By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
Norman — Oklahoma’s Jarrod Patterson struggled to catch his breath Saturday night at McCasland Field House. It wasn’t from the stunning 5-3 victory he claimed over top-seeded Andrew Long from Iowa State in the 125-pound final of the Big 12 Wrestling Championships that had left him gasping for air.
It was the enormous bear hug he received from OU assistant coach Sammie Henson and the enormity of what he’d just done that hit him.
“I never thought I’d be here right now,” the freshman said.
Patterson wasn’t the only one.
Four months ago he was expected to redshirt. Twelve months ago he was wrapping up a fourth-straight start title at Cushing High School.
Saturday night he was a Big 12 champion and sharing the title of event’s Most Outstanding Wrestler with Oklahoma State’s 133-pounder Jordan Oliver.
But unexpected things happen in the Big 12 Championships. Patterson’s upset title helped lead OU to 64 points and a third-place finish.
“Mighty Might,” OU coach Jack Spates said about his surprise conference champion. “He has a heart as big as his body. He only weighs about 128 pounds and I think his heart is about 100 of those.”
It was a turnaround performance for the Sooners, who finished fifth in the previous three conference championships.
Their fortunes had obviously turned with the Sooners entering the event they were hosting for the first time since first time since 2002 with the top seed in three weight classes and all three advanced to the finals.
Kyle Terry, who was defending his Big 12 title at 149 pounds, topped Iowa State’s Mitch Mueller, 4-2, to claim his second straight conference crown.
Shane Vernon edged Iowa State’s Neil Erisman to claim the 157-pound title.
But those two were expecting to win titles.
“We’re all wrestling really well. It’s a reflection on how we’ve been working,” said Vernon, who didn’t compete in last season’s conference tournament. “I’m proud of all the guys and coaches.”
The Sooners’ only disappointment was in the final of the 141-pound division. Zack Bailey entered the final with a 14-match winning streak. One of those wins was at the expense of Oklahoma State’s Jamal Parks in the Bedlam dual in Stillwater Feb. 21.
Bailey held a two-point lead Saturday night with less than 40 seconds left in the third period, but Parks caught him with a takedown and held on for a 3-2 victory.
“With the exception of one match, we wrestled better than we have all year and we’ve wrestled well all year,” Spates said. “It was a great performance.”
A victory there wouldn’t have given the Sooners the team title, but it would have kept the Cowboys out of the top spot.
The Sooners placed a wrestler in all 10 weight classes. Kendric Maple finished third at 133 pounds, so did Tyler Caldwell (165) and Eric Laptosky (197).
Jeff James finished fourth at 175 pounds, matching the finishes of Erich Schmidtke (184) and Nathan Fernandez (heavyweight).
It all made for the Sooners’ first conference championship since they last won the crown in 2002.
“Three for four. Coaches are pretty pleased,” Terry said. “We had a good tournament.”
John Shinn 366-3536 firstname.lastname@example.org