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This week, TheMat.com will move to the USOC platform, with a new look, new functionality, but with the same favorite features....

Terry Shockley named Chairman of the Board of Governors of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame

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Big 12 Teams get ready for showdown in Stillwater, Okla.



This week the five wrestling schools of the Big 12 will gather in Stillwater, Oklahoma for a tournament that will certainly be a shootout for the team title as well as the thirty-six individual berths into the NCAA Championships to be held in Iowa City March 15-17. All five coaches of the Big 12 schools are excited about the competition and know that the tournament will have a fair share of upsets and surprises. Right now, it seems, Oklahoma State is the favorite but Iowa State and Oklahoma will be gunning for the Cowboys. And, both schools probably have the guns to wrestle the title from Oklahoma State in Stillwater. The field is very well balanced, with even Nebraska and Missouri, the two teams who are probably out of the running for the title, having their fair share of strong conference title contenders. Very few weights have an overwhelming favorite, like Cael Sanderson, at 184 pounds. But, even most wrestling fans know that nothing is guaranteed in this tournament, especially when Sanderson will likely face Daniel Cormier, a senior ranked #3 nationally, who is dangerous with an all out style. This tournament will be a shootout: Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and Oklahoma are all gunning for the glory of the Big 12 Championship and momentum heading into the National Championships. At 125 pounds, earlier in the season Oklahoma was dealt a tough blow when Bo Maynes went down with a season ending injury. But, Oklahoma brought out Matt Ridings a hard working junior who has come out firing with tremendous upsets of Jason Powell of Nebraska, and Matt Brown of Oklahoma State. Both Brown and Powell were rated in the top 10 nationally. The strength of the Sooners performance could likely rise or fall on Matt Ridings ability to perform in the heated environment of the Big 12 tournament. However, in the semi-finals match when Ridings will likely face Missouri, don't look for Oklahoma Head Coach Jack Spates to be in the corner coaching against Missouri. Ridings will likely face Justin Spates---Coach Spates' son. "I never coach against my boys, they know the situation and my team does as well. It's a Catch-22; I want my kids to do well and my team to do well also. Sometimes you can't have it both ways." Johnny Thomspon a redshirt freshman for Oklahoma State has been ranked as high as #2 by the Amateur Wrestling News, yet he will probably not receive the #1 seed. Todd Beckerman a senior from Crofton Maryland likely gained that spot by pinning Thompson in the first period in their last meeting. Two other wrestlers Matt Azevedo of Iowa State and Witt Durden of Oklahoma have the ability to capture a conference championship. For the Sooners to really make a move in the team race Witt Durden will need to step up his wrestling and have a great tournament. At 141 pounds, Charles Walker will take the mat for Oklahoma State. Walker is slightly undersized for the weight and was a slated to be a 133 pounder until the up-start red-shirt freshman Thompson took control of the weight. The top-seed will be Michael Lightner for the Sooners. Lightner, a senior with three conference titles already to his credit and rated #2 by AWN, is an-exciting wrestler who has a fast and furious hi-c, that has become his trademark shot. When asked which opposing wrestlers coaches enjoyed watching Bobby Douglas, Mark Manning and John Smith mentioned the name, Michael Lightner. According, to Smith, "He wrestles so hard, and is very confident with his shot." If the seeds hold true what likely will be even more interesting is the chase for third at 141 pounds. Nebraska will showcase the talent of a true freshman from Kansas named Dusty Spaulding. Spaulding a highly sought after recruit from Council Grove, Kansas spent a good portion of January out with a broken clavicle. According to Manning, "Dusty had a tough adjustment to college wrestling, but he is really coming on at the right time. He really gets after it and he won't be backing down this weekend." Spaulding's grit and determination was in evidence earlier this month in Lincoln when he dropped a double-overtime decision to Zach Roberson from ISU. Roberson, another Kansas prep standout will have to be ready for Spaulding's challenge. The favorite at 149 pounds is Reggie Wright of Oklahoma State. Wright, the number one-rated wrestler is a fierce competitor and very dangerous from his feet. He's the type of wrestler that is capable of scoring bonus points for the Cowboys. He has great technique that includes a series of throws and inside trips that can take his opponent straight to his back. Jack Spates of Oklahoma touted Wright as one individual he enjoys watching in the Big 12 meet. Behind Wright, in the second seed will likely be Jared Frayer. Frayer, for Oklahoma is a junior who could certainly help the Soorners with a well-wrestled tournament. Iowa State will likely take the 3rd seed with Billy Maldonado. Travis Baker of Nebraska gave Maldonado a tussle in Lincoln losing 9-7. The Tigers will put Kenny Burleson out in a weight class that third year Head Coach Brian Smith sees the potential for a qualifier. "The weight is really open after Wright and we think we can get a qualifier with Burleson." This year, 157 pounds in the Big 12, has been dominated by Bryan Snyder of Nebraska. Snyder, a two-time All-American, has only one loss this year to Minnesota's Luke Becker on a controversial fleeing the mat call. Missouri Tiger, Coach Smith called Snyder one of the most entertaining wrestlers to watch in the Big 12, "He's a brawler with phenomenal technique. He always seems to be looking to score a lot of points." Iowa State will challenge Snyder's dominance with Cole Sanderson a senior. Cole Sanderson's talents have likely been overshadowed by his younger brother's quest for perfection, but he is very capable of knocking off the #2 rated Snyder of the Huskers. Sanderson's current AWN ranking is #8. He will be followed in seeds by #16 Shane Roller of Oklahoma State, and #18 Brian Burrows of Oklahoma. At 165 pounds, once again, the Big 12 boasts a highly ranked wrestler. The top-seed will likely go to Joe Heskett of Iowa State. Heskett, in Coach Spates words is great to watch because of his dangerous and aggressive pinning style. Heskett, a junior, from the nationally recognized wrestling high school of Walsh-Jesuit is the type of wrestler that can clamp on a cradle from anywhere. If Iowa State should grab the title on Saturday, its effort will likely be pushed along by bonus points from the likes of Heskett. What makes 165 pounds even more interesting is Oklahoma's Robbie Waller is one of Heskett's three losses this year. Waller pulled off the mid-season upset by taking control of the match with three takedowns and considerable riding time. Waller, rated #6 by AWN, has pulled the upset before and of course will be gunning for Heskett. Iowa State's Head Coach Bobby Douglas feels that Heskett is ready, "He gave up three takedowns in that loss, Joe knows he needs to perform better on his feet." Placement at 165 pounds for third will be a scramble, but Nebraska will put out Tony Denke, who at last year's Big 12 meet in Lincoln nearly pulled off the upset of Heskett. One hundred and seventy-four pounds offers a true five-way battle for the championship honors. Each coach is citing their wrestlers potential, and hoping for a big tournament performance. Only one wrestler, Ati Conner of Nebraska is unranked in the top 20 by AWN. The other four are tightly bunched from 6th to 10th. With this tight grouping of talent is certain that there will be a contentious discussion for seeding by the five schools. Currently, John Kopinsky of Missouris is rated 6th but certainly could be edged for the top seed by Tyrone Lewis who is rated 7th by AWN. Behind these two are Perry Parks of ISU rated 9th and Michael Barger of Oklahoma rated 10th. Regardless of who gains the top-seed 174 will showcase a scramble for the individual title. Michael Barger is capable of winning it from the #3 seed. Barger a Big 12 runnerup, has beaten Tyrone Lewis
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