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March 19, 2014

174-pounder leads eight Sooners into national wrestling meet

NORMAN — The hard work, discipline and intensity, it all builds up to what an elite wrestler is able to do over the three days at the end of this week.

That’s when a legacy may be born and a legend made. Those stories will play out at the NCAA Wrestling Championships, taking place Thursday through Saturday just up the road at Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy Arena.

It means a chance for the hometown fans to see an Oklahoma wrestling team that has a chance to make some waves.

“It’s time to get into their minds, that they have to expect to win every time they go out there,” said OU Coach Mark Cody. “And that takes being able to focus, one match at a time and even one minute at a time.”

The Sooners have qualified eight wrestlers for the national tournament, led by two former national champions: Kendric Maple, who won the 141-pound crown a year ago, and Andrew Howe, a 165-pound national champion in 2010 while competing for Wisconsin.

Howe’s road since has been a winding one. He took an Olympic redshirt year and was 30 seconds away from possibly being part of Team USA in the 2012 London Olympics as he was closing out the rubber match of a best-of-3 series against Jordan Burroughs.

“We just got into a scramble, and then I felt my knee pop,” Howe said. “I’d never felt anything like that before. But I knew I was in trouble. It ended up being an ACL.”

Howe finished the match, but lost a 1-0 decision.

Burroughs went on and won the gold medal in the 74-kilogram freestyle division in London.

Howe went on to months of rehabilitation from the injury, and in the meantime he and former Badger teammate Travis Rutt both followed former assistant coach Jared Frayer to OU to finish up their collegiate careers with the Sooners.

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