By Jason Elmquist
DES MOINES, Iowa —
Oklahoma State wrestling’s strive for national title No. 35 will have to wait another year.
Despite a furious comeback in the final day of competition at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, the Cowboys came up just short of ending Penn State’s reign atop the college wrestling landscape.
The Nittany Lions, utilizing five wrestlers in the finals, were able to withstand the Cowboys’ onslaught to cut a 20-point deficit after Day 2 and claim their third-straight national title by just four points over OSU.
“I don’t know if it’s that disappointing because we won two championship matches. We did our part and unfortunately they won two as well and it was enough for them to win,” Oklahoma State coach John Smith said. “We had a good tournament and I can’t look back on this and wish for anything different. We did about as well as we could do and we gave ourselves a chance and just fell short.”
The Cowboys did leave Wells Fargo Arena with some first-place hardware Saturday.
Chris Perry, a Stillwater High graduate, saw years of work on the mat come to a pinnacle with an overtime win in the championship match at 174 pounds.
“It’s unexplainable. Most of the emotions are just out of work and the people I do it for, my family and my coaches and there’s so many people I have in my life that I just want to win for,” said Perry, who fell to his knees on the mat and fought back tears after winning the match. “As great as winning for myself, it’s just the people who helped me through it. I have so many great people, and it’s just indescribable. It’s almost a shell shock moment when you’re up there. You don’t even know what to do. When you win, you just kind of fall apart, like everything is like a big weight is off your shoulder.”
The OSU junior had the pressure of keeping the Cowboys’ hopes of a team title alive with the championship matches starting at 174. After both Perry and Penn State’s Mathew Brown swapped escapes in regulation, Perry rode Brown out for the full 30 seconds in the first tiebreaker period. Perry was able to escape from the bottom in the following tiebreaker to win the match 2-1.
“It was tough. I went to his ankles a couple of times. We worked on going to his ankles instead of jumping on the top, which I’ve done a couple times this year, which cost me in National Duals,” Perry said.
“But I didn’t give up that escape when I went to his ankle that one time. I knew after I kept going ankle he was thinking I was going ankle again. If guys are waiting on that, it’s hard to do it because I seem to fall over the top like I did the first time when I tried to ride him.”
Seeing Perry win his first title was extra special for Smith, who is Perry’s uncle.
“Anytime you have a family member involved there is a little bit more meaning to it,” Smith said. “I’m just glad he won because my sister doesn’t have to bark at me anymore. But he earned it and just did a lot of things on his own this year ... and just had the passion and the drive to learn how to do some things and have self-reliance.”
OSU senior Jordan Oliver capped his Cowboy career with a second NCAA national championship. With a 3-1 win — in which he scored a takedown with 15 seconds remaining — Oliver ended his season undefeated with opponents never having scored a takedown in his 41 matches.
“This year was going to be even tougher. Winning it once, coming back as a runner-up from last year, and knowing I lost the finals last year,” Oliver said. “I had to get that monkey off my back, but it’s definitely a great feeling. I definitely would say winning my second national title was way more difficult than winning my first one.”
Helping the Cowboys climb back from the deficit was redshirt freshman Alex Dieringer. The sixth seed at 157 pounds earned a major decision victory in his consolation semifinal match then pinned Northern Iowa’s David Bonin in the third-place match to give OSU some much needed bonus points.
“I wrestled really well today. It feels good to come back like that,” Dieringer said. “I was just inches from competing in the finals so that hurts, but I’ve got three more years. I’m going to make sure to build off that (semifinal) loss.”
Dieringer wasn’t the only Cowboy to come away with a top-three finish out of the wrestleback bracket. Tyler Caldwell, the fourth seed at 165 pounds, topped third-seeded Peter Yates of Virginia Tech by a 5-1 decision cap his third All-American season.
Senior heavyweight Alan Gelogaev also capped his Cowboy career with a third-place medal at the national meet. Gelogaev got a takedown of top-seeded Dominque Bradley of Missouri with 35 seconds remaining the match to claim a 3-2 victory.
“It’s a disappointment after taking second two years ago, but it’s also good to come back and finish strong, getting third place,” Caldwell said. “I’m feeling really good about my wrestling and the way I’m training. I’m already excited for next season. I’m surrounded by studs.”
Oklahoma State had two other wrestlers wrap up wrestleback action. Jon Morrison (133 pounds) lost his consolation semifinal match, but responded with a last-second takedown to finish fifth in the nation. Ponca City native Blake Rosholt was unable to assist the Cowboys rally, losing his seventh-place match to Wyoming’s Aflonso Hernandez by a 7-4 decision. The eighth-place finish for Rosholt still exceeded expectations as he was the 11 seed in the 197-pound bracket.
Of the 10 wrestlers brought to the national tournament this year, only three will be graduating — and only two of them are from the seven All-Americans. The Cowboys will return a national champion and two third-place finishers for next year’s squad. The odds may be good for OSU with the 2014 national event being held at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.