By Jason Elmquist
Stillwater News Press
OKLAHOMA CITY —
With only four wrestlers supposed to reach the semifinals — based on seeding — Oklahoma State needed to find another way to put up points to help the Pokes in the team standings.
And when fourth-seeded Jon Morrison was pinned by Oklahoma’s Cody Brewer — Morrison’s first ever loss to Brewer — things looked even more dire.
Enter the bonus points.
The Cowboys found themselves in third after the opening day of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships thanks to six bonus-point victories.
Alex Dieringer got a technical fall and a pin as the 157-pound three seed, while Chris Perry put up a pair of major decisions as the top seed at 174 pounds. Tyler Caldwell, the second seed in 165, scored a pin in the first round and came a point shy of a major decision in his second match.
But the bonuses weren’t the only thing that are keeping the Cowboys in contention. While OSU saw a pair of Pokes falling in the second round — Morrison and freshman Anthony Collica to second-seeded Logan Stieber of Penn State — Oklahoma State had a pair of surprises in the Thursday’s closing session.
“You’re going to have things happen in a tournament with 10 guys and you just want more surprises than you do disappointments,” Cowboy coach John Smith said. “And I think that’s where we’re at right now.”
Josh Kindig, 149 pounds, and Austin Marsden, OSU’s heavyweight, each upset the sixth seed in their brackets — both holding on late to advance to Friday’s quarterfinals.
Kindig has a wide open half of the bracket with upsets of the second and third seeds, and is the second-highest seed remaining on the lower bracket — Virginia Tech’s Zach Neibert still stands as the 10th seed.
With Morrison’s early exit, the Cowboys could use the boost from Kindig.
But right now, the Cowboy coaching staff has its wrestlers worrying about their individual matches and leaving the team standings alone.
“Coach Smith said, ‘hey, don’t worry about the team right now and just focus on your match. Your job is to win for this team, so just focus on that,’” Marsden said.
The “what ifs” will continue to grow, however, if the usual suspects of Perry, Caldwell and Dieringer can reach the finals — which is more than plausible — and Kindig and Marsden continue their upset trail.
At that point, it will come down to Morrison and Collica to make waves in the wrestle backs to give OSU a chance to win its first team title since 2006 — which was also the last time the event was held in Oklahoma City.
Jason Elmquist is sports editor of The Stillwater News Press. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.