Oklahoma State wrestling: How Kaden Gfeller got back in lineup for Big 12 championships
TULSA — The last time Oklahoma State’s Kaden Gfeller wrestled at the BOK Center, he was a Big 12 champion.
That was two years ago, when Gfeller spent most of the season filling in for the injured Boo Lewallen and won the 149-pound title.
As the Cowboys head into this year’s Big 12 wrestling championships Saturday and Sunday at the BOK Center, Gfeller will be on the mat for his first meaningful action of the year.
Now, Gfeller is an injury replacement at 141 pounds after the Cowboys lost both Kaid Brock and Dusty Hone to season-ending injuries.
Gfeller, a redshirt junior from Heritage Hall, is 4-1 this season, but hasn’t wrestled in the main lineup. In fact, his last action was Jan. 22 when he won a 10-0 major decision against Air Force’s Bradley Bitting in an extra match at the 157-pound weight class.
At the time, Gfeller was working his way up in weight class while Wyatt Sheets dealt with an injury issue. That day, Gfeller weighed in at 152 pounds. But in the six weeks since, he’s been cutting weight to get down to 141.
“He’s done a nice job over the last few weeks managing his weight and getting it down,” OSU coach John Smith said. “I don’t know what to expect. Maybe it’s a little different feel for him his first time down. But if he’s got his mojo with him, he could be really dangerous. We know that, because we’ve seen him wrestle. Hopefully he hasn’t missed too much of the season and he can be ready.”
Gfeller would have to finish in the top four to earn one of the conference’s automatic bids to the NCAA championships in the weight class, but he has a tough start ahead of him.
Gfeller drew third-seeded Clay Carlson of South Dakota State in the opening round, which begins at 11 a.m. Saturday, streaming on ESPN+. The championship round, set for 5 p.m. Sunday, will be on ESPN2.
The Cowboys are chasing their ninth consecutive Big 12 title, with hopes that Gfeller could potentially provide some points.
He has battled injuries the past two seasons, most recently dealing with an infection that kept him off the mat for a couple weeks. But he’s healthy now, and ready to help.
“He’s been through a lot of injuries the past couple years,” said OSU redshirt sophomore 133-pounder Daton Fix.
“He could’ve easily said, ‘No, that’s a lot of weight. I don’t think I can make it.’ But he just got right to work. Even when he wasn’t able to be on the mat for a couple weeks, he’s been running and getting his weight down. His weight’s in a pretty good spot right now, so I don’t think making weight this weekend is gonna be a problem for him.
“I’m really excited for him to have the opportunity.”
Big 12 wrestling championships
Where: BOK Center, Tulsa
First session: 11 a.m. Saturday (TV: ESPN+)
Second session: 5 p.m. Saturday (TV: ESPN+)
Third session: 10 a.m. Sunday (TV: ESPN+)
Championship session: 5 p.m. Sunday (TV: ESPN2)
Three storylines to watch
Cowboys chasing ninth title: Oklahoma State has won the last eight Big 12 Conference championships and enter this year’s tournament with three No. 1 seeds, led by 133-pounder Daton Fix, who is ranked No. 1 nationally in his weight class.
Sooners have pair of No. 2 seeds: Oklahoma comes into the event with eight wrestlers seeded in the top eight of their weight class, including a pair of No. 2 seeds in 141-pounder Dom Demas, the 2019 Big 12 champ, and 157-pounder Justin Thomas.
Iowa State with three No. 1s: Matching OSU for the most No. 1 seeds, Iowa State has three as well: Ian Parker (141), David Carr (157) and Gannon Gremmel (heavyweight).