Demetrius Romero at the 2021 Big 12 Championships (photos courtesy of Mark Lundy; LutteLens.com)
It's Halloween and I thought I'd take a fun/not-so-fun look at some of the scariest things that could happen to Big 12 wrestling programs across the conference as we head into another wrestling season.
Iowa State-David Carr's weight change doesn't work out
David Carr is moving up to 165 after being the top guy at 157 for the last few seasons. Moving up in weight is often beneficial, see PSU the last few years. But it doesn't necessarily always work out. Iowa State fans really want this to go well for Carr.
Utah Valley-Another injury to Romero
Demetrius Romero has been the top guy at Utah Valley for the past few seasons, but has dealt with a lot of injuries. He's coming back for one more year. UVU fans want to see a healthy swan song for Romero as he closes out his career.
Missouri-Takes a step back after winning Big 12
A lot went right for Missouri last year as they reentered the Big 12. They lost a few duals but ultimately won the conference and crowned an NCAA champion with Keegan O'Toole. They'll want to maintain and possibly even exceed that mark this season. Another program winning the conference would sting for a program that has had a great transition back to the Big 12 so far.
Air Force-Hendrickson misses podium at NCAAs
Wyatt Hendrickson had a historic year for Air Force last year. The one nod he didn't get was an All-American honor. The Falcons will want to see him on the podium this year.
Oklahoma-They don't get to stay in the conference
OU is moving most of its sports to the SEC. The SEC doesn't have wrestling. So they're applying to stay as affiliates. It's unclear whether it will be approved but the best thing for them is to remain in the Big 12, so this is something they'll really want to have happen.
Oklahoma State-Another finish like last season
Last year's finish and offseason for Oklahoma State were rough, historically bad for the most storied program in the history of the sport. Another finish like that could be a huge blow for a program trying to get back on the level of Iowa, Penn State, and some of the other traditional powers they've fallen behind.
Wyoming-A repeat of the 2021-2022 season
I may get ripped for saying this but outside of Stephen Buchanan, Wyoming didn't really live up to expectations last season. They were legit Big 12 title contenders going in and ended with a losing dual season record and a ninth-place finish at the Big 12 tournament. That's not what they wanted. This year their expectations may be a bit different going into the season, but fans will hope to see a nice bounce back.
North Dakota State-South Dakota State gaining the rivalry edge
Traditionally, North Dakota State has dominated its rivalry with SDSU. An all-time record of 45-23. But as I'll mention shortly, South Dakota State has a lot of momentum in their program currently and dominated the dual last season 32-3. NDSU does not want to lose their grip on the "Dakota Marker".
South Dakota State-Anything that slows momentum
New facilities, a 13-4 dual record last season, including a win over Missouri. And a U23 World Silver Medalist last week with Tanner Sloan. They've just got to keep building literally and figuratively, as they're trending in a very positive direction currently.
Being a little facetious with this one. Obviously, there are always concerns but these guys went toe-to-toe with the giants of the Big 12 and wrestling last season. They took out Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Oklahoma in Norman, and went down to the wire with Iowa State at home. They need to clean up some of the early season dual losses, but fear doesn't seem to be an issue with these guys as they go up against schools with the biggest budgets in the conference and win.
Northern Colorado-Transfers don't work out as expected
UNC should have one of the best lineups in the history of their program this season. Some of that is predicated on some pretty high expectations for a few offseason transfers they have coming in. They'll need to get a lot out of these guys to live up to the expectations this season.
Cal Baptist-Rough transition to D1
This is something that's never going to be easy for any program. Transitioning from D2 to D1 is tough, especially in a deep conference like the Big 12. They have a good recruiting class and should be poised to do pretty well early, but fans are going to want this to work as smoothly as possible.
West Virginia-Dual struggles
Overall, I would say WVU's finish to the season was solid. A Big 12 champion at 125 and an All-American at 165 are both big for that program. But they had some struggles in dual meets going 6-8 overall and 1-6 in the conference. Their only wins came to Davidson, Glenville State, VMI, Chattanooga, and Utah Valley. They'll have to improve in duals.