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The tale of Newly McSpadden starts before most fans had heard the name. The tale of Newly McSpadden begins with the tale of Kevin Ward.<br><br>
Kevin Ward was a 157 pound wrestler for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Though the powerhouse Cowboys would string together 4 consecutive team titles during his time in Stillwater, Kevin Ward would never live up to the lofty expectations of the orange-clad faithful. He had promise. He was capable of huge victories and spectacular moves, but somehow he never quite put it all together. He ended his days on the mat without an All-American honor to his credit and was widely considered a most frustrating example of what could have been.<br><br>
As the Kevin Ward era was drawing to a close, and even before for those who fancy themselves program insiders, there was rumbling of a looming talent. Newly McSpadden, a two-time state champion from Vinita, Oklahoma, had been impressive in a redshirt year and a season backing up Kevin Ward, compiling a 36-9 record competing against somewhat lesser competition on the open tournament circuit. There had even been some talk that the freshman might take Mr. Ward's spot in the '05-06 campaign, but that had never materialized. As '06-'07 dawned, Newly's time had come.<br><br>
And the frustration continued. Showing the ability to go toe-to-toe with the best wrestlers in the country, Newly had Cowboy nation buzzing early in the season, but never turned the corner. His 17-16 overall record narrowly qualified him for the National tournament (largely due to the strength of schedule he faced, he saw ranked wrestlers in 11 of 14 matches over one stretch) but he dropped a 7-3 decision to the #2 seed and was eliminated 5-2 in the very next match. Newly was obviously strong and very difficult to score on, but he lacked the ability to score on quality opponents. The comparisons to Kevin Ward were already beginning and it seemed that the 157 pound weight class might just be cursed for the men in orange.<br><br>
This season brought the usual optimism from wrestling fans and McSpadden looked impressive in early action, scoring much more than he previously had. Was this Newly turning the corner? Would he become an elite and challenge for All-American honors? It certainly looked that way as he piled up a 17-3 record suffering only close losses to highly ranked foes. But then the season turned. Newly lost 4 of 5 in January and was benched in favor of another young wrestler for the last several dual meets of the season. The rumor mill swirled. At first, it was widely believed that Coach John Smith was sending a message. As the meets rolled on with no news, some believed he had been beaten out. Many Cowboy fans assumed we'd seen the last of Newly and many weren't entirely upset by that notion. Just before the Big 12 tournament, the tournament used to qualify for the Nationals, certain media outlets reported that it would be McSpadden at 157 for Oklahoma State. There was some mention of minor injuries, but the reason for his prolonged absence may never be known by your average fan.<br><br>
Saturday came as the day of reckoning for those who wished their season to continue. McSpadden, seeded 5th of 5, would need to finish at least 3rd to keep wrestling for another two weeks. In the opening round, he faced Chris Oliver of Nebraska who had defeated him 3-2 in one of his last matches before the extended break. What would the mindset be of a wrestler who had so much promise, but had suffered a season which had to have him questioning his own ability, the team’s faith in him and the fans loyalty?<br><br>
As Oliver thudded to the mat, the crowd erupted and the exaltations grew rapidly until they exploded as the official slapped the mat! Just 1:32 into the first period, McSpadden had the victory by fall and was moving on to the semi-finals. In a Hollywood movie, Newly would have won the next two and been crowned Big 12 champion. Nothing is that easy, however. With the #1 seed, from Missouri, waiting in the semi's, no one really expected a win from McSpadden, but a late reversal in the 3rd period had Cowboy fans on their feet. If he could just hang on for the ride out, Newly would win! Alas, it was not to be as the Missouri wrestler escaped to force overtime and won it there.<br><br>
This was the Newly we had all too often close, but just not quite there. He needed one more win to secure his spot in St. Louis and he would again face Chris Oliver of Nebraska. Its very difficult to wrestle the same wrestler many times, especially those that are very good. It leads to familiarity, which leads to even more closely contested matches as both wrestlers become aware of what their opponent likes to do. This match was one of those through two periods, but a good ride by Newly put Oliver in desperation mode and, when his opponent went for a high risk throw, McSpadden capitalized with a perfect counter that resulted in 5 points and a 7-1 victory. His 3rd place finish means Newly McSpadden will join 7 of his teammates in St. Louis next Thursday for the NCAA Division 1 wrestling championships. The tale of Newly McSpadden will not end there, as he is only a junior, but the next chapter will be written and, if the tale so far means anything, it could make for high theatre.
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