Alex Dieringer: When You’re On A Holiday…

We've always heard in sports that it's much harder to repeat than it is to win that first championship. Looking at Alex Dieringer and his recent summer after an individual championship at the 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Tournament in Oklahoma City would cause concern for someone that truly believes that theory -- and someone who doesn’t know him.

Now, he's starting his junior year as a 165-pound upper classmen who will have all eyes on him this season. Dieringer is a leader on his team, a role he prepared for it by taking the summer off.

“Yes, I took the summer off,” said the highly energetic and enthusiastic Dieringer. “It was the first summer that I’ve taken off from competitive wrestling since I was in the fourth grade.

"It wasn’t like I was doing nothing. I did a lot of camps and those camps had a lot of work on technique. I learned a lot about technique, my technique, and how I can improve it.”

When Oklahoma State fans last saw Dieringer, he was a drawn up and tight 157 pounds and on the mat in Oklahoma City on the big stage battling Minnesota’s Dylan Ness, who was fighting not only for himself but also for the Gophers shot at upending team champion Penn State. After a near fall put Dieringer up 5-0, he rushed Ness for his next takedown and scored two more takedowns in a clinching third period.

"Once I got that near fall and I was up 5-0 at that point, I knew I had it locked because I know how to wrestle smart when it comes to a guy like that because I've wrestled him many times before," Dieringer said in his post-match press conference. "His shots are low ankle and easier to stop, sometimes doubles, but he just plain crashes right into them and I just knew it was coming."

Before he left that media conference room, Dieringer was thanking his parents for nearly every summer since the fourth grade.

"I wrestled really good, I have to say," he said. "Handling the pressure, it is not very hard for me and when that whistle blows it is on for me. I thank my parents because if it wasn't for them taking me all over the country to wrestling tournaments, I wouldn't be where I am today. They were taking me to a national tournament every two weeks probably and if I was at home then I was going to two tournaments each weekend. They were spending so much money on me and I'm thankful for that."

Now Dieringer comes in this season rested and comfortable. Last season, those around the program watched him come back from a month off before school and take his time in September and October before rushing the work to get his weight down to 157 pounds. Dieringer’s body was changing like so many wrestlers that get into college with the expert coaching of a strength coach, in this case Cowboys wrestling strength coach Gary Calcagno.

Head coach John Smith and his staff realized when Dieringer was cutting weight for last season that it was his last year at 157 pounds.

“It took him a long time and it was very hard on him,” Smith said. “We knew he wasn’t going to go through it again. Although once he got there, he was very effective.”

There is proof in that because Dieringer got off to a strong start with two falls in the first three duals. However, there were times on the mat that you could tell the energy level was not what it had been in his freshman season. This season, Dieringer won’t have nearly the job of cutting weight as he settles into the line-up at 165 pounds -- still a very difficult weight to win at in Division I college wrestling.

“When you get to 149, 157, and 165 pounds, that it is such a deep, deep field that it doesn’t matter what you did last year,” Smith said. “You have to be careful and work hard or you can find yourself tumbling through the season.”

Dieringer doesn’t see that.

“I think it should be great,” he said. “I’m a strength wrestler, which means when I’m full strength and I use my technique then I should be at the top of my game and very hard to beat. I remember in high school every year when I went to Fargo [National Freestyle Championships in the summer], I would wrestle up a weight and I won it every year. I was stronger and not dropping weight. I see this as a fun year and I’m excited. Not cutting weight means for me just getting better.”

Dieringer says he also has a clear mental picture of what he has done in his career to succeed and that he can replicate that in the wrestling room to send him on his way to St. Louis, this year’s home of the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship, for another national title. If he succeeds, it would put him in an elite class of 37 former Cowboy wrestlers who have won two or more individual national titles.

“It shows all the hard work I did paid off,” Dieringer said. “I’m in really good shape right now and if I put that same work in, maybe more the way I am feeling, then I should win. I also think I’m mentally tougher.”

His mental toughness will be needed this season. Dieringer and senior Josh Kindig, who finished second in the NCAA last season at 149 pounds, will be the leaders of a group that has 33 wrestlers on the roster that are either freshmen, red-shirt freshmen, or sophomores.

“You know I’m excited about that,” Dieringer said. “In high school I was always the leader on my teams. Me and Josh, we know how to get the young guys going. I know we only have one senior starter. We’ve been hanging out with the true freshmen and we are close as a team. We have great, great coaches, great potential, and we are really stacked with good wrestlers.”

Not that Alex Dieringer needed any more energy, but maybe that is what a summer away from competitive wrestling and a move up in weight class will do for a wrestler.

NOTE: THIS STORY APPEARS IN THE WINTER 2014 ISSUE OF GOPOKES MAGAZINE

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