By Wendell Barnhouse
The 2012 Big 12 Wrestling Championship will be held on Saturday, March 3, at the Hearnes Center in Columbia, Mo. Doors open at 10 a.m. CT, with the semifinal round beginning at 11 a.m. All four league squads will be in action for the 16th annual event.
Semifinal round matches on both mats of the Championship will be shown live at Big12Sports.com, as well as the consolation round beginning at 1 p.m. The championship round will be carried live on FSN beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Mizzou hosted the inaugural Big 12 Championship in 1997. This year will mark the fourth time that the event has been in Columbia (1997, 2003, 2007). All-Session reserved tickets in the lower level can be purchased for $15, while upper level general admission seats are on sale for $10. If available, single session tickets can be purchased on the day of the championship. These tickets will be priced at $10 for reserved lower level seats and GA seats for $8. Those interested in purchasing tickets can do so through mutigers.com or by calling the Missouri ticket office at 1-800-CAT-PAWS.
No. 3 Oklahoma State leads the conference nationally, followed by Missouri (10) and Oklahoma (12), while Iowa State is unranked in the NWCA poll. The Cowboys are the two-time defending champions heading into the event, having won a league-leading 10 team titles to date. OSU won the 2012 Big 12 regular-season championship with a perfect 6-0 mark against the league’s three other schools. Iowa State has won three titles (2007-09), while the Sooners have won twice (1999, 2002). Missouri is bidding for its first Big 12 crown.
Individually, the Big 12 has 34 wrestlers currently ranked nationally through all 10 weight classes, including 12 in the top 10 and eight in the top five. The Conference also has one top-ranked overall in OSU’s Jordan Oliver (133).
As one of the top leagues in the nation, there is competition throughout all weight classes, but few comparable to the 125-pound group. All four Big 12 schools have wrestlers ranked in the top 15 in the class, including MU’s Alan Waters (3), OU’s Jarrod Patterson (10), OSU’s Jonathon Morrison (13) and ISU’s Cory Finch (15).
The Hearnes Center is an $11 million competitive facility that opened in 1972. It is home to the Missouri gymnastics, wrestling and volleyball programs. The building, which has a seating capacity of 13,611, has hosted numerous postseason competitions.
Iowa State (4-13 overall, 0-6 in Big 12)
Top Cyclones: Senior Andrew Sorensen (165 pounds), senior Jerome Ward (197 pounds), junior Chris Spangler (174 pounds), junior Matt Gibson (heavyweight),
Notes: Senior Jerome Ward and junior Chris Spangler returned to action late in the season after injuries. Spangler missed two months with a concussion. ... Iowa State coach Kevin Jackson is in his third season in Ames. He was an Olympic gold medal winner in 1992 and a two-time world champion. ... The Cyclones won Big 12 championships in 2007 and 2008 and shared the title in 2009. ... Iowa State had six representatives on the 2012 Academic All-Big 12 wrestling team. Sophomores Boaz Beard and Brandon Jones along with senior Andrew Sorenson earned first team honors.
Coach Kevin Jackson:
"This is the best time of the year, the chance to qualify athletes for the NCAA tournament. We're looking forward to having our best performance of the year. We've got a group of young men moving in the right direction. If they don't make mistakes and beat themselves, I think we can have some success."
"The Big 12 schedule was tough. When you consider that out of 40 spots, the Big 12 has 31 qualifiers that's pretty impressive. All season long, we competed against the best wrestlers in the country. When you get to the NCAA tournament, you're not intimidated."
Missouri (14-5 overall, 3-3 in Big 12)
Top Tigers: Freshman Drake Houdashelt (157), freshman Cody Johnston (184), freshman Austin Lindsay (157), sophomore Kyle Bradley (149), junior Brent Haynes (197), sophomore Alan Waters (125).
Notes: Missouri had five wrestlers named to the 2012 Academic All-Big 12 wrestling team. Junior Nathan McCormick was a first-team selection for the third consecutive year. ... Missouri coach Brian Smith is excited that the Tigers are hosts for the Big 12 Championships and that the 2012 NCAA championships are two hours down Interstate 70 in St. Louis. ... Smith has been Missouri's coach since 1998-99. The Tigers have finished second in the Big 12 three times - 2003, 2007 and 2011. ... Missouri has 18 freshmen or redshirt freshmen and just two seniors on its roster.
Coach Brian Smith:
"We're a young team and we were runner up last season. We're looking to turn that into a positive. It's our turn. We've got a lot of confidence in our wrestling room right now."
"I think the Big 12 Championship definitely prepares you for the tight matches you're going to face in the NCAA championship. This Saturday will be very exciting for the fans, I think every match will be very competitive."
Oklahoma (13-5 overall, 3-3 in Big 12)
Top Sooners: Junior Jarrod Patterson (125 pounds), sophomore Kendric Maple (141 pounds), sophomore Matt Lester (157 pounds), senior Jordan Keller (133 pounds).
Notes: In 10 of the last 12 seasons, Oklahoma has crowned multiple Big 12 champions. ... Oklahoma was 3-3 in Big 12 duals this season and averaged 17.2 points per match. OU gave up 19.3 points to conference opponents. ... The Sooners won the conference crown in 1999 and again in 2002, both under former head coach Jack Spates. ... OU has 23 conference titles in 80 years of wrestling, which is second to Oklahoma State's 34. ... Oklahoma has claimed 176 individual conference titles in the program's history. The crowns have come in four different conferences (Big Six, Big Seven, Big Eight and Big 12).
Coach Mark Cody:
"Anytime you go into your conference tournament 100 percent injury free, particularly with the long season and schedule that we have had, you have to feel good about your chances. There is no reason why we cannot bring home a Big 12 Championship. Our staff believes it and I feel our guys are starting to believe. We're looking forward to having a good weekend."
"We lost three All-Americans from last year's team and we weren't sure how it was going to go. With a new staff and a new approach, the kids had to make some adjustments but we got that ironed out. It's nice that we won 13 duals this season but as a coach you keep thinking about the ones you lost."
Oklahoma State (17-1 overall, 6-0 in Big 12)
Top Cowboys: Junior Jordan Oliver (133 pounds), senior Jamal Parks (149 pounds), sophomore Chris Perry (174 pounds), sophomore Blake Rosholt (197 pounds), sophomore Josh Kindig (141 pounds).
Notes: Chris Perry (174 pounds) and Jamal Parks (149) are undefeated this season. ... Oklahoma State goes into the postseason without heavyweight Alan Gelogaev who is out for the season after tearing a pectoral muscle two weeks ago. ... The Cowboys have six victories over top 10 opponents this season. ... Oklahoma State has won 11 Big 12 team titles and has gone eight seasons without a loss to a Conference foe. The Cowboys have 45 team conference championships. ... Oklahoma State wrestling coach John Smith who was an Olympic gold medalist in 1988 and 1992, is one of 18 finalists for the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. The six hall of fame inductees will be announced in April.
Coach John Smith:
"We put emphasis on winning dual meets. We take a lot of pride in it. The Big 12 Championship, there's another trophy. We like to collect hardware and that's our focus. We're looking forward to the conference championship. You can't make a lot of mistakes and expect to win. We'll have to wrestle very well to win this championship."
"I think we all liked the double round-robin schedule. I liked that we had two matches against three tough teams. For the teams that went deep in the national duals it made it challenging as far as scheduling. I don't know what the plan is for the future."