For three years, one of Jordan Oliver’s closest companions was a piece of equipment that measured weight. The most important number in his life was 1-3-3. And when that piece of equipment showed that magic number, it meant, at least temporarily, that he could finally think about the real task at hand: wrestling. Not the need to cut another pound.
The cut was never easy. That ghostlike stare that only wrestlers know accompanied Oliver everywhere he went in the days leading up to matches. Through the grind, Oliver, a Pennsylvanian wrestling for Oklahoma State, was still one of the best.
As a redshirt-freshman, Oliver was an eyelash away from the NCAA finals, falling in a marathon semifinal to eventual champion Jayson Ness of Minnesota. Oliver finished fourth behind three graduating seniors.
|JORDAN OLIVER’S SEASON STATS|
|Against Ranked Foes||5-0|
|NOTE: Stats as of Jan. 16, 2013|
A year later, there was no question who the top 133-pounder in the country was. Oliver did not lose a match in 29 starts, turning in 24 bonus-point victories.
Most expected a junior season at 141 pounds. But that would not be the case.
And on a different day, with a different official, and a different interpretation, Oliver would be a two-time national champion. A call did not go his way in the NCAA championship bout against Ohio State’s talented Logan Stieber.
A solid resumé -– for a career -– for most Division I wrestlers. After three seasons Oliver’s numbers read: 89-6 with NCAA finishes of fourth, first, and second.
Oliver is far from done, however.
Ending his relationship with the scale has brought nightmares to the nation’s 149-pounders.
“The weight fits him well,” said Oklahoma State head coach John Smith. “I think a lot of people enjoy watching him wrestle right now. And he continues to work hard to reach his goals which go beyond college.”
Fun is a bit of an understatement.
Stopping Oliver’s offensive arsenal borders on impossible. Some have tried to slow him down, shut down his attacks with various defensive strategies. It hasn’t worked.
In one December match, Oliver scored 12 takedowns in the first period.
Only twice in 18 matches this season has Oliver failed to record at least a major decision. He was awarded the Outstanding Wrestler Award after a dominating performance at the Southern Scuffle the first week of January. The finals win against Air Force Academy’s Cole VonOhlen was the 100th of his career, a milestone this senior did not take lightly.
“Knowing I was going for number 100 in the finals really motivated me,” said Oliver. “It is a great honor to be a part of that Oklahoma State tradition, to be one of those guys on that list of 100 wins.”
No doubt Oliver will continue to climb that list at a weight class that suits him just fine.
“Everybody has been asking me about the jump to 149,” said Oliver at the Scuffle. “It feels great not having to worry about cutting weight and being able to focus on my wrestling, just getting better. I feel great out there and I’m really having some fun this year. I’m not worrying about getting tired; I have a lot of energy late in matches.
“Instead of coming into practice thinking about where my weight is, I have been able to focus on the things that are going to get me to my ultimate goals.”
Those ultimate goals include making a few United States World teams.
During the summer of 2009, Oliver claimed a bronze medal in freestyle at the Junior World Championships in Ankara, Turkey.
He made a run last summer in Iowa City, but came up short after running into his old friend the scale. After failing to make the 132-pound weight class, Oliver hung around and wrestled at 145.5 pounds. He took former World Team member Brent Metcalf to the wire.
His Olympic dreams were not completely crushed. Coleman Scott, a former NCAA champion for Oklahoma State, came out on top of a long and grueling process that ended in New York City’s Times Square. Scott, the 132-pound representative for the U.S. in London, asked Oliver to accompany him as his top training partner.
“That experience was awesome,” said Oliver. “Getting to work out with some of those 145.5-pounders got me ready for the college season. I got to see somebody I’ve always looked up to win a medal at the Olympics.
“I will never forget that experience.”
“[Jordan] watched guys that he wrestled with in the Junior World Championships win medals,” said Smith. “It’s an advantage for him to build that passion to make one of those teams or to medal down the road.”
So what is it exactly that makes Oliver so good?
“Jordan can score from any position,” said Scott, also a native of Pennsylvania. “He wrestles at an offensive pace that a lot of college guys can’t keep up with.”
Who are those guys that expect to challenge a full-bellied Oliver?
Boise State’s Jason Chamberlain is 18-1 and ranked second in the latest Amateur Wrestling News rankings. He took a redshirt season in 2011-12 after earning All-America status at the 2011 NCAA Championships.
Penn State’s Andrew Alton (13-0) is a sophomore.
VonOhlen did not fare so well against Oliver at the Scuffle.
Binghamton’s Donnie Vinson? Virginia Tech’s Nick Brascetta? Or maybe Minnesota’s injury-plagued Dylan Ness, a national finalist last March?
One opponent is for sure not in the picture –- the scale.