MIAMI — For the second time in three seasons, Oklahoma State will open its wrestling season with a dual at the NEO Field House.
Two years ago, the Cowboys opened with a 40-4 romp over NEO and a 25-9 victory over South Dakota State.
Sunday, No. 1 ranked OSU entertains Bucknell in a 2 p.m. match that will be part of a double dual that finds host Northeastern A&M battling Labette (Kansas) Community College.
Replacing three-time NCAA champion Alex Dieringer and two-time All-American Austin Marsden are the biggest tasks facing coach John Smith and the Cowboys.
"I think you have a lot of anxiety and you're always concerned about your performance in your first outing,” said Smith, who is entering his 26th season at Oklahoma State. “You'll see a lot of things that you will scratch your head at and say, 'you know what, we haven't even worked on that.' I don't know what those are, but we will see. The first competition, especially being down in weight for the first time, I don't think you ever get what you want, but nobody gets what they want.
“I'm just looking for a good strong start. Hopefully be able to create a little momentum to start."
Smith has led the Cowboys to five national titles (1994, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006). He has coached 31 NCAA individual champions and five Olympians.
The Cowboys’ lineup Sunday is expected to include 2016 NCAA Champion at 141 pounds Dean Heil and All-Americans Nolan Boyd, Anthony Collica and Joe Smith.
Senior Anthony Collica was been selected to compete in Saturday’s 51st annual National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Star Classic at Cleveland State University's Wolstein Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
He was scheduled to wrestle at 149 pounds, where he faced Lavion Mayes of Missouri.
Also, 12 OSU wrestlers, including a pair of former Norsemen — Blake Andrews and two-time NJCAA national champ Jacobe Smith — will be competing in the OCU Open in Oklahoma City.
A former NEO wrestler, Mitchell Sellers of Tahlequah is on the Cowboys’ roster, as well as Eli Hale, a former state champion at Miami High School.
Oklahoma State finished second at the NCAA Championships last March at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Bucknell had a program-record-tying six NCAA qualifiers last year and three of them are back – 157-pounder Victor Lopez, 141-pounder Tyler Smith and Tom Sleigh at 197.
Sleigh is ranked 13th at 197 by Intermat and Smith is No. 19 at 141.
The Bison had their best finish ever (third) in the 16-team Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association, which includes several Ivy League schools and Army and Navy.
Bucknell posted its third consecutive double-figure victory season for the first time in program history.
Bison head coach Dan Wirnsberger believes he and his coaching staff have done exactly what is needed to keep up that high level of success on the mats.
“It comes down to continuing to recruit well and bringing in the right kind of student-athlete, not only from a wrestling standpoint, but also socially and academically. That’s what makes these student-athletes good fits for the Bucknell model,” Wirnsberger said in a press release. He enters this season with 98 victories, second on Bucknell’s all-time wins list.
“If those guys perform at the level we think they’re capable of performing and grow as athletes during the season, then we’ll be right there at the end of the season – not just fighting for a third-place trophy, but hopefully we’re moving up and competing for those top two spots in the EIWA,” Wirnsberger said.
The Cowboys have won all four meetings between the schools, including a 40-6 romp on Nov. 17, 2013 in Stillwater.