By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
When the college season ended for Alex Dieringer with a third-place finish at the NCAA national championships in Des Moines, Iowa, Oklahoma State wrestling coach John Smith felt his up-and-coming redshirt freshman could use a break.
Giving Dieringer the option to either relax in the offseason or compete, the native of Port Washington, Wis., chose the latter — and it proved to be a valuable decision.
On Sunday, Dieringer rolled through the challenger’s bracket at the FILA Junior World Team Trials at Gallagher-Iba Arena — and did the same against Dylan Palacio in the best-of-three series final at 74 kilograms, winning with scores of 7-3 and 10-3, respectively.
“He told me I didn’t have to and I said I wanted to,” Dieringer said. “My whole life I’ve been doing off-season training, so I wanted something to train for and obviously have been training for this. I think it’s helped keep me in check.”
Seeing the young talent with a lot of positive days ahead of him decide to skip out on a relaxing offseason spoke wonders to his coach.
“He’s got a great passion, he loves to compete. He’s a competitor,” Smith said. “He’s starting to grow into an even better competitor and is a kid who has very little fear on the mat. Through those experiences of wrestling some of the world’s best, he’ll continue to grow in that direction.”
Dieringer wasn’t the only Cowboy wrestler to become a member of the Junior World Team, which will compete in the Junior World Championships on Aug. 13-18 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Heavyweight Austin Marsden, who will fill the shoes left by All-American Alan Gelogaev, will be Dieringer’s teammate on the world team for the second-straight season.
“I got really excited after Marsden’s final match because we were on the team together last year,” Dieringer said. “It’s awesome to have someone you’re close with to make the team and experience everything with.”
Marsden, a sophomore from Crystal Lake, Ill., has wrestled sparingly in his two years at Oklahoma State — getting some time on the mat in 2011-12 when Gelogaev went down with an injury and ultimately qualified for the NCAA tournament. On Sunday, Marsden, just like Dieringer, had to work his way through the challenger’s bracket to reach the best-of-three series finale.
He didn’t have to work too hard in his first match, however, scoring a win in just 16 seconds with a five-point throw to end the match.
“I was in a single leg and instead of going through it, I was like ‘Coleman (Scott) did last year (at Times Square to earn an Olympic team berth), I might as well try it, too,’” Marsden said. “That’s what I was thinking about — I might as well try it and it felt good and felt comfortable.”
He continued with back-to-back technical falls to come out of the 120 kg challenge bracket and set up a showdown with Adam Coon.
Marsden picked up a pin of Coon in just under and minute-and-a-half in the first championship bout, then closed out the competition with a 10-3 technical fall — in which he gave up the first three points of the match — to earn his spot on the world team.
“He started moving his hands and getting inside position. He had gone to sleep there for a little while, maybe because the first match was so easy,” Smith said. “And this kid is one of the better heavyweights in the country this past year, actually No. 1 in the nation. They’ve got some pride and when they get their butts whipped, they’re going to come out and show some fight.
“So it was good that he woke up. I was waiting on it. It can be a great learning lesson for him because if the kid had made some good turns, with the seven-point tech fall, you could found yourself done pretty quick.”
Now the Cowboys will get a little time to rest, but Dieringer said he plans to do a little more training this time around before heading to the international event in early August. That’s the type of invaluable experience the pair of Pokes can gain from the world championships.
“Some of the best wrestlers come from all over the world and both of them have competed in them before and have definitely walked away from it disappointed,” Smith said. “So I think with that experience, they are going to expect more out of themselves — and they should. I think both of them could be medalists and maybe even gold medalists. I think the focus now is just maintaining some sort of conditioning through this period of time.”
Cowboy newcomer Anthony Collica produced a third-place finish at 66 kilos in his first time wrestling at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“It was fun to wrestle in Gallagher-Iba. It was a lot of fun,” Collica said. “I’m excited for my future as a Cowboy.”
Jordan Rogers and Austin Schafer finished the tournament in fourth at 84 kg and 96 kg, respectively. Other Pokes who also competed at the junior world trials included Gunnar Woodburn (55 kg), Brian Crutchmer (60 kg), Kyle Crutchmer (84 kg) and Nolan Boyd (84 kg).