By ANDREW GLOVER
STILLWATER — When Chris Pendleton stepped off the mat after beating Oklahoma’s E.K. Waldhaus in 2005, he didn’t think he would compete in Gallagher-Iba Arena again. On Friday, Pendleton will step back onto the mat in his old home arena as he competes in the U.S. World Team Trials.
“I’m excited to wrestle in Gallagher-Iba again,” said Pendleton, the former two-time NCAA champion. “I didn’t think I would wrestle there again.”
Since graduating from Oklahoma State University in 2005, Pendleton spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach for Wyoming University. Pendleton said the similarities between the programs go beyond the Cowboys mascot name.
“The biggest difference between the two programs is the tradition,” Pendleton said. “There is a lot of similarities in how we do things. Oklahoma State has the tradition and history. At Wyoming, we are trying to build that.”
The former 174-pound wrestler contributed his share to the OSU wrestling tradition, posting an 118-12 record and was a part of three NCAA championship teams. Pendleton said he has spent the last couple of months training for the trials.
“I’m doing more conditioning as well as strength training,” Pendleton said. “I’ve been doing that with a lot more intensity.”
Pendleton competed in the U.S. Open last April and finished second in the 96 kilogram freestyle division. The former OSU wrestler won his match against Canada’s Manjot Sandhu with a 10-0 technical fall victory during the United 4 Wrestling Event in Los Angeles on May 19. Pendleton said it’s taken him a little time to get back into competing shape.
“I competed in the Beat the Streets event and got my heart pumping,” Pendleton said. “I’m training to be where I want to be physically and mentally.”
Since graduating from Oklahoma State in 2005, Pendleton has competed in both domestic and international competitions — including becoming a U.S. national team member in 2006. The current Wyoming assistant coach said he’s confident he can handle the competition at the U.S. World Team Trials.
“All the guys I’m going to wrestle, I can beat all of them,” Pendleton said. “Hopefully I can make the world team and compete in the world championships.”
With the sport of wrestling fighting to stay in the Olympics, Pendleton said it’s very special to have the World Trials at Oklahoma State.
“Oklahoma is the birthplace of modern wrestling,” Pendleton said. “All the attention to keep the sport in the Olympics is a very exciting time to have the event in Oklahoma.”
Pendleton is looking forward to being back in front of fans that supported him during his college career.
“It’s going to be a fun experience,” Pendleton said. “I’m looking forward to being back out on the floor. I have a lot of friends in Oklahoma and it’s going to be exciting to wrestle in front of them again.”