Bout at the Ballpark was 'pretty cool' for OSU in 2022, except for the result. Luke Surber hope to change that.
ARLINGTON, Texas — In last year’s Bout at the Ballpark, Oklahoma State’s Luke Surber made sure to take in the atmosphere of such a unique event.
It didn’t end the way he hoped. Then a sophomore heavyweight, Surber lost a major decision and the Cowboys got routed by Iowa.
So Surber, now a junior 197-pounder, has higher expectations for this year’s event, his team and himself when the 11th-ranked Cowboys take on No. 6 Michigan at Globe Life Field.
“I just remember the whole stadium being pretty cool,” Surber said of the retractable-roof dome where the Texas Rangers play. “I remember the fans were kinda far away, and I think they’re changing that this year, so it should be pretty good.
“It’ll be a better atmosphere for the fans and for the wrestlers as well.”
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Last year, the mat was placed near second base on the baseball field, with some ground-level seating for fans. But this year, the mat will be moved closer to the stadium seating, bringing the fans and competitors closer together.
And Surber hopes to give them a good show.
After making a late run to a successful season at heavyweight a year ago, Surber learned last July he’d be trimming down to wrestle at 197 — stepping in for former NCAA champion A.J. Ferrari, who was dismissed from the team last summer.
If the Cowboys are going to upset their Big Ten Conference counterparts, points — maybe even bonus points — from Surber will be key.
While Surber is ranked 19th in the weight, Michigan is unsettled, having used multiple wrestlers there this season. So Surber enters as the favorite, which is a welcome respite in the middle of a tough run of matches.
With Missouri’s top-ranked 197-pounder Rocky Elam awaiting Surber on Sunday — OSU hosts Mizzou at 2 p.m. at Gallagher-Iba Arena — the Cowboy will have wrestled seven of his last 12 matches against ranked opponents. He’s coming off a loss to fifth-ranked Yonger Bastida of Iowa State last Sunday, dropping Surber’s record to 13-5.
But he has held his own at the new weight class this season, going 4-4 against ranked opponents including two wins over top-10 wrestlers.
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“That’s a deep, deep weight,” OSU coach John Smith said. “That’s as good of a 197-pound weight class as I’ve seen, and that’s saying a lot. I’ve been around a long time. It’s good. But Surber’s good.
“He gave me a lot of confidence with the match he wrestled at Iowa State. … I’m seeing a level of maturity, like ‘I’m not spooked anymore. I’m ready.’”
Surber went through an adjustment period getting used to the smaller, more athletic opponents he faced in the move down from heavyweight. But he welcomes the challenge of his difficult schedule.
“I know if I wanna win nationals, I gotta go through guys like that,” he said. “I wanna know how the top guys are, and I feel like I get better wrestling the top guys.”
Last year, Surber struggled through the middle of the year in his move to heavyweight, but peaked at the perfect time, making a run to the finals of the Big 12 Championships and finishing as runner-up.
A three-time state champion at Tuttle High School, Surber has always seemed to find his footing in February and March.
“I feel like my whole career, every season, I’ve gotten better and better throughout the year,” he said. “The more I wrestle, the better I get.
“Practice gives me confidence and gets me highly prepared. I’ve known I can wrestle with most of the guys at this weight. It’s just going out there and beating them now. It’s not a matter of keeping it close, it’s going and beating those guys.”
Bout at the Ballpark
OSU VS. MICHIGAN: 7 p.m. Friday at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas (93.7 FM)
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Oklahoma State wrestling: Luke Surber chasing win in Bout at Ballpark