It’s dual week in Norman as Oklahoma wrestling opens its season against Arizona State at 7 p.m. Friday at McCasland Field House.
OU’s season-opener will look a little different Friday, as only those on a student-athlete’s pass list will be in attendance due to COVID-19. The Sooners enter the 2021 season with high hopes, coming in ranked No. 20 in the National Wrestling Coaches Association’s Coaches Poll.
Before OU’s home opener, The Daily spoke with head coach Lou Rosselli about the big matchup with the Sun Devils ahead and the growth of some of the Sooners' stars.
Here’s five things to know ahead of the Sooners’ first dual:
Demas looks to reclaim Big 12 title
After finishing first in the Big 12 at 141 pounds as a redshirt freshman during the 2019 season, Dom Demas wasn’t able to defend his title, losing in the championship round to Iowa State’s Ian Parker. Nearly 10 months later, the redshirt junior Demas is looking to reclaim his title.
“It’s not necessarily last year’s loss that fuels him,” Rosselli said. “He had beaten (Parker) before. Anytime you’re a competitor you want to get back out there.”
In addition to finishing as a runner-up in the Big 12 last year, Demas earned his second trip to the NCAA championships in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after finishing fourth in his weight class as a redshirt freshman. He didn’t get the chance to compete at nationals in 2020, though, as the championships were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moore finds new home
Former ACC Freshman of the Year Mitch Moore joined the Sooners as a transfer from Virginia Tech during the offseason. Rosselli said Moore will be contributing at 149 pounds this season for OU after competing at 141 for the Hokies the previous season.
Moore, a native of St. Paris, Ohio, adds additional depth to an Oklahoma roster that is returning nine of its starters from a year ago.
“He’s a competitor (and) he’s happy here at OU,” Rosselli said. “He hasn’t wrestled in a while. Not a lot of these guys have. I’m excited for him. He’s worked hard this week, and it’ll be good to see him on the mat.”
In addition to his previous honors as a freshman, Moore is a two-time NCAA qualifier. He enters the season ranked No. 14 nationally at 149 by FloWrestling.
Sooners to honor Hodge
Former OU wrestling great Danny Hodge died during the offseason. Hodge, the namesake of college wrestling’s prestigious Hodge Trophy, died Dec. 24 in his hometown of Perry, Oklahoma, at 88.
“It’s hard to talk about,” Rosselli said. “A very sad, great loss for this program. He’s a legend.”
Hodge led Oklahoma to three consecutive national titles and compiled an unbelievable 46-0 record in college. He was later inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2000.
Rosselli said there will be a moment to honor Hodge during the Sooners’ Friday night home opener.
Woodley looks to build on offseason wins
Redshirt junior Jake Woodley won a junior national title at the U23 and UWW Junior Nationals during the offseason, and he starts the 2021 season ranked No. 13 at 197 by FloWrestling. His coach had high praise about the strides he’s taken amid an unusual offseason due to COVID-19.
“Woodley not only is a U23 winner now, but he’s beaten ranked opponents,” Rosselli said. “This was not a typical offseason. We usually train all spring and summer long.”
Big matchup looms against Arizona State
No. 11 Arizona State is coming off an impressive 39-3 win Saturday against Little Rock on its way to Norman to face the Sooners.
Some wrestlers to watch from Arizona State include No. 7-ranked Anthony Valencia at 165 pounds and No. 6-ranked Kordell Norfleet at 197 pounds. In particular, Rosselli highlighted the matchup between OU junior Tony Madrigal and ASU redshirt junior Michael McGee at 133 pounds.
“It’s a good challenge, a really good match,” Rosselli said about the opposition ASU presents. “Each matchup will be fun to watch.”
Though most fans won’t be in attendance for the Sooners’ first dual of the season, Rosselli said he hopes supporters will watch on TV or stream the match, which will be available on FOX Sports Oklahoma and SoonerSports.TV.