NORMAN — Second-year Oklahoma wrestling coach Mark Cody has his reasons for redshirting three of his main matmen this season.
None of them, as spoken, include bundling talent for a next-season run at OU’s first NCAA wrestling championship in decades, yet one must wonder.
Andrew Howe is a 174-pound transfer from Wisconsin who sat out last season with an Olympic redshirt after finishing third at 165 pounds at the 2011 NCAA meet, one year after claiming a 2010 national championship at the same weight.
Travis Rutt, at 184 pounds, is another Wisconsin transfer who also sat out last season with an Olympic redshirt, one year after finishing seventh at the NCAA meet.
Then there’s 125-pounder Jarrod Patterson, the No. 7 seed at last year’s NCAA tournament, where he won 4 of 6 matches for the Sooners during his junior year.
All three would be seniors on a loaded 11th-ranked Sooner squad that begins its season at 7 p.m. tonight against NAIA power Oklahoma City. Instead, they will all redshirt — Howe and Rutt for a second time — and be seniors next season.
Howe is coming off a knee injury and all three “have skills that need to be developed,” Cody said, yet all three would be favorites to reach the NCAA draw this season, maybe with a chance to win national titles.
Clearly, OU wrestling fans have much to look forward to.
As for this season?
“I think we’ve made some great improvements,” Cody said.
Indeed, many standouts are back, many freshmen are expected to have big impacts and any thought that OU won’t enjoy a fine 2012-13 mat season would appear to be quite off base.
When the Sooners meet the Stars at Howard McCasland Field House tonight, they’ll do it without the services of two of their best grapplers.
That’s because 141-pounder Kendrick Maple and 149-pounder Nick Lester, a pair of All-Americans, have been selected to perform at the NWCA All-Star Classic at American University in Washington, D.C.
While they’re away, OU should be led by 157-pounder Matt Lester, an NCAA qualifier last season, 165-pounder Bubby Graham, another NCAA qualifier, and heavyweight Keldrick Hall, an NCAA qualifier at 197 last year.
Hall could prove to be quite the headliner.
“As the season went on, he seemed to hit a little growth spurt. And, at 197, he had a hard time (making weight). In the summer, he was about 240.” Cody said. “He definitely is a top-five wrestler at heavyweight. The biggest thing is getting him to believe that.”
Many freshmen will be available for viewing tonight.
Kyle Garcia, a four-time state champ from Choctaw will get the start at 125 pounds. Cody Brewer, a redshirt freshman and three-time Missouri State high school champion, will get the start at 133. Matt Reed is OU’s guy at 174 after knocking off veteran Nolan McBride at the Red/White Scrimmage. Greg Wilson will get the start at 184 and Brad Johnson at 197.
Cody believes the influx of new blood will pay dividends up and down the roster all season long.
“Last season, if you didn’t want to work hard, there were still a few places to hide in the wrestling room,” he said. “But now, if you don’t want to work hard, you’re going to get beat up.
“We have a very different team than we did last year. We have several new guys. I’ve had to push them pretty hard, but not like I had to last season. They’re all-in.”
Also, looking forward, it should only get better.
Clay HorningFollow me @email@example.com