Oklahoma State has three wrestlers still in contention for individual titles at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships after the first day of action in St. Louis.
However, Cowboy wrestling coach John Smith was hopeful it could have been more than a trio.
“Losing three of the four (second-round matches in the last session), you’re hoping you can push maybe one or two more of those guys in,” Smith said. “Just kind of lost our composure a little bit in some matches when we felt like we kind of took control a little bit.”
It was a mix of leaders and youth who made the moves into Friday’s quarterfinals.
Former national runner-up Daton Fix picked up his first pin in an NCAA tournament with a second-period fall of No. 17 seed Malyke Hines of Lehigh. It came after getting 16-3 major decision in his opening match.
“I’m happy I could get bonus points for our team,” Fix said. “I got a situation where I got him on his back. In the first match, I was in a similar situation and didn’t get the fall, and I’m just glad I secured the fall this time.”
Fix will face Northwestern’s Chris Cannon, the No. 8 seed at 133 pounds, in the quarterfinals that are scheduled to start at 10 a.m.
Senior Boo Lewallen had to fight his way in the quarterfinals at 149 pounds.
Facing Joshua Heil – the younger brother of former national champion at Oklahoma State, Dean Heil – Lewallen found himself trailing most of the match.
However, he worked his way back on the scoreboard to force overtime. But even in the extra frames, he once again was in a tight spot when he gave up a reversal in the tiebreakers.
Needing a takedown – after getting an escape – due to the reversal in the second 30-second tiebreaker, Lewallen landed one right at the buzzer, which led to a review.
Prior to the takedown, there was question about whether time ticked off the clock in that 30-second tiebreaker after Lewallen’s escape – which also brought questions about the takedown he came away with for the win.
“I felt like he had a takedown before he got the takedown,” Smith said. “There were a couple of situations where I don’t know why they didn’t award two before the end of that match where he did get the takedown – he had one before that.”
True freshman AJ Ferrari won his rematch against South Dakota State’s Tanner Sloan, the top-seeded wrestler from the Big 12 Conference tournament who lost to Ferrari in the conference semifinals.
Ferrari took down Sloan with a 5-0 decision to move within two wins of making the finals at 197 pounds in his first NCAA tournament.
“If you look at that bracket, he probably had the toughest second match of anybody in that bracket,” Smith said. “… That’s not an easy route. It was a tough match, and he did a good job of picking up a takedown at the end of the first … and ended up being a pretty solid victory.”
Oklahoma State has a chance to slow down the top squad in the team standings – Iowa, which leads by 5.5 points with a total of 33.5 – in its two other quarterfinal matches. Lewallen will take on No. 12-seeded Max Murin, while Ferrari will face No. 5 Jacob Warner.
The Cowboys will also look to pick up some team points in the consolation matches in which the six other Cowboys are still competing.
Travis Wittlake (165), Dustin Plott (174) and Dakota Geer (184) each lost their second-round matches in the championship bracket, and will start consolation matches Friday morning.
Another trio of Cowboys have kept their season alive with consolation wins.
True freshman Trevor Mastrogiovanni, the No. 21 seed at 125 pounds, picked up a major decision after losing his first match of the tournament against No. 12-seeded Michael DeAugustino of Northwestern by just one point.
But the biggest gains came from Oklahoma State’s at-large bids.
No. 33-seed Wyatt Sheets, who was a late addition to the tournament after another wrestler had to withdraw at 157 pounds, won his pigtail match and then put up some fight against the top-seeded Ryan Deakin of Northwestern in a 10-3 decision.
In his first consolation match against the No. 16-seeded Justin McCoy of Virginia, Sheets – who was originally scheduled to have his injured knee worked on Tuesday before being added to the field – won by 6-2 decision.
“He found a little something in his last match,” Smith said. “… I was proud of him. It was a nice effort from him, and definitely something for a guy who has gone through the season he’s gone through, there should be a level of satisfaction up to this point.
“But just kind of got to remember that every match you advance, you can get stronger and stronger in these consolations. But you’ve got to be ready to go out and have your best matches.”
At heavyweight, No. 29 seed Austin Harris bounced back from a major decision loss to the fourth seed by beating the No. 20-seeded Quinn Miller of Virginia by 8-2 decision to remain alive in the tournament.
Follow News Press sports editor Jason Elmquist on Twitter for updates on Oklahoma State wrestling at the NCAA tournament.