2nd Team: Jared Franek-North Dakota State
Honorable Mention: Wyatt Sheets-Oklahoma State, Justin Thomas-Oklahoma, Jarrett Jaques-Missouri
Carr as the defending NCAA champion, is the clear #1. Franek was the Big 12 runner-up and fell in a close match with Jacori Teemer on the consolation side at the NCAA tournament to end up just short of being an All-American. I give Franek a nod just above Sheets, Thomas, and Jaques, but I think a healthy Sheets could surprise a lot of people and be a top-four type guy in the country. He finished as an All-American last year with no knee; who knows what he'll do healthy? I haven't given more than two honorable mentions at any weight until now, but I really do believe that this is quietly a very strong and deep weight for the conference. All five of these guys could be All-Americans.
1st Team: Demetrius Romero-Utah Valley
2nd Team: Keegan O'Toole-Missouri
Honorable Mention: Travis Wittlake-Oklahoma State, Luke Weber-North Dakota State
A few years ago, in the Big 12, 165 was an afterthought. Travis Wittlake was pretty much the only wrestler at the weight that was viewed to be an All-American type. That's changed dramatically. Keegan O'Toole knocked off both Weber and Wittlake at the NCAA tournament in finishing third, while Weber took out Wittlake on his way to a Big 12 title last season. Wittlake and O'Toole both finished as All-Americans and with a better draw than he got last year, Weber certainly could as well this season. The big offseason move for this weight is Demetrius Romero coming down from 174. Romero was the Big 12 champ last season at 174 and gets the first-team nod here, with some reservations as we'll have to see how he handles the weight cut as the season goes.
1st Team: Hayden Hastings-Wyoming
2nd Team: Dustin Plott-Oklahoma State
Honorable Mention-Peyton Mocco-Missouri, Jackson Hemauer-Northern Colorado.
This one was a little tough to rank. Romero goes to 165 and opens this weight up dramatically. All four listed here were pretty even most of last season and with their NCAA finishes. I ultimately gave Hastings the #1 spot and the #2 nod to Plott as he was dealing and wrestling with a major shoulder injury for most of last season, that ultimately required surgery right after the season ended. Mocco and Hemauer could all certainly prove me wrong and potentially win the conference. This is one of the more wide-open weight classes in the Big 12 and could be taken by anyone.
1st Team: Parker Keckeisen-Northern Iowa
2nd Team: Dakota Geer-Oklahoma State
Honorable Mention: Tate Samuelson Wyoming, Jeremiah Kent-Missouri
Keckeisen is the clear #1 as the Big 12 Champ and highest NCAA finisher. Geer lost to Samuelson at the Big 12 tournament, but I gave Geer the nod here as he finished much higher at the NCAA tournament. Jeremiah Kent beat Samuelson at the NCAAs.
1st Team: AJ Ferrari-Oklahoma State
2nd Team: Rocky Elam-Missouri
Honorable Mention: Jake Woodley-Oklahoma, Stephen Buchanan-Wyoming
I said this most of last season, and I think with the addition of Elam from Mizzou, it's solidified even more. The Big 12 is the best conference in the country at 197 pounds. You've got the defending NCAA champion and four All-Americans from last year all returning at this weight. Elam and Woodley split at the NCAAs, but Elam won their placement match, so I put Elam above Woodley.
1st Team: Brian Andrews-Wyoming
2nd Team: Wyatt Hendrickson-Air Force Academy
Honorable Mention: Austin Harris-Oklahoma State, Josh Heindselman-Oklahoma, Carter Isley-Northern Iowa, Zach Elam-Missouri.
Most of the other weights were fairly straightforward. One guy beats another guy or finishes above them at the NCAAs and that's what you use for criteria in making these decisions. This weight was not like that at all. They all beat up on each other all season.
Brian Andrews gets the #1 nod as the highest returning Big 12 tournament finisher and Wyatt Hendrickson gets the #2 slot after a third-place finish at the conference tournament and run to the bloodround at the NCAA tournament last season. Harris gets an honorable mention for his bloodround run last season (though I think there is some competition for his starting job in the room at OSU this season). Heindselman, Isley, and Elam are all right in that same mix where they could make the blood round and maybe even All-American next year. This will be a wild weight to follow in the Big 12 next year.
Preseason Big 12 Wrestler of the Year: Daton Fix-Oklahoma State
The easy answer to go with here probably would have been one of David Carr or AJ Ferrari as both won NCAA titles last year while Daton Fix finished as runner-up.
But the Fix we saw win a Senior World silver medal a few weeks ago was a different guy. The optimism behind what we saw from him there, coupled with the fact that he was unable to compete for an entire season last year, has me leaning towards Fix winning it all.
Add to it that, Ferrari has the gauntlet of a Big 12 schedule mentioned above with a multitude of All-Americans in his path. And David Carr will have another NCAA champion at his weight this season with Austin O'Connor.
You can't go wrong picking any of these three guys, but I think when the smoke clears at the end of the season, the most likely undefeated NCAA Champion of these three is Fix.
Preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year: Victor Voinovich - Oklahoma State
After the graduation of two-time All-American Boo Lewallen, there's some uncertainty about the 149 lb weight class for Oklahoma State. Which bodes well for a blue-chip true freshman like Victor Voinovich. Early whispers out of the OSU room reveal that Voinovich has been impressive.
Voinovich was a top-three finisher on two occasions in Fargo. He was a Cadet finalist in 2017 and third in Junior freestyle in 2019. Victor also picked up wins in two different "Who's #1" dual meets. Voinovich finished his high school career as the #15 overall recruit in the Class of 2021.
Preseason Team Favorite: Missouri
That's right. The guy that got his start in wrestling media blogging about his alma mater Oklahoma State is picking Missouri here.
Missouri is deep. They have everyone back and every wrestler on their roster qualified for the NCAA tournament last season. If their entire roster finishes in the top four at the Big 12, they will score a lot of points and be difficult to beat.
Oklahoma State has the top-end firepower that Missouri doesn't with guys like Fix and Ferrari. But there's some uncertainty at 141 and 149 as OSU will have new starters there.
This sets up for Oklahoma State to potentially be a higher finishing team at the NCAA tournament, while Mizzou has little more scoring potential on paper in the Big 12.