By Jason Elmquist
DES MOINES, Iowa —
Under the unintentionally dimmed lights of Wells Fargo Arena, Oklahoma State’s Chris Perry clinched a spot in Saturday’s championship match with a sudden victory win over Nebraska’s Robert Kokesh on Friday in the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.
It is the first trip to the title round for the Stillwater High graduate, who finished third last year to earn All-American honors. He was unable to hold back his emotions after getting the takedown in the first overtime period — pumping his fists and screaming.
“It’s just been a dream of mine since I was a little kid to walk on that stage. I’ve had it on the background of my phone since I was in the ninth-grade, the NCAA finals stage,” Perry said. “... This is where I wanted to be forever and now I can let it fly.”
The match took a unique turn in the third period when, during a delay in action to fix Perry’s headgear, the main lights went out in the arena. There was still enough light to finish the match, which was wrestled in low light.
“It was kind of weird. It reminded me of the Super Bowl a little bit, you know,” Perry said. “It was kind of like everything was kinda going good and you had to regroup a little bit. But it is what it is.”
Perry, who in the first two days has looked similar to the first-half performance of the San Francisco 49ers in that Super Bowl, believes it’s time for him to perform like the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
“I know this whole tournament has been pretty ugly for me,” said Perry, who will take on second seed Mathew Brown of Penn State in the 174-pound championship. “If I was a fan, I wouldn’t probably be a fan of me and the way I’m wrestling right now, but I feel like I got a lot to prove (Saturday).”
Perry is one of just two OSU wrestlers to have an unblemished Friday to reach the championship round — joining now three-time finalist Jordan Oliver. The Cowboys have fallen further behind two-time reigning champion Penn State — which has five finalists — due to the rough day, and sit in second with 94 points while the Lions stand at 114.5 points.
Oliver has been helping the Cowboys keep up with the reigning champions, picking up his fourth-straight major decision victory in his semifinal match against Columbia’s Steve Santos — winning 13-4 to improve to 38-0 in his senior season.
Oliver summed up his performance in the semifinal in one word.
“Dominant,” Oliver said. “Consistent of things I do, going out, scoring a lot of points and putting a lot of points on the board.”
The Easton, Pa., native will face second seed Jason Chamberlain of Boise State in his championship match. Chamberlain heads into the match with just one loss on the season.
“You always train to wrestle the best and you’re always looking forward to competition and competing against the best, (and) Jason Chamberlain is a great wrestler,” Oliver said. “I’ve wrestled him in freestyle once and we have been on world teams together and there is no doubt about it I’m going to get the best of him (Saturday) night.”
The rough day for OSU ended on a sour note with heavyweight Alan Gelogaev. A late mistake by the senior from Moscow, Russia, while holding a one-point lead, turned into a takedown by Minnesota’s Anthony Nelson. The second seed rode Gelogaev for the final seconds to end the Cowboy’s hopes of a shot at the title.
Gelogaev had controlled much of the match with two takedowns in the first two periods before making a mistake in a scramble to fall 5-4. He will compete in the consolation semifinal to try to finish with at least a third-place finish in his final year at Oklahoma State.
Wrestleback action begins at 10 a.m. Saturday with the Cowboys having five wrestlers — Jon Morrison, Alex Dieringer, Tyler Caldwell, Blake Rosholt and Gelogaev — competing in medal-round matches. The championships will begin at 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN (Suddenlink channel 31).