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Bedlam wrestling: How Oklahoma State's Travis Wittlake rose to national contention with consistency

Oklahoma State's Travis Wittlake, right, is ranked No. 3 nationally at 165 pounds with an 11-0 record. [OSU Athletics]
Oklahoma State's Travis Wittlake, right, is ranked No. 3 nationally at 165 pounds with an 11-0 record. [OSU Athletics]

STILLWATER — Now in his third year at Oklahoma State, Travis Wittlake finally owns a cowboy hat.

The redshirt sophomore wrestler from Coos Bay, Oregon, won his hat last Sunday. Black cowboy hats were given as first-place awards — fittingly — at the Cowboy Challenge tournament hosted by OSU.

“I thought it was pretty cool. It’s different. It’s unique,” Wittlake said. “I thought it was a great idea for an award. I was pretty excited to get it.”

While the hat might make him feel like more of a Cowboy now, Wittlake was already fitting in just fine at OSU.

And though he was unfamiliar with Bedlam when he arrived in Stillwater, Wittlake has fully bought into the excitement of the rivalry, which will serve as the final dual of the regular season. The sixth-ranked Cowboys will host No. 19 OU at 5 p.m. Sunday at Gallagher-Iba Arena, televised by ESPNU.

“That’s a neat opportunity for us,” coach John Smith said of the national TV broadcast. “As we competed against them a couple weeks ago, it’s a better team and a pretty competitive team. I’m gonna expect that we’re gonna have to have our best match to get the win.

“We’re probably gonna have to change a little bit of the lineup. Not sure if everyone’s gonna be healthy. With that, people are gonna have to do their parts. But we’ve been here before. This is not the first time we’ve been in that scenario.”

Smith won’t have to worry about adjusting the lineup at 165, where Wittlake is ranked third nationally and has an 11-0 record this season.

“Bedlam is fun,” Wittlake said. “There’s a little different hype to it, from the fans all the way down to when you’re at the dual and you see OU. There’s a different atmosphere, a different grittiness to it, a little different attitude going into it.

“It’s really fun. It brings a little different energy than a regular dual does, so I’m always excited for Bedlam.”

The Cowboys have won 19 of the last 20 meetings, including a 24-10 victory earlier this month in Norman.

Regardless of whether he’s preparing for a lower-level opponent, a rivalry dual or a big tournament match, Wittlake says the consistent approach he developed during his freshman season has helped him maintain focus on the task at hand.

“I try to prepare the same every time,” Wittlake said. “I go through the same warmup every time. Mentally, I’m telling myself the same thing every match, no matter who I’m wrestling.

“What helps me a lot and what changed in me last year was rather than going out and wrestling to win or wrestling not to lose and being conservative, I really try to tell myself to go out and execute my offense. Execute my offense. That’s what I repeat in my head multiple times. That’s what’s able to keep my mind level, keep my nerves low, and that’s what brings that consistency.”

Scott Wright

A lifelong resident of the Oklahoma City metro area, Scott Wright has been on The Oklahoman staff since 2005, covering a little bit of everything on the state's sports scene. He has been a beat writer for football and basketball at Oklahoma and... Read more ›