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Four Cowboys earn top 8 seeds for NCAA national tournament

Mar. 15—College wrestling can change in a hurry.

A year ago, Oklahoma State was 18th at the NCAA Championships — its worst placement in program history. Now, the Cowboys are projected to have a top 5 finish at next weekend's national tournament in Kansas City based on individual seeds.

"That's confidence in us," coach John Smith said. "I'm surprised. I didn't imagine that, but I like that."

One thing that shouldn't be expected to change, however, is the team on top. Penn State is projected to score 136 team points.

The gap between the Nittany Lions and No. 2 North Carolina State is greater than the gap between NC State and No. 14 Ohio State.

"Penn State is the best team in the country this year. I don't think anybody's running them down," Smith said. "There's four or five teams that can take second, and I think there's probably 10 teams that can take third."

OSU, Missouri and Virginia Tech are the only schools to send its full lineup to the tournament in back-to-back years.

OSU's seeds are as follows:

125: No. 6 Troy Spratley

133: No. 1 Daton Fix

141: No. 10 Tagen Jamison

149: No. 20 Jordan Williams

157: No. 16 Teague Travis

165: No. 7 Izzak Olejnik

174: No. 25 Brayden Thompson

184: No. 3 Dustin Plott

197: No. 27 Luke Surber

285: No. 12 Konner Doucet

"I expect a pretty good tournament from this team," Smith said. "Does that mean that we're going to have several high All-Americans? I don't know what it means. I just know that it's gonna be hard to beat some of my guys."

Fix's last danceThere have been many great wrestlers who never won an individual national championship.

Daton Fix hopes to avoid becoming the poster boy for second place.

"This is the last time, so it does mean a little more," Fix said. "I haven't finished on top in my four times going. Not very many people get a fifth chance, so I got to make the most of it."

Fix lost to Nick Suriano of Rutgers in the 2019 final and Roman Bravo-Young of Penn State in the '21 and '22 finals. A Cornell wrestler got the best of Fix in 2023, when eventual national champion Vito Arujau defeated him in the semifinal.

Wrestling fans were a bit surprised on Wednesday to see Fix had secured the top seed because Lehigh sophomore Ryan Crookham beat Arujau twice this year. But John Smith expected the 133-pound bracket to come together as it did.

"After seeing what happened in some of the conference tournaments, I thought there was a good chance he's No. 1," Smith said. "If you had asked me two weeks ago, probably not."

This will be Fix's third national tournament as the top wrestler.

If the seeds hold, he is set up for a quarterfinal match against Iowa State's Evan Frost, whom he beat in the Big 12 championship. He would then be in the semifinals against Rutgers' Dylan Shawver and in the finals against Crookham.

But Fix said he's only going to focus on one match at a time.

"It doesn't matter who's in front of me," Fix said. "It doesn't matter what seed I am. It doesn't matter what seed anybody is. It's just a number. You're going to have to wrestle. ...

"I learned that a long time ago. I've been the 1-seed. I've been the 2-seed. It doesn't matter. Throw me in the bracket, and let's scrap it out."

Smith said he wants to come back from Kansas City with a 133-pound national champion more than anything.

"That would be right at the top of my list," Smith said. "That'd be really nice."

Fix said he feels the support from OSU fans, and he's confident in his chances.

"All my heroes have been Cowboys, so it's been a dream come true to be able to put on the orange singlet and I get to do it five more times," Fix said. "I'm going to get my hand raised each of those five times."