COLUMBIA — Deserving wrestlers from the Big 12 will miss a chance to compete at the National Championships.
The Big 12 will send 38 wrestlers to the championships, which are held in St. Louis later this month. The top three finishers in the 10 weight classes at the Big 12 Championships automatically qualify. Coaches then select an additional eight wrestlers to compete.
WIN Magazine, a wrestling publication, had 40 Big 12 wrestlers ranked in the top 20 of their respective weight classes in its Feb. 25 rankings. At least two of those 40 wrestlers will not wrestle in St. Louis.
This also means the battle at the Big 12 Championships for the team title will be a tight race.
“This is going to be one of the toughest Big 12 tournaments ever,” Smith said. “Four or five teams can win the tournament.”
This was not always the case.
During the first 10 years of the conference, from 1997 until 2007, Oklahoma State won eight championships and Oklahoma won the other two. Only once was the difference between the first and second place teams less than 10 points, and the lowest winning score was 80. Last season, Iowa State won with 66.5 points, Missouri finished second with 61.5 and Oklahoma State third with 60.5.
Senior Tyler McCormick thinks that it could be even closer this year.
“The winner is going to have less points than they did last year,” he said. “There is more parity in the Big 12 this year, everybody is beating everybody. Every team is in the team race this year, as opposed to last year when two or three teams were in it.”
Iowa State coach Cael Sanderson pointed out that there was no heavy favorite this year. Nebraska coach Mark Manning disagreed, saying that the Cyclones, who were ranked No. 1 early in the season, were the favorites. Still, Manning recognized that every team had a good chance at winning the conference title.
“It could come down to the last couple matches,” Manning said. “There is a lot of parity in our conference, obviously.”
This was evident during the season as no Big 12 team finished undefeated against conference opponents.
McCormick said parity is just an overall trend within the NCAA. Ten wrestlers from 10 different schools won national championships last year, showing how the talent is spread out throughout the nation.
“It used to be that the powerhouses like Oklahoma State and Iowa State got all the big-timers,” junior Raymond Jordan said. “But now the top recruits are going to more non-traditional schools, so there is a lot more parity.”
Four different teams were ranked No. 1 in the nation throughout the year, and the parity was obvious within the Big 12. All five teams were ranked in the top 15 by the coaches’ poll, with three teams among the top five.