By JASON ELMQUIST
DES MOINES — Jordan Oliver remembers last year’s disappointment in the title match of the Division I Wrestling Championships.
At practice, in his sleep, when he wrestles. The last-second defeat on a questionable call by the official has stuck with the Oklahoma State senior wrestler for the past 365 days.
Instead of taking aim at a third-straight national championship at this week, Oliver will look to avenge his runner-up finish from St. Louis.
“The ending last year has put a little bit of a fire under me,” Oliver said. “... I train with it every day, I see it all the time. There’s a lot of times I’m in that same position I was last year where flashbacks come back of that.
“It’s just something that’s going to be a positive in my training and help motivate me to make sure I don’t let chances come up like that where the ref gets involved in the match.”
Volunteer coach Coleman Scott, who had Oliver as a wrestling partner at the London Olympics, has seen that moment live with Oliver on a daily basis. And it’s that crushing defeat that has served as motivation for the three-time All-American.
“He doesn’t want it to happen again,” Scott said. “No matter what the call was, it was a close call, he doesn’t want to put it in the ref’s hands any more. It sucks that he had to go through that. It’s hard to realize in your mind that aren’t going to let that happen when it hasn’t happened to you before, and on that big of a stage.”
Oliver has also grown in his experience working with Scott in preparations for last summer’s Olympic Games.
Oliver, the No. 1 seed in the 149 pound weight class for the NCAA tournament, got the unique chance to wrestle and scout among the greatest wrestlers in the world, and OSU coach John Smith said it’s something that has fueled Oliver not just for this year but also for his wrestling future after college.
“Any time you get a chance to see the best wrestlers in the world, and get to train around them, you grow pretty quickly,” Smith said. “Not everybody has done that. There’s been several guys go over and have that opportunity and come back and never produce. But with him, it’s just little closer reality that he’s not that far away from being one of the best wrestlers in the world.”
The Cowboys will rely on Oliver to help propel the Pokes to the program’s 35th national title — and first since 2006.
OSU will have a full 10-man roster at the tournament, eight of which are seeded in their respective weight classes. Action began Thursday morning with first-round action, and will run through Saturday night. Saturday night’s finals will be televised on ESPN at 7 p.m.