"I've always said you have to look at it at the end of the day and not in the middle," Smith had said in the hallway prior to the start of the evening session.
Like he had earlier, senior Blake Rosholt wrestled first. The injury plagued returning All-American lost a non-competitive match in the morning and suffered a similar fate in the pigtails of the consolations as he was knocked out of the tournament. In the first session that sluggish start was turned around in a hurry but not Thursday night.
Eddie Kilmara, at 125 pounds, faced a critical match with team consequences as he was hoping to knock off Nico Megaludis of team leading and favorite Penn State. Klimara battled gamely but Megaludis controlled the match and finished with a 6-0 decision.
Then the earth moved and shook for the Cowboys as fourth seeded and steady 133-pounder Jon Morrison fell behind Oklahoma's Cody Brewer, a rival he had beaten three times this season, most recently 8-1 in the Big 12 Championship.
Morrison got behind in the first period but was making up ground and had narrowed Brewer's lead to 6-5 when he was reversed and Brewer got Morrison on his back and pinned him. The fall at 2:45, a first period fall, signaled to all Cowboy faithful this might be a really bad night.
In the other corner of the arena it did not improve when freshman 141-pounder Anthony Collica out of Solon, Ohio, faced the best from the Buckeye state in Ohio State's Logan Stieber, the top seed. Stieber gave the freshman an education with a 17-1 technical fall that took just short of two full periods.
Four matches, four losses, one wrestler completely out of the tournament. But as they say with the Oklahoma weather, and as we've learned over the years it can also apply to wrestling, "just wait five minutes."
It took about that long after Collica's loss that 149-pounder Josh Kindig took the mat. He wasted no time taking down his higher seeded opponent in six seed Jake Sueflohn of Nebraska.
As Kindig was building a lead on Sueflohn on mat two, over on mat four the Cowboys 157-pounder and third seed Alex Dieringer fired off a real crack of thunder in the home of the NBA team by that same name.
In 1:49, Dieringer had Missouri's Joey LaVallee on his back and stuck to the canvas for a fall that triggered an orange roar. Not knowing what had happened and staying focused, Kindig finished his job and won a tough decision over Sueflohn 7-5.
"I just went out like every other match to put points on the board," Kindig said. "It was close and he's a goer and I'm a goer. I don't consider it an upset because coach has told me I'm as good as he is. I might not have supposed to been the winner on paper, I know I'm the one that is supposed to be on top of the podium.
"We had some downfalls in this round," Kindig continued. "You know we're a team, I came through and you said Alex got a pin and the guys that lost have to come back and wrestle with the same intensity as if they were in the quarters."
In Friday's quarterfinals, Kindig will take on another upsetter as Oregon State's 14th seed Scott Sakaguchi pinned third seed Chris Villalonga of Cornell. Alex Dieringer, who chose not to do post-match interviews, will face Boston University wrestler Nestor Taffur, who is seeded sixth.
The Cowboys' roll continued with a duo that is used to rolling, both their opponents and to victories. Second seed Tyler Caldwell at 165 pounds had to battle but after a pair of double leg shots that led to takedowns in the first period he went on to a 9-2 decision, although he was a little upset he missed a major decision. Better yet his win came over Daniel Zilverberg of contender Minnesota.
"It put a lot of team incentive on it," Caldwell admitted. "But I don't really look at who I'm wrestling and where they are from. It is all about me right now and I am trying to win each round for myself and for the team."
At virtually the same time top seed Chris Perry at 174 pounds downed Tony Dallago of Illinois in an 11-3 major decision. It was classic Perry.
"Just battle back and you can only take care of yourself," Perry, a true team leader, said. "It's hard to see Morrison go down but it happened and we need him to battle back for third. He's been in the game a long time and he knows that we need him and he'll get it done."
There was a wait as the Cowboys were not in the championship brackets any longer at 184 or 197 pounds. But at 285 pounds, heavyweight 11th seed Austin Marsden made the earth move one more time on Thursday night with a 3-2 upset win over Northwestern's six seed Michael McMullan.
It was a really great way to close out the round as the Cowboys will send five wrestlers into the quarterfinals.
Unfortunately, another wrestler was lost as Nolan Boyd ran into a tough competitor in North Dakota State's Kurtis Julson and he eliminated Boyd with an 8-4 decision.
In the team scoring, Penn State leads with 26.5 points. OSU and Minnesota are tied at second with 21.5 points, with Iowa and Oklahoma tied for fourth at 20.5 points.
The wrestling cranks up with the quarters and a long day of consolations at 10 a.m. Friday.