Five Takeaways from the 2023 Big 12 Championships

The 2023 Big 12 Championships (photo courtesy of Mark Lundy;

It was a fun Big 12 Tournament weekend in Tulsa as Missouri wins their second straight Big 12 Title and David Carr beat Keegan O'Toole to win the 165-pound crown and Outstanding Wrestler award. To wrap things up, I thought I'd take a look at five takeaways I had from the tournament.

1. They used it to prep for the NCAA Tournament

From a planning perspective, it was interesting to see the setup they had for the tournament. Big 12 is obviously not the scale or size of an event like the NCAA Tournament, but they did some things I haven't seen previously. They had a small section blocked off with some food trucks and inflatables that to my understanding will be expanded for the NCAAs, they had OSU media people in attendance to review the setup and plan for media, and implemented a few other things that were clearly designed to plan for the tournament. I even personally had a few concerns with how things would run for the NCAAs, but it does look like they're making some efforts to plan for it. The biggest concern I have is parking. There's just not much there. Would highly recommend taking an Uber from your hotels or walking if you're within reasonable walking distance.

2. Other coaches could have been considered for Coach of the Year

Brian Smith is incredible, and the program he's built at Missouri has stood the test of time and continues success and a run of 13 straight conference titles. It's truly unbelievable what he's done. But if you peel back the layers and look at Air Force's leap to their best performance in Big 12 history where they qualified three for the NCAA tournament, Northern Colorado's two champions, and North Dakota State topping all of the affiliate members… Smith has obviously done some amazing things with Missouri and is certainly deserving of the award, but when you look at some of the underlying things happening in other programs, there are some other guys that may have deserved it as well.

3. Good to have Missouri back in the Big 12 and I hope OU stays

I asked Brian Smith what it's been like to be back in the Big 12 "I love it. I love this setting, with the stage and the crowd and the battles we have to go through here." It ended up being a bit of an old-school Big 12/Big 8 Team finish with Missouri, OSU, ISU, and OU rounding out the top 4. OU is of course on their way to the SEC, a conference that doesn't sponsor wrestling. They are going to apply to stay as an affiliate in the Big 12. I hope the powers that be have the sense to allow it.

4. O'Toole-Carr continues to live up to the hype.

David Carr is now up 2-0 in this highly anticipated series this season. We're very likely going to see it again at the NCAA tournament on Saturday night, but O'Toole is right there. It was an exciting overtime finish here and could be similar in a few weeks. O'Toole closed the gap a bit from the first match. Can he pull the upset next week?

5. The byes in the first round stirred some controversy.

I haven't looked at the math, but I don't think Oklahoma State or Iowa State could have beaten Missouri if the number of byes in the first round were more evenly pushed to Missouri. Mizzou had more matches in the preliminary round than Iowa State and Oklahoma State, and were able to score more bonus because of that. Again, I don't think it would have flipped this team race. It wasn't close enough, but it's bound to catch a tournament at some point with a tighter team race and upset a lot of fans on the losing end of it. I don't know what moves you make to correct that, but it's just like something that's eventually going to cause some controversy.


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