Andrew Shomers was prepared to stay put in Pennsylvania when the Edinboro University wrestling coach took over at West Virginia.
But a comment made in jest changed the journey the Ransomville, New York, native was on, and he found himself joining college teammate Dakota Geer in Stillwater as part of the most prestigious college wrestling program in the country.
When Tim Flynn left Edinboro to take the head coaching job at West Virginia, the wrestlers at the Pennsylvania school began to look for potential new landing spots. And Geer, who still had three years of eligibility remaining, was one the most sought after prospects from the program after earning All-Freshman Team honors in 2016-17 as an NCAA qualifier.
And OSU wrestling coach John Smith saw firsthand the potential of Geer, a Franklin, Pennsylvania, native.
In his freshman year, the Cowboys traveled to Edinboro for a dual and Geer was matched up against Nolan Boyd – who would finish his Cowboy career as a two-time All-American – at 184 pounds, and wrestled Boyd, who was ranked No. 6 in the country, to within two points. Boyd, a senior at the time, narrowly won by 10-8 decision over the freshman – and it was a lasting memory for Smith.
“I just thought, they both reminded me of each other and now that I have Dakota here, there’s a lot of resemblance between him and Nolan from the standpoint of how they compete,” Smith said. “It’s exciting to watch him at times – give you a heart attack at times because of the way they wrestle – but some similarities that were pretty spot on once we realized his level of skill.”
And so Smith began recruiting Geer to OSU when Flynn departed for the Big 12.
That’s when a joke by Shomers turned into a life-altering moment.
Geer was the only Edinboro wrestler Smith had been showing interest in, and Smith admitted he didn’t really have much knowledge of Shomers – who wasn’t in the dual lineup for that same matchup that led to Geer catching the eye of Smith.
“It was funny how it happened, because it wasn’t even a thought for Shomers to come to Oklahoma State,” Geer said. “We were all looking to go separate ways, and when we sitting there playing video games and Coach (Smith) called me, and Shomers said, ‘Ask him if he needs a 57-pounder.’ He was just kind of joking around.”
The weight class Shomers wrestled happen to also be a class that OSU has had issues finding stability over the past few years.
Joe Smith, a two-time All-American at the weight, has struggled with injuries and keeping his weight down – he wrestled the two tournaments over Winter Break at 174 pounds – and former starter Jonce Blaylock suffered an injury right before the postseason last year, while Smith was redshirting.
Both transfers found themselves in the starting lineup when the dual schedule began in mid-November, where they have stayed thus far.
“It was very exciting to make the starting lineup,” Shomers said. “It’s a lot of kids’ dreams to come to Oklahoma State and be in the starting lineup. But I had planned to come here to start, I wasn’t transferring just to be a training partner. I wanted to further myself in my wrestling goals.”
Geer had a more clear picture of where his standing would be when arriving in Stillwater.
Having been sought out by Smith, Geer was coming in at weight in which the Cowboys were thin.
Last year’s starter at 184 pounds had transferred out of the program with a pair of freshmen – Bear Hughes and Anthony Montalvo – being the only true wrestlers at the weight, while redshirt junior Andrew Marsden had been bouncing between 84 and 197. And so with Geer’s experience in his two years at Edinboro – including going 16-4 in open tournaments as a redshirt last year – he was a heavy favorite to take over as the OSU starter.
Geer also had a good feeling about the move when Smith made a trip to Pennsylvania for a visit in Edinboro and to talk with his parents.
“That’s every wrestlers dream, really – for John Smith to want you to come wrestle for him at Oklahoma State,” Geer said. “… I feel that takes a lot flying up from Oklahoma to just visit for maybe an hour and then flew back to Oklahoma. I thought that said a lot about coach that he came and did that just so my parents could meet him.”
The start for both wrestlers has been impactful, as both have become ranked wrestlers midway through their first year with OSU. Shomers has a 6-2 record at 157 and is ranked No. 18, while Geer holds a 17-2 record and is ranked No. 10 at 197 pounds after competing at the weight during the Reno Tournament of Champions and the Southern Scuffle – after making his an appearance at the weight in the Northern Colorado dual in which he won by 13-2 major decision.
“We recognized that both of them could be an asset to us here,” Smith said. “Didn’t know how it was going to play out – and still don’t know completely, still a good portion of the season left. As we see it, both of them started off well.”
Adjusting to a new life
The transition for Geer and Shomers has been an adjustment on many fronts.
The biggest would be with the location.
With both hailing from the East Coast, it’s not just the fact they are now are now living over 1,000 miles from home – after having been no more than 140 miles from home when going to school at Edinboro. The size of Stillwater and the OSU campus has been an adjustment.
Edinboro University has roughly 5,000 undergraduates in a town that has a population just over 6,000 strong. In their current setting, they are among an undergraduate enrollment over 20,000 – still 9,000 people more than the school and town combined in Edinboro – in a city with a population nearing 50,000.
“I didn’t know anybody halfway across the country,” Shomers said. “… You don’t think of Oklahoma State and Stillwater of being a packed town when coming here, but I’m leaving class every day sitting in traffic for 15 minutes at the light. At Edinboro, there was maybe a thousand people who lived on campus and the others live in Eerie, which was 10 minutes away. There was no one in town.
“It’s just completely different. I’m also liking the weather a lot more here, he’s not negative-20 with four feet of snow.”
Geer made the move from his native Pennsylvania with little hesitation, and no accommodations arranged.
Wanting to get to his new program as soon as possible, and begin a new training regiment, Geer moved to Stillwater without a place to live.
“Keenan Seymour (team manager), I stayed at his house for a while, too – he’s a super nice guy,” Geer said. “That made it nice coming down here since I didn’t have a place to stay for like a week or two before Coach found a place I’m staying at now. But before then, I was staying at Keenan’s house on the couch.”
But living in a larger location was just the beginning. They also also have had to adjust to a different setting when it comes to wrestling.
According to Shomers, much of the training for wrestling at Edinboro had to do with strength and conditioning under Flynn, where he had spent 21 years as the head coach.
“We were doing crazy workouts in Edinboro,” Shomers said. “We were running up hills with weights, and we had a sledge hammer that we were pounding up against a drum.”
Under the two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and five-time NCAA national championship coach at OSU, practices focus more on technique with a coaching staff that has won a combined five NCAA individual championships from their collegiate wrestling days – Smith (2), associate head coach Zack Esposito (1) and assistant coach Chris Perry (2).
“All the coaches are crazy about the technical aspect,” Geer said. “They want to perfect everything before you go out and drill it. So Coach will stop you and make sure you’re doing it right. It almost feels like you don’t get as tired in practice here, but your technique is definitely way better here.”
Fortunately through this all, Shomers and Geer have had each other to lean on.
Typically showing up to practice together, now living together and cutting weight together – despite wrestling at now 40 pounds difference – the Edinoboro transfers can always be found together around Gallager-Iba Arena.
“Having him here has made it a lot more fun, just because I’d been with him all that time when we were at Edinboro,” Geer said. “It’s nice having him here because we come in and work out and still kind of have the same approach as when we’d cut weight at Edinboro, we’ll do it at the same time. It’s fun.”
Both wrestlers have been working through some adversity of late, though.
Shomers sustained an injury in his third match of the Reno Tournament of Champions, and did not compete in the Southern Scuffle. According to Smith, he is scheduled to travel with the team this weekend for its duals at Princeton and Rutgers.
Geer has been shifted within the lineup of late, as well, (from 184 to 197 pounds) due to injury to senior Preston Weigel, who has battled with injury the past year and a half.
This hasn’t come as a surprise to Geer, though. The expectation was for Geer to bump up to 197 pounds next season once Weigel graduated. With the injury, that has simply expedited the process.
“So far, I love it – I don’t have to cut the weight that I was used to,” Geer said. “That makes it a lot nicer. I just feel better.
“I feel better on the mat, don’t feel like I’m getting too tired. The guys are a little bigger now, but they’re not as fast.”
Follow News Press sports editor Jason Elmquist on Twitter @jelmquistSW for updates on Oklahoma State wrestling.