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Oklahoma State places 10th at NCAA Championships, confident in bright future

Mar. 23—Minutes removed from the college wrestling season coming to a close, coach John Smith is already looking toward the 2025 season and doing so with optimism.

"This team was exciting for us all year," Smith said. "Guys are going to get better. The future looks bright. This team helped us get back in a direction we needed to go in."

Yes, Oklahoma State's 10th place finish at the 2024 NCAA Championships is five spots below the projections based on seeds.

"That I wish was better," Smith said. "It wasn't that far apart. A couple of wins here and there, you're in the top five. We didn't quite get there."

And yes, the program is now in its longest drought ever for a team title: 19 years. There's nothing anybody could've done to deny Penn State from its 11th championship in 13 years. The sport runs through State College, Pennsylvania, until further notice.

But that doesn't make this season a failure for the Cowboys. They went 14-1 in dual meets, scored the most points for a runner-up in the Big 12 Championship and their 56 team points at the national tournament is nearly double than the 28.5 they scored last year, which made for the worst placement in program history (18th).

"We had a good breakthrough this year as a team," Smith said. "In the end, we moved forward as a program, and I'm pleased with our season. I'm pleased with our team."

The positive outlook on Saturday, despite a "heartbreaking" finals loss, isn't just because of what the Cowboys did on the mat this year but rather what's being built in the room under Smith, who will be entering his 34th year as coach.

The team had five underclassmen in the tournament.

Redshirt freshman Troy Spratley should be an All-American next year.

Daton Fix will pass the torch at 133 pounds to Zach Blakenship or Stillwater's own Cael Hughes.

Redshirt freshman Jordan Williams is the team's most improved wrestler.

The Cowboys signed Cody Merrill, a top 10 recruit in the 2024 class.

Stillwater junior LaDarion Lockett will join the team in two years as the No. 3 recruit in his class.

And OSU fans have yet to see heavyweight freshman Christian Carroll, the No. 1 pound-for-pound recruit of 2023.

"Oklahoma State wrestling is in a good place right now," Smith said. "A little disappointed we didn't squeeze in there ... these guys want to be better."