They say you save the best for last and the next best goes first. For Perry and the many OSU fans in attendance at Chesapeake Arena on Saturday night this was as good as it gets with a dominating 4-0 decision in the 174-pound title match.
Perry said he changed his approach to wrestling Howe this time. It was evident from the opening whistle when Perry charged at Howe before the referee was even ready for the action to begin. Perry drew a quick warning and the match was re-started.
Right off the whistle, Perry asked in confirmation to the early start question. Yes, right off the whistle.
"I told everybody I was going to set the tone in this match. I told you I'd make adjustments from the last time I wrestled him and I did," said Perry. "I hand fought him a little more last time and this time I was not going out shoot on him and I wanted him to know I was coming for him. That's like coach said before I ran out of that tunnel. 'Go out and set the tone from the get go.'"
After a very defensive first period that saw no scoring, a couple of shots taken by each wrestler and a lot of defense, Perry scored a quick escape to start the second period. Howe had the option on the flip of the chip and he deferred, and Perry chose the down position allowing his escape to open the scoring.
The Cowboy senior, who finishes with a 33-1 record (with his only loss coming to Howe in the Bedlam dual in Norman back on Nov. 1), shot in and got a single leg and used it to twist Howe around and then jump up his back and secure the takedown.
Perry used his trademark ride with the leg splitting those of Howe's but it never seemed as secure and he had to really focus and battled to ride out the period and gain the 1:03 in riding time that in essence gave him the 4-0 cushion.
"I went back and reviewed some tape again and I watched how Kyle Dake took him down at the trials," Perry explained. "He swam him and he digs hard on the under hooks. You're not going to swim him in huge first period because he is pretty intense, but I felt his hands get soft for one second and I felt a swim and I let it go."
Perry admitted he violated his own advice in not looking ahead to the rubber match with Howe and he nearly paid for it in his semifinal win over Iowa's Michael Evans, a 3-2 overtime bout won in tiebreaker 1.
"I didn't got to bed until 4 (a.m.) and just laid there," Perry said. "I wrestled like crap yesterday in the semis. I said don't look ahead and I did. It almost cost me.
'I said this was the guy that I wanted and this is what kind of created who I am. I've never beat a guy of Andrew Howe quality in the NCAA finals or in an NCAA Tournament. That is the best guy I have ever wrestled in an NCAA Tournament. He is one of the greatest competitors that I have ever wrestled against and that includes (wrestlers) overseas.
"I have so much respect for Andrew Howe and maybe we can wrestle again or train together for the Olympics."
While Perry certainly did this for himself, he talks about how hard his sport is and especially when you work as hard as it takes to be the best. But he also did this for family, team and school as the last thing he did in the jubilant aftermath of his win on the mat/stage was the OSU chant.
"I was with my coaches, man, those are the people that... I wasn't able to go up in the stands (to see family). I've got drug testing and I'd have liked to but I'll go up there after this," Perry added. "My coaches, my brother, my teammates, those are the people that understand the sacrifice. My family, obviously, but my coaches, I love my coaches. They are everything for me. Those people are my rock."
He has been their rock too this season. There is no doubt that Chris Perry now joins a select group of Oklahoma State wrestlers as a multiple national champion. He was the rock and leader of this team.