By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
It may not compare to the infamous Michael Jordan “Flu Game” in the 1997 NBA Finals, but for Oklahoma State wrestler Chris Chionuma, Sunday’s bout against another top 15 opponent proved to be just as dramatic — and possibly just as pivotal for the final stretch of his season. Chionuma, the No. 14-ranked wrestler at 184 pounds, upset No. 13 Max Thomusseit of Pittsburgh despite battling not just his opponent but also his body.
“This match, I came in sick — been puking for the past 24 hours. So mentally, I wasn’t very stable for this match because I came in not knowing if I was going to wrestle,” said Chionuma, who didn’t practice on Saturday or warmup before Sunday’s dual. “But coach (John) Smith really talked to me about how there’s going to be adversity and that not every match is going to be perfect.”
Despite being somewhat slowed by his recent illness, Chionuma was clearly the aggressor in his upset of Thomusseit. Just 30 seconds into the bout Chionuma scored a takedown and nearfall. His most daunting task of the match was trying to escape in the second period — showing obvious signs of fatigue — and did so with 30 seconds left in the period.
With Thomusseit trailing by 3 points following a third-period escape, the Pitt wrestler went on the offensive and forced a stall warning against Chionuma. But the slowed OSU wrestler took the warning in stride and responded with a takedown in the final 15 seconds to claim a 7-2 victory — and sealed OSU’s 24-16 victory over No. 17 Pittsburgh.
“I didn’t believe at first that I could do this, but now I feel like I can beat anyone,” Chionuma said. “Whether I’m sick, whether I’m injured, whatever. So I’m feeling real good right now about March.”
It was just the latest hurdle the senior from Blue Springs, Mo., has overcome this season.
Just a week earlier, Chionuma upset No. 10-ranked Ethen Lofthouse of Iowa in what he claimed to be a breakthrough win for him. The upset of a top 10 wrestler earned him national Wrestler of the Week honors by TheMat.com.
“He’s a good wrestler, it’s just been all mental for him,” said OSU wrestler Alan Gelogaev, the third-ranked heavyweight. “But he’s getting to where he wants to be.”
Chionuma’s performance in duals lately have made things easier for Gelogaev and 197-pound wrestler Blake Rosholt. At the pivotal 184-pound class, Chionuma has turned things around of late. The upset against Lofthouse tied the dual with Iowa and his victory over Thomusseit clinched the dual victory over Pittsburgh — bucking a trend of early-season losses in big matches at the back of duals.
“He’s been doing a great job in the (practice) room and when he gets on the mat, we’re excited to see him out there helping us win,” Gelogaev said.