NORMAN, Okla. -- The Oklahoma wrestling team opens the season this weekend when it travels to Brockport, N.Y., to compete in the seventh annual Brockport/Oklahoma Gold Classic.
The Sooners are set to begin the dual portion of the schedule on Wednesday, Nov. 30, when they travel to Edmond, Okla., to take on the Bronchos of the University of Central Oklahoma. OU will also be competing in two more open tournaments when it travels to the Missouri Open on Sunday, Nov. 20 and host the Oklahoma Open on Thanksgiving weekend.
The home portion of the schedule begins on Saturday, Dec. 3 when the Sooners host Lehigh. This weekend the Sooners will be competing against Army, Bloomsburg, Brockport, Brown, Buffalo, Cleveland, Cleveland State, Kent State, Penn and Rutgers at Brockport.The event begins at 10 a.m., and the finals are slated to begin at 6 p.m.
LAST TIME AT BROCKPORT
The Sooners claimed the 2004 Brockport/Oklahoma Gold Classic team title with a score of 212.5. The win stretched the Sooners string of consecutive team titles at the event to six. The Sooners also had 10 wrestlers place fourth or better, with Sam Hazewinkel, Teyon Ware, Matt Storniolo, Charles Jones, Wes Roberts, E.K. Waldhaus and Joel Flaggert all bringing home individual titles.
SOONERS NATIONALLY RANKED
The Oklahoma Sooners have been a consensus top two team in almost every preseason ranking thus far. W.I.N. Magazine, The Wrestling Mall, Amateur Wrestling News and the NWCA/InterMat poll all have the Sooners ranked as their preseason No. 2.
Individually the Sooners have seven wrestlers ranked in the top 20 of their individual weight classes. Sam Hazewinkel is No. 2 at 125 pounds, Teyon Ware is No. 1 at 141 pounds, Matt Storniolo is No. 5 at 149 pounds, Wes Roberts is No. 12 at 174 pounds, Justin Dyer is No. 8 at 184 pounds, Joel Flaggert is No. 2 at 197 pounds and Jake Hager is No. 5 at heavyweight.
SOONERS SET TO COMPETE AT 40th ANNUAL NWCA All-STAR CLASSIC
Three Oklahoma Sooners will be competing in the 40th annual NWCA All-Star Classic presented by the United States Marine Corps inside Oklahoma State’s Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla., on Monday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m. The three Sooners competing will be returning All-Americans Teyon Ware, Sam Hazewinkel and Joel Flaggert. Ware and Hazewinkel will be making their second appearance in the event, while Flaggert is making his first. Hazewinkel will be competing against Michigan State’s Nick Simmons in the 125-pound match. Hazewinkel defeated Simmons, 2-0, in the consolation match at the 2005 NCAA Championships. Hazewinkel also beat Simmons, 2-0, in last season’s All-Star classic. Ware will be wrestling Nate Gallick of Iowa State in the 141-pound match. Ware defeated Gallick, 3-2, at last year’s NCAA Championships to claim his second 141-pound title. Flaggert will be looking to upset two-time national champion Jake Rosholt of Oklahoma State in the 197-pound match. Flaggert is coming off All-America honors a year ago at the NCAA Championships.
WHITE DEFEATS RED 22-15 AT RED/WHITE CLASSIC
The White team defeated the Red team in the annual Red/White Classic Thursday night, 22-15, inside the Howard McCasland Field House. The 10 matches were to determine the starters for the upcoming season. Leading both squads on the evening were returning All-Americans Sam Hazewinkel and Joel Flaggert. At 125 pounds, Hazewinkel started the evening with a major decision, 14-4, over J.J. Anderson of the red team. Flaggert, at 197 pounds, registered a fall at the 2:47 mark to defeat true freshman Matt Cole. Also registering wins for the White team were Matt Storniolo (149), Jarrod King (165), Cody Hilbun (174), Justin Dyer (184) and Jake Hager (Hwt.). Ware was challenged in the 141 pound match by true freshman Kyle Terry, but was able to come away with a 6-2 decision. Posting wins for the Red team, along with Ware and Flaggert, were Joe Comparin (133) and Shane Vernon (157).
SOONERS LOOK TO CAPTURE CROWN IN OWN BACKYARD
After a third-place finish at the 2005 NCAA Wrestling Championships, Jack Spates and the Oklahoma wrestling staff are excited about the success that lies ahead for the Sooners during the 2005-06 season.
Oklahoma returns with maybe one of its most seasoned squads of the Jack Spates’ era. With four All-Americans and one national champion in senior Teyon Ware, Oklahoma has its eye on this years NCAA crown.
And with the NCAA championships being held Oklahoma City, the Sooners have the opportunity to shine in their own backyard.
“Our goal is to bring back the national championship in our home. The NCAA Championships are in Oklahoma City. On paper, Oklahoma State is seeded to defend, but paper does not win championships.”
The Sooners’ core nucleus of returners includes Sam Hazewinkel, Joe Comparin, Ware, Matt Storniolo, Wes Roberts, Justin Dyer, Joel Flaggert and Jake Hager.
“We have four All-Americans back and we have two other wrestlers who went to the All-American round, just one match shy of earning medals,” said Spates.
The four All-Americans Spates is speaking of include Hazewinkel, Ware, Storniolo, and Flaggert. Ware came away with not only All-America honors but his second 141-pound NCAA title last year in St. Louis.
Spates’ veteran lineup is going to be highlighted by returners this season, but their are two newcomers who will compete for a starting spot this year.
“We’re not going to have many newcomers in the lineup, but two who have real good shots are Jarrod King, at the 165 pound slot, and, at 157 pounds, either Jerome Featherstone or true freshman sensation Shane Vernon,” continued Spates. “We think all can compete at this level and compete successfully.”
Hager returns at the heaveyweight this year and Spates noted that Hager was one match shy of earning All-America honors last season.
RETURNING STARS KEY TO TITLE RUN
Leading off for the Sooners again this year at 125 pounds is seasond veteran Hazewinkel. Hazewinkel seeks a break through this season after finishing third the previous two years at the NCAA Championships. “I expect nothing less than a national championship for Sam because those are his only expectations. He is such a hard worker and a tenacious competitor.”
Comparin at 133 pounds, wants to build off a fourth-place finish at the Big 12 Championships in 2005. “Joe is such a hard worker and a smart worker. I would not count Joe out of anything this season.”
Senior Ware could cap off one of the greatest careers in Oklahoma wrestling history by claiming his third NCAA championship this season. Ware took the 141-pound title last year in St. Louis and is looking to defend his title this season.
“Teyon Ware is the greatest athlete, greatest wrestler and one of the greatest kids I have ever coached,” said Spates. As good as Teyon has been, he has upped it this year. He has always been a tremendously hard worker but now he is becoming a tremendously smart worker.”
Storniolo, who transferred from Penn State to Oklahoma last year, made his mark on Oklahoma history right away by moving into 17th place on the single-season fall percentage list with 13-of-29 and 44.8 percent duiring his first season in Norman. “Matt is another kid who has always been a hard worker but not the most disciplined of workers. He has a renewed focus and determination and he is working smarter than I have ever seen. I have great confidence in Matt and I am excited about seeing him go.”
Roberts, who has been plagued by the injury bug during his Sooner career, looks to end those questions by reaching the NCAA Championships for the first time in his career.
“Wes may be the smartest worker I have ever seen. He is also one of the most determined individuals I have ever seen. If Wes is healthy, he will be on the stand at nationals. The only question is how high.”
Dyer hopes make his mark on Oklahoma wrestling this season after finishing fifth as a freshman and third as a sophomore at the Big 12 Championships and qualifing both years for the NCAA Championships. “Justin is a kid who just excels in so many areas, and the sky is the limit for him. He needs to make a few adjustments, and if he does, he will contend for a national title.”
Flaggert, who finished fourth last season at the NCAA Championships and took home All-America honors, is poised for another big run this season. “Joel is bigger, stronger, and better and getting better every day. He is also the best shooting big man I have ever seen. Joel is a guy who can be a multi-time national champion, continued Spates.”
Hager, who finished third last season at the Big 12 Championships, is much improved and looks to be a major factor in the Sooners’ success this season. “Jake has worked himself into an outstanding wrestler. Everything he has accomplished is because of how much he wants it. In my mind, he is going to be on the stand at nationals this year, it’s just a matter of how high.”
SOONERS' SCHEDULE CHALLENGING, AGAIN
Field House renovation brings added excitement
As is the norm around Oklahoma wrestling, if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best, and this year’s schedule is no different. Year in and year out, the Sooners wrestle the top teams in the country, and this year’s schedule is as challenging as ever, according to Coach Spates.
“We wrestle four top 10 teams as of now, and 11 teams in the top 20 and that’s not counting the national duals.”
The National Duals in Cedar Falls, Iowa, (Jan. 14-15) adds a championship atmosphere in the heart of the season. As is another norm, the conference portion of the schedule will be most challenging. Oklahoma faces conference rivals Oklahoma State and Iowa State at home, then travels to Columbia, Mo., to grapple with the Tigers of Missouri, and to Lincoln, Neb., to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers. The Sooners also travel to Stillwater for a Bedlam repeat with three-time defending national champion Oklahoma State.
“With the national duals, you can add in three more top five teams,” Spates said.
When you add together an exciting team and challenging schedule, you get great things. But add a renovated facility and you scale to greater heights.
The Howard McCasland OU Field House just received a $6 million facelift to provide the Sooner wrestling program and its fans a great home setting to compete for Big 12 championships.
“Everybody is excited and the Field House looks awesome. It’s going to be very exciting for both our wrestlers and our fans,” Spates said.
“We have a great home schedule for our fans as well. We wrestle Hofstra and Iowa State on ESPN. Then we’re going to wrestle Oklahoma State on Fox SportsNet, so we have a great lineup,” said Spates.
“It’s always one of the most challenging schedules in the country and that’s the way we like it. That’s what prepares us for the NCAA Championships.”