Commentary

Decorated Oklahoma State seniors still searching for individual titles

Updated: February 6, 2008, 2:22 PM ET
By Andy Hamilton | Special to ESPN.com

The unmistakable twang rarely goes without mention in Pennsylvania and California, but it has become symbolic of the development of Coleman Scott and Nathan Morgan into Oklahoma State wrestling icons.

[+] EnlargeNathan Morgan
Icon SMICalifornia native Nathan Morgan traded the sunshine and shorts for national championships.

Scott and Morgan were two of the most coveted recruits in the country four years ago. Each came equipped with three state championships, along with the talent and technique to slide into most college lineups from the time they set foot on campus.

They could have gone to school almost anywhere, but they were drawn across the country to the friendly small-town feel of Stillwater, the rich tradition of the Cowboys' program and a style of wrestling that fits their skills.

Now they sound the part, too.

"Every time I go back home, they tell me I'm starting to talk like an Okie," said Morgan, a Bakersfield, Calif., native who arrived in Oklahoma for a November recruiting visit wearing shorts and a T-shirt and spent most of the weekend borrowing sweats from future teammates. "Of course, I deny it. I don't know whether they're messing with me or telling the truth."

Scott can't go back to his hometown of Waynesburg, Pa., without hearing wisecracks from his friends about his new accent. Every now and then, he catches himself saying he's "fixin'" to do something.

"There's not a person out here who doesn't say that," Scott said with a laugh. "You start saying it, and you don't even notice it."

One thing that hasn't changed and hasn't gone unnoticed since Scott and Morgan joined the Cowboys: They still are two of the best wrestlers in the country.

Together, they have formed one of the top tandems in college wrestling. Scott is ranked No. 1 at 133 pounds with a 24-2 record, while Morgan is ranked second at 141 pounds with a 26-1 record.

Each has won more than 100 matches during his career at Oklahoma State. Each is a multi-time All-American. Each has won multiple Big 12 titles. Each has wrestled on NCAA championship teams.

"Both have taken on great responsibility academically, with Coleman being a business major and Nathan an engineering student," Oklahoma State coach John Smith said. "They both have carried high GPAs and put a lot of effort and time into their studies. They're ideal student-athletes and what you're looking for, with not cutting any corners anywhere."

But both have one mission left to accomplish -- winning an individual national title.

"That's the only thing missing right now," said Morgan, a smooth technician who honed his skills by watching tapes of foreign wrestlers and drilling those moves with his father, Larry, who placed fourth at the 1973 World Championships.

[+] EnlargeColeman Scott
AP Photo/Duane BurlesonColeman Scott is looking for one more accolade to add to his impressive résumé: an individual national title.

"We know what they want to do in their final year," Smith said. "I want to do everything we can to make that possible."

Part of Smith's motivation is his desire to see Scott and Morgan rewarded for their selflessness. Oklahoma State was in pursuit of a third straight NCAA title in 2005 with a lineup stocked with stars through the middle and upper-weights. But two glaring holes at the top of the order left the Cowboys vulnerable, and Smith's best options were his prized freshmen.

Oklahoma State pulled the redshirts off Scott and Morgan in January that year. Scott took third-ranked Michigan State All-American Nick Simmons down to the wire in his first match as a starter, Morgan won by technical fall in the following bout and the Cowboys were on their way to one of the best seasons in college wrestling history.

With Scott and Morgan in the lineup, Oklahoma State won its final 15 meets by nearly 18 points per outing. The Cowboys finished the dual season 21-0.

"They really made a difference in the chemistry of that team to push on to another level," Smith said. "They really put the missing piece together for us."

Oklahoma State obliterated the field at the NCAA meet, matching the tournament record with five individual champions, scoring 153 points and finishing 70 points ahead of second-place Michigan. The Cowboys would have won by a large margin even without the points scored by the two freshmen. Scott earned All-America honors by placing eighth at 125, while Morgan came up one victory short, losing in the round of 12.

"You can look back now and think [we could have redshirted them and] they could be juniors now, but we won two championships with those kids in the lineup," Smith said. "When you have an opportunity to win it and you know you're controlling your own destiny like we were at the time, you need to take an attitude that you have to go for it.

"You're not in position very often where you can win a championship and have a few of your best guys sitting on the sideline. I think at one time in wrestling you could do that, but today, I don't know how it could be possible."

Oklahoma State won its fourth straight NCAA title in 2006. Scott placed fifth at 125 and Morgan finished sixth at 133. They each bumped up a weight last year. Morgan placed fourth at 141. Scott reached the NCAA finals at 133 by beating top-seeded Simmons in the semifinals. The Cowboy scored the only takedown of his championship bout against Penn's Matt Valenti, but a reversal late in the first period turned the tide in Valenti's favor on his way to a 4-2 win.

"I've watched [that match] a couple times," Scott said. "It's a bad feeling every time I watch it. It hurts to watch it, but it's always good to motivate me."

Currently, Scott and Morgan both are riding 18-match winning streaks. Neither has lost since Nov. 24, when they went down in consecutive matches against highly ranked opponents from Hofstra. Morgan posted a 6-4 win over third-ranked Manuel Rivera on Sunday during Oklahoma State's dual victory over Minnesota. Scott beat No. 5 Mack Reiter 8-2 for his sixth win this season against top-10 competition.

"There's still some stuff I need to get done, but next on my line is winning that national title," Scott said. "I came up short last year, and it's a bad feeling. I want to be on top of that podium this year."

He might even say he's fixin' to get there.

Andy Hamilton covers wrestling for the Iowa City Press-Citizen.