In his mind, Ethan Andersen was dead set on Missouri.
The Tigers offered him a full-ride scholarship last fall and the two-time state champion from Southeast Polk accepted in November. Andersen liked the Missouri wrestling coaches, he had a couple close friends on the team there and other programs backed away after he pledged to the Tigers.
But one comment in April changed everything, and it led to Andersen’s decision Tuesday to flip his commitment from Missouri to Oklahoma State.
As he watched Andersen hit low-level attacks, scramble for scores and do things most college heavyweights can’t, Oklahoma State coach John Smith leaned over to assistant Zack Esposito and said something that later got back to the Southeast Polk senior.
“(Smith) said, ‘I can make that kid an Olympic champ with that level change,’” Andersen said Tuesday. “That got me real fired up. I was thinking, ‘Wow, that’s coming from a six-time World champ.’ ”
Smith increased his pursuit of Andersen in recent weeks and brought the two-time 220-pound state champ in for an official visit this past weekend.
“He really likes my style and it ties in with his style and he thinks he could develop it really well,” Andersen said. “He’s really excited with what he can do for me. He got me really excited.”
Andersen said breaking the news to the Missouri coaches “was probably one of the tougher calls in my life.”
“It’s a business and they know it happens,” he said. “They wished me the best of luck and I wished them the best of luck.”
Andersen’s stock dipped during the summer. He suffered a back injury at the Junior National Duals, where he lost three times and dropped out of the Junior Nationals after a third-round loss. He fell from second to eighth in the Flowrestling rankings at 220 pounds and dropped to 72nd in Flowrestling’s 2016 class rankings.
The Cowboys are getting a wrestler with high-octane scoring ability when he’s at his best. Andersen, one of the Register’s Iowa Eight selections, compiled a 94-1 record during the past two seasons with more than 70 pins.
“When he’s persistent about going to the next (move) and the next and the next, people absolutely cannot keep up with him,” Southeast Polk assistant Jessman Smith said. “What makes him dangerous is he’s naturally a bloodthirsty pinner. He’ll go to his back to put you on yours. He’ll sacrifice position almost every time to go for the pin, and that’s really unexpected for big guys in particular.”