John Smith was none too pleased with the performance of Kaden Gfeller at the Stanford match over the weekend.
The redshirt junior out of Heritage Hall lost by major decision to a top 10 wrestler in Jaden Abas.
“It was just like, ‘Who are you?’ It was like Houdini, ‘How’d you do that?’” Smith said Wednesday. “How’d you look so good and then look so bad? It just really caught me off guard.”
And so he’s making Gfeller earn his starting spot at 149 pounds heading into this weekend’s road trip to No. 10 Minnesota.
Following his weekly press conference with the media, Smith and his coaching staff held ranking matches at 149 – as well as 141 – following an hour-long training session.
Gfeller won both of his ranking matches but it seemed his experience is what helped him.
In his first against redshirt junior Joey Sanchez, Gfeller won by just a 3-2 decision – with a takedown in the first period being the difference in the win.
While that match was ongoing, true freshmen Victor Voinovich and Travis Mastrogiovanni squared off. Mastrogiovanni – the younger brother of OSU’s starting 125-pounder Trevor Mastrogiovanni – needed injury time in the match after coming down on his head during a scramble with Voinovich, who had tied the match with a reversal following Mastrogiovanni scoring the first points on a takedown.
Voinovich slowly increased his lead against Mastrogiovanni, earning an 8-5 decision which prompted Smith to comment to Voinovich that it’s going to take more to be a starter at Oklahoma State.
And the comment rang true.
Gfeller bested the budding wrestler with an 8-4 decision – getting over two minutes of riding time – with a pair of takedowns. Voinovich did manage to get one takedown of Gfeller in the second period.
“I think he’s trying to make me old,” Smith said of Gfeller prior to the matches.
While Oklahoma State got a bonus-point win at 141 pounds from super senior Dusty Hone last weekend, the coaching staff wanted to see him rank out against true freshman Carter Young.
The Stillwater High graduate finally received clearance to compete with the Cowboys after having left Northwestern days before the start of their academic semester – which was about a month into Oklahoma State’s academic year.
Young won both his ranking matches against Hone, earning a 10-2 major decision in the first match right after practice, and then a 7-1 decision about 30 minutes later. Hone was visibly dealing with cramping during both ranking matches.
Following the ranking matches, Smith told both wrestlers that they would travel to Minnesota.
When talking to the media prior to ranking matches, Smith emphasized that simply winning a ranking match for true freshmen wouldn’t automatically lock them into the starting lineup.
“Any time you’re ranking true freshmen, you also gotta really analyze it and really figure out ‘Hey, if you’re winning by one, that’s not enough,’” the Cowboy coach said. “‘If I pull you out (of redshirt) and you wrestle and get beat in your next ranking match, you lose your year.’ I want to see freshmen really trying to really separate the score from anyone that they’re competing against. If I don’t see that, I’m probably not going to bring him out yet.”
And that was certainly an issue late in the second match between Young and Hone.
The Stillwater product who was a three-time state champion in high school built up his lead in the first two periods, and scored one takedown in the third period and gave up an escape with just under 30 seconds remaining in the match.
And Smith made note of it, frustrated with the late escape and pointing out to Young in the closing seconds of the match that it was “not real impressive” as Young ultimately couldn’t secure a bonus-point advantage against the NCAA qualifying super senior.
“We’re going to keep hammering at those weights,” Smith said. “Those are good weights and not that we’re disappointed with anyone, we just want to make sure that we keep everybody honest and we got some guys that are heavy. When you have to rank, you have to do things right. Until I’m seeing some real consistency and behavior about how they’re handling weight and things like that, we’ll just keep ranking.
“We’ll rank every week before dual meets. These are two weights that we feel like if we’re going to have some sort of really good season, these are two of the weights we’ve got to be scoring at.”