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Shannon Scovel | NCAA.com | December 12, 2021

Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State wrestling: 3 things to know before Bedlam

The top storylines to follow this college wrestling season

Mayhem. Insanity. Chaos. 

Those are all words that could have been used to describe the rivalry between Oklahoma State and Oklahoma wrestling when they took the mat against one another in the mid 1900s, but those weren’t the words the journalist at the time used to describe the event. 

Instead, he described the scene in front of him in one word: Bedlam

The term stuck. And so did the rivalry. On Sunday, Dec. 12 at 6 p.m. ET in Norman, Oklahoma, these two teams will meet for the 182nd time with Bedlam pride on the line, and the intensity will no doubt be at a record high. The No. 4 Oklahoma State Cowboys come into the dual with 10 ranked wrestlers, led by No. 1 AJ Ferrari and No. 2 Daton Fix, while the Sooners have eight athletes in the Top 33. While the Cowboys have the slight edge on paper, this dual is unlikely to be the same 50-0 shutout that it was in 1920, and it might even be closer than the 24-10 and 24-16 scores the Cowboys earned last year.

You can watch the dual on ESPNU or stream live on ESPN+.

BEDLAM: A complete history of the rivalry between Oklahoma State and Oklahoma

In the words of Oklahoma State head coach John Smith, this year’s dual could be “a dog fight for some of these matches,” so here are three storylines to know about this year’s Bedlam matchups before tuning in. 

Does Dom Demas return? 

Oklahoma’s top-ranked wrestler on paper is 2019 NCAA All-American Dom Demas, but the star 141-pounder has not yet returned to the mat. His absence creates a problem for the Sooners at the weight, but the Oklahoma Sooners probable starters list suggests there might be more going on behind the scenes at this weight. Demas is listed as a probable starter for this match at both 141 and 149 pounds, and regardless of where he goes, Sooner fans would likely just be happy to see their star back on the mat. In his career thus far with the Sooners, Demas is 83-21, and two of his three losses last year came at the NCAA tournament. Demas is a tricky wrestler known for his dangerous inside trip, and he’s someone that could make things interesting in Bedlam. 

If he wrestles 141 pounds, a weight he’s listed as the first probable starter, he could face either Oklahoma State’s expected starter No. 28 Carter Young, or potential alternative starter Dusty Hone. Demas would have the advantage over both of those guys, though Young is a little more of a wildcard given his limited college wrestling experience and stellar freestyle performances. At 149, Oklahoma State is expected to send out Kaden Gfeller who is 2-1 on the year with a loss to Jaden Abas 15-6. Gfeller has never wrestled Demas, but Hone is 0-4 against Demas, dropping to the Sooner 3-1, 4-3, 6-4 and 11-3 in their four meetings. Oklahoma’s Mitch Moore is first probable starter listed at 149 pounds, and the Virginia Tech transfer is 10-4 on the year and could maybe throw something tricky at Gfeller, if Demas wrestles down at the lower weight, but if Demas doesn’t wrestle at either weight, it’s a Cowboy advantage from 125-141 and then again from 165-285. 

The middleweights could change the game 

The Dom Demas puzzle piece is just one of the several moving parts at the middle weights in this dual that could swing the score in either direction. 

The Cowboys will have the advantage, just slightly, at the lightest weight of 125 pounds to start the dual with undefeated No. 12 Trevor Mastrogiovanni expected to take on No. 21 Joey Prata of Oklahoma. Prata is 6-1 on the year with his only loss coming against NCAA finalist Brandon Courtney 8-3, and while Mastrogiovanni is ranked higher on paper, this one is too close to call right now, though the Cowboys will be expected to rack up big points at 133 pounds when they roll out No. 2 Daton Fix against Oklahoma’s No. 19 Tony Madrigal. 

CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY: A complete list of NCAA wrestling team champions

In all three of their previous meetings, Fix has won by at least five points, and he picked up a fall and a tech fall in the later two of those three bouts respectively. Fix is a dangerous wrestler on a hunt for a title, and he’s going to want bonus points to showcase his strengths. The 133-pound weight class is perhaps the one the Cowboys are least concerned about, particularly in this setting. The national tournament might create a different storyline, but, for now, Fix is a favorite in just about every match he wrestles because of his credentials and technique. 

The 141 and 149 questions hinge on Demas, but following those two weights is maybe the most toss-up style match of the evening with No. 16 Wyatt Sheets taking on No. 14 Justin Thomas. Sheets is 2-3 against Thomas, losing to his twice last year in the Bedlam battles but beating him in both 2020 Bedlam contests. Thomas won their first meeting in 2017 at the OCU Open 1-0, but this bout is anyone’s game. Thomas will need to win here to keep Oklahoma in the hunt, and he has a chance to give his team some momentum that could help counter some of the dominance that is expected to come from the Oklahoma State upperweights. This isn’t the match with the two highest ranked wrestlers in the dual, but both of these guys are still excellent athletes, and they could be the major keys for their team, depending on how this match goes. 

The tide turns to Oklahoma State on paper, if all the starters wrestle, at 165 pounds, where Travis Wittlake has a significant advantage over No. 29 Joe Grello both in terms of his ranking and his record. Wittlake comes into the match 2-1, with his only loss coming in a thrilling match against defending NCAA champion Shane Griffith. Grello, on the other hand, is 2-3 with losses to Phillip Conigliaro, Matthew Malcom, Anthony Valencia. These two have never met in college, but Wittlake’s history of success both in the regular season and in the national tournament gives him an edge over Grello. The Sooner is no doubt a solid wrestler, but he’s just not someone who has historically challenged those in Wittlake’s tier of talent. 

This trend in favor of the Cowboys continues at 174-pounds where No. 9 Dustin Plott is set to take on uranked Anthony Mantanona, but this weight class is more interesting because Plott is 1-1 against the Sooner, with Mantanona earning the most recent win at Bedlam in 2021 7-4. Three losses this year against Gerrit Nijenhuis, Albert Urias, Troy Fisher have hurt Mantanona’s ranking, so if the athletes wrestle to seed, this could be Plott by bonus, but, even in his one win against the Sooner, Plott was only able to win by five. A win here would be a solid addition to Plott’s record, and a win by bonus would suggest he’s jumped levels. But Mantanona is a sneaky unranked wrestler who could shake things up in Bedlam this year. 

No. 7 Dakota Geer, Oklahoma State’s 184-pound All-American is a little more of a secure favorite against No. 18 Darrien Roberts, given his 3-0 record, two consecutive All-American finishes and 66.67% bonus rate. Roberts hasn’t had a bad season, and the Sooner deserves real credit for competing and compiling his 11-3 record with losses to Jonathan Loew, Kaleb Romero, Brit Wilson, but Greer will be expected to roll through this one and put points on the board for his team.

COWBOY LEGENDS: How John Smith is continuing the legacy of success as the head coach at OSU

The Cowboys finish with No. 30 Luke Surber, whose only loss this year came against No. 1 Gable Steveson in major decision fashion. Surber’s new to this starting position, as he redshirted last year, but he’s earned bonus in both of his two wins, and head coach John Smith describes the young star as someone who has been diligent about keeping his weight up and is ready to compete. Facing Surber, if the probable starters list proves to be accurate, will be Oklahoma’s Josh Heindselman, an unranked wrestler who has not wrestled Surber in college but is familiar with the Cowboy. According to Surber, the two athletes roomed together on youth and junior trips but have not competed against each other at heavyweight, creating an intriguing matchup. Surber has been impressive so far this year against Drexel and Stanford, and Heindselman’s 6-5 record this year suggests, on paper, that Surber could find success in this matchup too, but Bedlam is Bedlam and anything can happen.

National champ Ferrari and All-American Woodley headline the ranked bouts 

Given the number of ranked athletes on both teams, this year’s Bedlam battle could include as many as eight ranked matchups, and while there are certainly contests that could be closer than AJ Ferrari vs. Jake Woodley and could impact the dual more than this one, this is the can’t-miss match of the night. Defending NCAA champion AJ Ferrari is 3-0 on the year with 100% bonus, and he’s been roaring past every opponent in his path since his last loss in February 2021. Ferrari is powerful, tough, confident and as strong as they come. He’s dominant, and he knows it. 

Ferrari’s resume is impressive, but his opponent, All-American Jake Woodley, is competitive as well, holding an 11-2 record this year after having finished sixth at the NCAA tournament last year. Woodley’s two losses against Thomas Penola and Eric Schultz suggest that he’s not quite at Ferrari’s level yet, and he does have three career losses to the Champion Cowboy, but this dual is in Norman, and Woodley is a fighter. 

This is the match of the dual with the highest combined ranked wrestlers across both teams, and Woodley will present the first challenging test for Ferrari so far this season. If he can keep it tight and avoid being bonuses, he’ll have something over Ferrari’s other opponents this year. If he can find another gear and push Ferrari even more, things could get interesting in Bedlam, but regardless of the outcome, these two elite-level competitors will be fun to watch. 

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