It gets your attention when John Smith compares a future Cowboy wrestler to the likes of Daniel Cormier and Daton Fix.
Oklahoma State announced its class of 2024 early signees on Nov. 10, but Smith wasn’t available to comment about his four commits until Wednesday’s media availability. That signing class included Cody Merrill, Rin Sakamoto, JJ McComas and Kolter Burton.
Merrill was the last addition to the group, not announcing his decision until only three days before signing. His decision alone escalated OSU’s 2024 recruiting class from unranked to 10th in the country. The class is second in the Big 12 behind Missouri.
Merrill is from Gilroy High School in California, where Cowboy legend Daniel Cormier coaches. Merrill was a consensus top-10 recruit, as FloWrestling has him ranked as the No. 7 pound-for-pound wrestler in the class and No. 1 at 220 pounds. Merrill will most likely wrestle at 197 pounds for OSU.
“I think they have him ranked around fifth or sixth best recruit pound-for-pound,” Smith said. “I would say he’s better than that. I’m telling you, this kid’s good. Daniel Cormier has spent a lot of time with him, and we see a lot of Daniel in him. Obviously, he’s quick, explosive, uses his speed. This guy’s good. Hey, he’s good. …
“He’s good. I mean, maybe one of those Daton Fix signs, you know. Could be that.”
Although from the West Coast, Merrill won’t migrate the furthest to Stillwater. Sakamoto, expected to wrestle at 133 pounds, will continue OSU’s pipeline from Tokyo, Japan. OSU’s Japanese lineage includes three-time national champion Yojiro Uetake.
“He’s good,” Smith said with a smirk. “He’s good. He’s quick. He’s fast. He’s something. I think, for us, it was about maybe our history of having Japanese wrestlers that really helped us and a lot of them having a lot of success. …
“I think that’s what it was about. I think our past helped scoop him in. He had trust. He wanted to come over here. He wanted to attend American school. He wanted to wrestle folkstyle wrestling. And he wants to be an Olympic champion. And I think someday he’ll probably have that opportunity to wrestle for Japan one day in the Olympics.”
Then in the same signing class Smith trekked across the Pacific Ocean to find talent, he also got McComas from down the road on North Husband Street. McComas was a 2021 state champion for Stillwater High School. FloWrestling has him as a top-10 prospect at 126 pounds, and he will likely wrestle at 133 pounds for OSU.
“He’s really progressed each and every year,” Smith said. “If you woulda asked me three years ago, ‘Could he wrestle for Oklahoma State?’ I’d probably told you no. I just seen a good attitude. He’s taken responsibility for getting better and he’s gotten a lot better. He’s competitive. He’s wrestling some of the best guys in the country tough and hard. And he’s dedicated. He’s devoted to it. You see his attitude and it’s something that rubs off on everyone.”
The world of college sports today, though, means the class of 2024 most likely won’t cease with the four.
“Of course you don’t stop recruiting until the portal closes, unfortunately,” Smith said.