If you want to question the commitment of Oklahoma State’s Jordan Oliver try this on for size: His opening weekend was originally scheduled to include a Friday and Sunday dual meet. Then, early on Monday morning the junior 133-pounder boarded an airplane for a flight to Tempe, Ariz., for the 46th NWCA All-Star Classic, an annual dual which features many of the nation’s top wrestlers.
That was three scheduled weigh-ins across four days — for a student-athlete who already eats light. Four days after the all-star meet, Oliver will join teammates for a dual in Ames, Iowa, against the Iowa State Cyclones.
“Time to start the grind,” Oliver said, as he looks to match a perfect (29-0) sophomore campaign which culminated in a national championship last March. “There are a couple of reasons I wanted to go [to the all-star meet]. Getting those three straight weigh-ins, it’s a good way to start the season. You don’t get that during the season.
“And I always want to face the best competition. I get to start the season against someone who I could possibly see later in the season, at the NCAAs.”
At the 2010 All-Star Classic, Oliver, a native of Easton, Pa., beat Boise State’s Andrew Hochstrasser. It would be a preview of the 2011 NCAA final at 133 pounds, won by Oliver.
Oklahoma State head coach John Smith encourages his wrestlers to participate in the annual exhibition match.
“We always support this event, no matter when they have it,” said Smith, whose squad opened the season Nov. 18 against Rutgers and hosts Missouri on Nov. 20. “It’s not the best scenario for us but my guys are gung-ho about it. There are some extra challenges, having to make weight three times over four days. But Jordan [Oliver] loves to compete, to wrestle in big events against the best competition.
“It’s an honor to compete in [the all-star match].”
For Jamal Parks, a senior 149-pounder for Oklahoma State, being selected is another part of a newfound dedication to a sport he’s spent countless hours trying to perfect. A three-time high school state champion in Oklahoma and a national freestyle champion, Parks’ first two collegiate campaigns did not finish with All-America status. As a junior he turned the corner, finishing fifth and with a 30-5 record.
“I may have taken this for granted in the past but I’ve re-evaluated things,” Parks said. “Not everybody has been able to do some of things I’ve been able to do. I’m blessed to be in this situation.
“Not everybody gets the chance to compete in this match. I was hoping to get invited. Out of all those they could have selected they invited me, so it shows me I’m one of the premier wrestlers out there. It feels good.”
Parks squares off against a familiar opponent, Pittsburgh’s Tyler Nauman, three days after opening the season against Rutgers’ Mario Mason.
Oliver is not the only No. 1-ranked wrestler and NCAA champion in Monday night’s dual. Division III 2011 champion Byron Tate of Wartburg will suit up at 197 pounds against Edinboro’s Chris Honeycutt.
American, Wyoming, Maryland and Illinois also have two student-athletes competing in Tempe.
Complete lineups and more information on the Classic are available on its website.
Oklahoma State’s scheduled Friday and Sunday matches were postponed on Friday morning after the University suffered a tragedy on Thursday night. Women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna were killed in a plane crash in Arkansas during a recruiting trip.
“With so many people mourning in the Oklahoma State community, we felt like it was best to postpone the matches and let the athletic department staff focus on a memorial,” Smith said that morning. “We are fortunate that we are in a position to reschedule our events. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Coach Budke and Coach Serna, Cowgirl basketball and the countless others deeply affected by this terrible news.”