TULSA, Okla. – Oklahoma wrestling finished in second place at the 2022 Big 12 Championship at the BOK Center in Tulsa on Sunday. The program saw nine of its wrestlers punch their tickets to the NCAA Championships in Detroit, more than any other school in the conference.
Eight Sooners claimed their spots on Saturday (Joey Prata, Tony Madrigal, Jacob Butler, Willie McDougald, Justin Thomas, Anthony Mantanona, Jake Woodley and Josh Heindselman) while Keegan Moore booked his trip to nationals with his opening-match win Sunday. It is OU’s most qualifiers under head coach Lou Rosselli. The Sooners last sent nine wrestlers to NCAAs in 2012.
“Obviously you want to win the tournament, the plan is to win the tournament,” said Rosselli. “But when you get nine guys to qualify, that’s a good run. I’m disappointed in some of the things that happened, but overall we’re pleased that the guys are fighting and working hard out there. Nine guys is pretty good, but I’d like to have 10. We’ll see on Tuesday if (Joe) Grello can get an at-large spot.”
Every single Oklahoma wrestler who competed earned a place on a podium, joining Missouri and Iowa State as the only teams to do so in Tulsa this weekend. Seven Sooners placed higher than they were seeded entering the tournament.
Redshirt freshman McDougald was the lone Sooner to wrestle in the Big 12 finals Sunday night and took second place in his first career postseason. The redshirt freshman 149-pounder took more shots and wrestled a tight contest with top-seeded Kaden Gfeller of Oklahoma State, but a stalling call doomed McDougald in a 2-1 decision loss.
Prata, at 125 pounds, continued to lead from the front for the Sooners, claiming a 9-2 decision win in the first match of the day. The seven-point win represented the largest victory margin for Prata on the season. He finished in fourth place after losing his lead in the final seconds of the third-place match.
Madrigal and Butler both wrestled their way to sixth-place finishes on the backs of strong opening days. At 133, Madrigal won three matches, two of which were major decisions. His best performance came in a 13-1 major decision win over Northern Colorado’s Dyson Kunz.
Butler put together an impressive weekend to go from unseeded to an NCAA qualifier, resulting in a sixth-place finish. He lost a back-and-forth affair with top-seeded Ian Parker of Iowa State 8-7 in the fifth-place match in his final bout. Butler had previously beaten Parker 7-4 to open the tournament. The shock win for the Elgin, Okla., product was the undisputed biggest upset of the weekend. It was the only time the top-seeded wrestler in a weight class lost, as the other nine No. 1 seeds went on to win their brackets.
In the final Big 12 Championship of his career, Thomas made sure to bring the fireworks on his way to claiming fourth. The sixth-year senior battled to the championship semifinals on Saturday, highlighted by a 6-2 decision over Oklahoma State’s Wyatt Sheets, and then wrestled both of his matches to overtime on Sunday. He won the first bout thanks to a sudden victory takedown, but couldn’t pull out the victory in the third-place match.
Grello amassed a 4-2 record at 165 pounds in a busy weekend that culminated in him earning fifth place via a convincing 6-2 decision over No. 7 seed Isaac Judge of Iowa State. Grello came up one spot short of earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship and will have to wait until Tuesday to find out if he will earn an at-large nod.
An undefeated Sunday helped Anthony Mantanona to third in the 174-pound bracket. He started the day with an 8-4 decision victory over Lance Runyon of Northern Iowa. Two reversals and two takedowns against Runyon propelled him into the third-place match where he faced No. 2 seed Cade DeVos. The California product controlled the bout from start to finish, refusing to give up a takedown while bagging two of his own to secure his second win of the season over DeVos.
Moore came into Sunday knowing he needed to win his opening match to keep his season alive and he did just that against a familiar foe. Moore’s last match before Big 12s was a 9-4 decision win over OSU’s Dakota Geer. Moore produced a carbon copy of that match, once again winning 9-4 to punch his ticket to Detroit. He finished fourth in the 184-pound bracket.
At 197, Woodley pulled out a 1-0 decision over Yonger Bastida of Iowa State in the consolation semis thanks to a second-period escape and some impressive defensive work. He ended his Big 12 Championship in fourth place, qualifying him for the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in his career.
Heavyweight Heindselman wrestled his way to his second podium and second NCAA qualification in as many years as a starter for Oklahoma. His weekend was highlighted by an upset victory of West Virginia’s Michael Wolfgram.
The 2022 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships will be held March 17-19 in Detroit at Little Caesars Arena.
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