Cowboys Wrestling Now The Hunters

OKLAHOMA CITY - The ESPN-U television folks ended up with exactly the scenario they were hoping for Sunday afternoon in the first Double Sport Wrestling Invitational at the Ford Center in downtown Oklahoma City. It all came down to top-ranked heavyweights Cole Konrad of Minnesota and Steve Mocco of OSU. Regardless of the outcome of that match Oklahoma State head coach John Smith said he did not get what he wanted, and it wasn't just the 19-16 loss to Minnesota that had Smith frustrated.

After the Cowboys lost to Minnesota back in the finals of the National Duals on Jan. 15 at Cedar Falls, Iowa, Smith was looking for an aggressive team seeking revenge, a team that would really wrestle hard in an attempt to get back the nation's No. 1 ranking. Smith felt he didn't see it, and what many wrestling observers felt may have been a random off afternoon in Iowa became a trend with Minnesota's second straight win over the Cowboys.

"It's not what I wanted, and I don't think it's about the win, it's about how you wrestle in certain situations," Smith said in the tunnel of the Ford Center afterwards. "I've never really judged our performance on a win or loss. I judge it on certain things I want to see in the match and I didn't see those things today.
"Even though we were right in the match with a chance to win it, I didn't see certain things you need to see in the heat of battle. I don't think it is something I need to dwell on, especially the intensity and things like that," Smith said. "I think it is something that we need to focus on. I thought Jake (Rosholt) and Johny (Hendricks) did their jobs. Jake picked up a major decision and Johny picked up a tough win. We needed those wins and the one at 174 because we knew we were short handed at 141. There are certain matches where we did have it. We need to focus on putting it all out there."

It all came down to the heavyweights as Oklahoma State had won five matches leading up to the deciding match, while Minnesota had won at four weights. The equalizer for the Golden Gophers was the bonus points they picked up at 141 and 149 pounds leaving the match tied at 16-16 when Mocco and Konrad took the raised mat in the Ford Center in front of the estimated 6,500 primarily orange clad Cowboy fans. Mocco was looking to avenge a fall to Konrad that decided the National Duals.

The first period was scoreless as the two giants moved around the mat looking for an opportunity. In the second period the Gopher's Konrad chose the down position and after 46 seconds worked an escape for a 1-0 lead. Mocco escaped in just a few seconds after the start of the third period and the match was knotted at 1-1. Each wrestler took shots only to either be stymied or have the other wrestler recover before gravity could provide the kind of assist possible with the heavyweights. Early in the third period Mocco tried his favorite move - the foot sweep – only to have Konrad easily avoid it. In the final seconds of the third period Konrad got in on Mocco and threw him to the mat but official Jim Ramirez waived off the take down as coming after the end of the match.

The match and the dual came down to a one-minute sudden victory overtime period with the first wrestler to score prevailing. Mocco was the aggressor as he tried to get in on Konrad's leg only to have the taller Minnesota wrestler avoid it and get behind Mocco for a take down and the winning decision.

"I thought that was a little bit too early in the overtime (to take a shot), and it wasn't a real good set up," Smith said of the way the match ended. "You are wrestling a wrestler that is getting his legs back on you and you have to pick that shot, and set up and score. I thought that was a forced shot."

The question now is does Mocco need to reinvent himself in order to beat Konrad, the wrestler he defeated to win the NCAA title a year ago and will no doubt have to defeat again to repeat?

"No, I don't think so," said Smith. "Five weeks is an eternity. If he can just keep his eye on the big prize and stay focused then sometimes you get the best effort at the right time."

Cowboy teammate and fellow tough guy 197-pounder Jake Rosholt, who threw his opponent Mitch Kuhlman around like a rag doll in a 14-2 major decision, refused to admit Konrad's win gives him the edge over Macco.

"No, I just don't think he does," said Rosholt. "A couple of losses don't mean anything. All it can do is make you better."

The Cowboys problems don't begin or end at heavyweight. After 125-pounder Coleman Scott and 133-pounder Nathan Morgan gave the Cowboys their usual early cushion by winning decisions for a 6-0 dual lead, the next two weights fell apart on the Cowboys. At 141, Daniel Frishkorn is still out with a knee injury. You can tell the frustration of not having his starter there is wearing on John Smith. Reserve 133-pounder Justin Porter wrestled instead against unranked Manuel Rivera of Minnesota. It was competitive almost the entire distance until Rivera scored the fall off a single leg take down at 6:23.

Expecting returning NCAA champion Zach Esposito to right the scoreboard was a mistake. It became worse as Esposito, while in control of the match, made a mistake and top-ranked Dustin Schlatter turned it into six near fall points, three on one move and then three on a second try at the fall. From that point on Schlatter was careful and finished with an 11-2 major decision, his second win in a row over Esposito.

"He got panicked and the other guy picked up a three-point near fall off our escape and (Zach) scrambled and made a little mistake, turned the wrong way he came out and got to his feet," Smith said of the second period problems for Esposito. "He just panicked and was only down by one."

The Gophers' second Schlatter (C.P.) scored a 7-3 decision over Kevin Ward of OSU at 157 pounds and Minnesota led 13-6.

Johny Hendricks did stop the bleeding with a 3-1 decision over Matt Nagel at 165 pounds, but it came with a price as Hendricks suffered an elbow injury and left the arena with the arm in a sling and the elbow iced up.

Brandon Mason also helped work the Cowboys toward evening up the scoreboard as the 11th-ranked Cowboy decisioned 10th-ranked Gabriel Dretsch of Minnesota, 3-1.

Following a loss by Rusty Blackmon at 184 that set the stage for Rosholt to maul his opponent and the dual to come down to Konrad and Mocco. It is Konrad that now gets top billing, and it is Minnesota that gets top billing with two in a row over OSU. It leaves Smith and Cowboy wrestlers and fans wondering if the changing of the season and format from duals to tournament season will be enough to get the Cowboys back on top.

"We're just going to get in the wrestling room and work for nationals," said 174-pounder Brandon Mason. "That's all that matters anyway right now."

Double Sport Wrestling Invitational
Ford Center, Oklahoma City, Okla.
#1 Minnesota vs. #2 Oklahoma State
125: #6 Scott (OSU) dec. Lang 12-5. OSU 3-0
133: #3 Morgan (OSU) dec. #5 Reiter 2-1. OSU 6-0
141: Rivera (UM) fall over Porter 6:23. 6-6 tie
149: #1 Schlatter (UM) maj.dec. #3 Esposito 11-2. UM 10-6
157: #6 Schlatter (UM) dec. #16 Ward 7-3. UM 13-6
165: #1 Hendricks (OSU) dec. #7 Nagel 3-1. UM 13-9
174: #11 Mason (OSU) dec. #10 Dretsch 3-1. UM 13-12
184: #7 Kish (UM) dec. Blackmon 5-1. UM 16-12
197: #3 Rosholt (OSU) maj. dec. Kuhlman 14-2. 16-16 tie
Hwt: #1 Konrad (UM) dec. OT #2 Mocco 3-1. UM 19-16

GoPokes Top Stories