The Cyclones are heading to Tulsa this weekend to compete at the Big 12 Championships. Action kicks off Saturday at 11 on ESPN+. The finals will be broadcast live on ESPN2, 7 PM Sunday. The full schedule can be found here.
Iowa State was the only team to have each wrestler seeded. David Carr and Ian Parker lead the Cyclones as top seeds. The top 8 wrestlers at each weight received a seed and the remaining four will be randomly drawn into the bracket. Brackets will be released later in the week. Other teams with 8 or more wrestlers seeded were Mizzou, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, North Dakota State and UNI. Let this be your reminder that there actually are twelve Big 12 wrestling teams. West Virginia, Wyoming, South Dakota State, Northern Colorado, Air Force and Utah Valley are the others.
The Cyclones head into the weekend as tournament favorites for the first time in over a decade. They are searching for their first title since 2009 when they tied Nebraska for the last in a run of three straight. They will need to wrestle their tails off to do it. Wyoming and the Dakota schools make up a strong middle class of the conference. UNI and Oklahoma have wrestled with the league’s elites this season. The Sooners had a shockingly good performance to tie OSU for the title last season. I don’t think they repeat that. The Panthers are a fantastic dual team and very well still could be in the conversation on Sunday, but have yet to show their firepower in this tournament.
Oklahoma State leads the field with three top seeded wrestlers (Daton Fix, Kaden Gfeller and Dustin Plott). The Cowboys were on track to walk away with this thing two months ago. Since then, the 10-time defending Big 12 champions have been spiraling as much as you can when you’re the greatest collegiate sports program in history. Injuries have struck the Cowboys big time. They’ve lost NCAA champ AJ Ferrari. All-American Travis Wittlake, perennial starter Wyatt Sheets, and top ten Trevor Mastrogiovanni have missed matches. There’s rumors of Wittlake and Sheets injury defaulting out of the conference tournament. They’ve also just flat out not been wrestling to their capabilities. BUT if they do, they will push for yet another conference title.
That brings us to who I see as the Cyclone’s biggest competition this weekend. The Missouri Tigers. In their first year back in the conference, they were picked as pre-season Big 12 champions by InterMat. They tied for the title in 2012. Keegan O’Toole at 165 is their only top seed, and he is a bonus point machine. What makes Mizzou such a big threat is their depth. Half the lineup is seeded top-4 and Rocky Elam and Noah Surtin would be no surprise to see in the finals.
The Big 12 Championships also serve as qualifier for the NCAA tournament. Wrestlers earn allocations for the conference from their performance during the regular season based on win percentage, RPI and a coaches’ panel ranking. These allocations are given on a weight-by-weight basis. Here’s how the Big 12’s 58 allocations (2nd most of any conference) are divvied up:
125: 6 qualifiers
133: 6 qualifiers
141: 7 qualifiers
149: 4 qualifiers
157: 6 qualifiers
165: 4 qualifiers
174: 8 qualifiers
184: 4 qualifiers
197: 7 qualifiers
285: 6 qualifiers
This means that since 149 was allocated 4 qualifiers, Jarrett Degen needs to place in the top 4 to clinch a spot at NCAAs. If he doesn’t, he will need to receive a wild card. There will be no true placement matches at Big 12s.
This is just the first part of our three-part preview we’ve got planned for the week, so check back as the wrestling gets closer.