NORMAN — The success of many a strong athletic program comes from the leadership of its seniors, both in setting an example on the field of play and doing the right things off of it.
That’s been the case for the Oklahoma wrestling team in its climb the last few years to a strong 2013-14 season, one where its senior class deserves much of the credit.
“That’s what will really get you over the top,” said OU Coach Mark Cody. “You can hear things from the coaches, but once you see that hard work and leadership from your teammates, you hear it from those guys sharing what they’ve learned, that makes a big difference.”
Five of the Sooners’ 10 regular starters are seniors — Jarrod Patterson (125 pounds), Nick Lester (141), Kendric Maple (149), Andrew Howe (174) and Travis Rutt (197). All have been All-Americans on the mat, and this week all were named Academic All-Americans for this season as well.
They’ll get their final tune-up before the NCAA national tournament this Saturday, as well as one last chance to wrestle at home, when the Sooners host the Big 12 Tournament at McCasland Field House.
Much of the good work the Sooners have done this year begins with what they do behind the closed doors of the wrestling room on the north end of the field house. It’s there that so much of that leadership shown by the senior class is evident.
“These are five guys who have all been All-Americans, so these younger guys can see what these guys have achieved through working hard and doing things the right way,” Cody said. “That helps you with the future of your program, here’s what you have to do and then you can achieve also.”
Patterson once was one of those fresh faces, coming to OU in 2009 after a stellar career as a four-time state champion at Cushing High School. Despite all that success, he found the jump to the college ranks significant.