Pictured: View from Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, before the Bout at the Ballpark on Saturday, February 12. Photo by Richard Immel (@Richard_Immel).
No. 2 Iowa beat rival No. 12 Oklahoma State 23-9 on Saturday in probably the most anticipated wrestling event of the year, considering all the spectacle that surrounded the dual.
The Bout at the Ballpark was hosted at Globe Life Field, where the Texas Rangers play, in Arlington, Texas. The event also included 16 international-style matches that featured wrestlers from Team USA before Iowa and OSU faced off.
Team USA wins big against International All-Stars at historic #BoutAtTheBallpark
— USA Wrestling (@USAWrestling) February 13, 2022
As we specifically look at the OSU-Iowa matchup, here are some takeaways from Saturday after a few days to ponder and see reactions.
After nearly a year of buildup, the event seemed to be crumbling as it neared, but despite all the hiccups, the Bout at the Ballpark appeared to be a success showcase of the sport overall.
Team USA’s men’s team was initially scheduled to dual Iran, but visa issues forced Iran to cancel, leaving event planners scrambling to make the international portion of the event happen. Then, the Mongolian squad couldn’t attend to battle Team USA’s women’s team, either, for similar reasons.
Then there was the college rivalry itself. OSU, deeming itself “the official wrestling school of both sides of the Red River” leading up to the event, had lost three of its last four, watering down the intensity of a rivalry that usually features national championship contenders.
Plus, OSU 197-pounder AJ Ferrari, maybe the marquee name of college wrestling, missed the event after a car accident a few weeks ago.
But, for some reason, if you put mats on something other than a maple floor, wrestling becomes even more enjoyable. It was the same effect when these same two programs participated in Grapple on the Gridiron at Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium in 2015. The outdoor dual drew a record crowd, and, after seeing that event live from Kinnick myself, I can honestly say, Grapple at the Gridiron, the event was unforgettable.
In 2022, the best way to judge how people feel about something is social media, and most Twitter reactions (at least the unbiased ones) were complementary of the Bout at the Ballpark.
Yes, it was hard to watch for those at home, but there weren’t many complaints from those in attendance. The setup was solid. There was an abundance of good wrestling. And although the rivalry wasn’t as competitive as initially predicted, the dual was still riddled with great individual matchups.
Fix >>> DeSanto
Speaking of great individual matchups, Daton Fix had two of them, and he won both, becoming the first-ever wrestler to compete for both his international and college team on the same day.
Fix started the event as a member of Team USA, handling Guesseppe Rea of Ecuador, 10-0 via a quick technical superiority.
Then, for the third time in his career, second-ranked Fix beat Iowa’s No. 3 Austin DeSanto, this time with a 5-3 decision.
Fix improved to 3-0 against DeSanto in a rivalry that started in 2019 when Fix beat DeSanto 2-0 during a dual at Stillwater. A rather dramatic moment from that match, where Fix is riding DeSanto, who is grimacing in pain, was put on sweatshirts that fans wore to the Bout at the Ballpark for round three.
DeSanto is a senior, but the two could very well meet again next month, with a whole lot more on the line then.
Is OSU still a legitimate title contender?
Take away the logo (OSU wrestling had one before Mike Gundy yelled about it), and I think we all know this would be answered relatively quickly. But…
The Cowboys have now lost four of their last five duals. Three of those losses were to teams currently ranked in the top-10, but the first of those losses was to an unranked Northern Iowa, which hasn’t proven to be spectacular since.
The schedule now gets easier for OSU, as the last four were by far the most challenging. But that stretch was also the most telling.
Iowa is not the best team in the country. Obviously, Iowa State and Missouri aren’t either.
OSU could possibly beat ISU or Mizzou any other given day, so this has nothing to do with the Pokes ending their Big 12 reign in a few weeks. But Saturday’s loss to Iowa revealed much more for the national picture, which is ultimately what John Smith is chasing.
I’m not sure the same could be said for the Cowboys against Iowa as for against ISU and Mizzou. OSU and Iowa could wrestle again tomorrow, next week, on baseball dirt or a hardwood floor, and the Hawkeyes would still come out on top.
But there’s a reason why that question at the beginning of this is more complicated than it should be to answer. John Smith almost always has his teams wrestling their best in March. He’s never flustered in November, or even mid February, for that matter.
However, as we usually start to witness things fall into place for OSU at this time and go, “Oh, yeah, it’s still OSU,” Smith is losing more pieces than gluing together at this point.
On Monday, Smith announced on his weekly radio show that defending 197-pound champion AJ Ferrari will miss the rest of the season after being in a car accident on Jan. 24.
Realistically, that cuts the Cowboys’ legitimate national finalist hopes in half, with Fix still ranked second at 133 pounds. Not to mention all those bonus points missing from a weight (197) that will now most likely be vacant for OSU at the NCAA Championships.
While OSU was struggling, you could argue Ferrari and all that surrounded that week could have been the difference in the Cowboys’ winless weekend to UNI and ISU, and even the next week to Mizzou. But that hole in the puzzle is now permanent, at least for 2022.
Yes, OSU always has guys (and still does this season) who could get hot and make a run to the finals. However, even another finalist to pair with Fix couldn’t make up ground for the points lost at 197, and possibly even 141.
So, without the Wrestling Pete logo, it’d be easy to say this team won’t be challenging Penn State for a national title in Detroit. But considering, that reality is truly hard to believe when written out.
Dekota Gregory (@dekotagregory) with be assisting The Open Mat as our Big 12 / Oklahoma State correspondent.