NCAA Wrestling: OSU First After Shaky Start

Less than 30 minutes into the 2006 NCAA Wrestling Championships the two-thirds filled Ford Center in downtown Oklahoma City erupted with cheers for a Cowboy. The problem was it was not the Cowboy fans in orange cheering. Bryce Leonhardt of the Wyoming Cowboys upset sixth-seed Coleman Scott of the Oklahoma State Cowboys. The upset in the first round of the 125-pound bracket signaled a shaky start for Oklahoma State as the Cowboys gun for a fourth consecutive national championship.

After the first session Oklahoma State advanced six wrestlers to the second round, and saw three, including Coleman, fall into the consolations. A bounty of bonus points for the Cowboys - two falls, two technical falls and a major decision - still bolstered OSU into first place, one point ahead of second-place Hofstra.

The loss by the Cowboy sophomore was a huge disappointment for both Scott and OSU head coach John Smith, who both had high hopes for Scott in the tournament after he earned All-American honors last season as a freshman.

Scott fell behind in the first period when Leonhardt scored a take down, but recovered to tie the match with an escape in the first and beginning of the second period. Leonhardt started the third period in the down position and escaped for a 3-2 advantage. Despite a stalling warning and Scott's repeated attempts to score Leonhardt held on for the upset. Scott had Leonhardt down on the mat but could not gain control for the potential winning take down.

Scott had defeated Leonhardt by a 5-3 decision in the Nebraska-Omaha Open in November to start the season, making the result on the first morning of the NCAA Championships even more frustrating.

"I'm not going to be too tough on him," said Cowboy head coach John Smith. "We need him to get through the consolations. The other guy (Leonhardt) slowed it down and made it a tight match. We had talked about not letting anybody do that to us."

Scott takes a quick drop to the consolations where he opens with Oregon State's Eric Stevenson.

The best news of the first round for the Cowboys came at 149 pounds where defending champion Zack Esposito showed he is intent on winning another title. It was a great start for the Cowboy senior - and a brief one - as he took down Michigan State's Darren McKnight in the opening seconds and worked McKnight quickly to his back and ended the match by a fall in 31 seconds. Esposito, the third seed in the bracket, was dominating and now moves on to face unseeded Morgan Atkinson, who also won his first match in a third-period fall.

Johny Hendricks, another defending national champion, was wrestling in front of the truly hometown fans as he grew up just up the road in Edmond. The former Memorial Bulldog wrestled just like a bulldog in his opening match, scoring take down after take down in route to a 23-8 technical fall at 6:15 in the match. Hendricks, one of the hardest workers in the OSU program, led Brian Busby of Cal-State Bakersfield 10-3 after the first period, 16-6 after the second period, before closing it out an escape and three take downs in the third period. Hendricks moves on to face Garrett Atkinson of North Carolina. The 165-pound bracket kind of cleared out for Hendricks as five of the 12 seeded wrestlers at 165 pounds lost in the first round. Three were in Hendricks' half of the bracket.

"We had a lot of anxiety after Scott's loss, and Espo and Johny backed it up," Smith said of the momentum from their two wins.

The bonus points just kept on coming as redshirt freshman 174-pounder Brandon Mason, wrestling as an 11th seed in his first NCAA Championships, took down Oregon State's Jeremy Larson early in the first period and proceeded to turn him over four times picking up three near fall points on each turn. Mason, who is an outstanding wrestler on top, led 14-0 after the first period. He started on the bottom in the second period and quickly got a reversal to close out a 17-0 technical fall. Mason moves on to face Eric Ring of Edinboro, who needed sudden victory to survive sixth seed Richard Boudro of Michigan State.

At 197 pounds, Jake Rosholt had a scare but he started out defense of his national championship well. Rosholt, the fourth seed, was going along comfortably with a 14-4 lead on Michigan's Willie Bryer when he made a mistake giving Breyer a reversal and exposing his back for two near fall points. The match closed to 14-8 and Rosholt closed it out for a 20-9 major decision. The Cowboy senior now faces Adam Wright of Old Dominion in the second round. Wright scored a 6-2 decision over Jeff Foust of Missouri.

OSU heavyweight Steve Mocco was one of the final wrestlers on the mats in the session and he used his trademark foot sweep to gain several take downs before picking up the final bonus points for the Cowboys when he put Tennessee-Chattanooga's Israel Silva on his back and scored the fall at 6:15 in the third period.

The Cowboy wrestler that had to work the hardest in the opening session was 133-pounder Nathan Morgan. The second-seeded Morgan had to wrestle a preliminary (pig tail) in which he defeated Michael Mormile of Cornell in a hard fought 6-3 decision. Less than an hour later Morgan was back on the mat and used a reversal and near fall points to notch a 9-3 decision over Andrae Henrnadez of Indiana. Morgan moves on to the second round to unseeded Gabriel Flores of Illinois.

Other Cowboys dropping into the consolations were Kevin Ward at 157 pounds and Rusty Blackmon at 184 pounds. Ward was manhandled by fifth-seed Ben Cherrington of Boise State. Cherrington scored an early take down and did all the scoring as he ran up a dominating 4:29 of riding time in winning a 7-0 decision. Ward now faces 12th-seeded Steve Luke of Michigan.

Blackmon was taken down early in his match with 10th-seed C.B. Dollaway of Arizona State and never recovered as Dollaway won a 14-3 major decision. Blackmon moves on to face Alex Clemsen of Edinboro in the consolations.

"My boys from Tennessee didn't get off to a very good start," Smith added of Ward and Blackmon. "We have to make sure they get back here tomorrow (Saturday) in the consolations. It won't be easy to do. It will be tough."

On the plus side, the bonus points of the two falls, two technical falls, and Rosholt's major decision were the reason Oklahoma State was in first. It was the most bonus points that Smith could remember in a first round in some time.

"Sure, eight points with the two falls, two tech falls and a major decision," said Smith. "That's eight bonus points coming from six guys."

Oklahoma State Results
125 pounds: Bryce Leonhardt, Wyoming dec. (6) Coleman Scott 3-2 (Coleman goes to consolations)

133 pounds: (2) Nate Morgan dec. Michael Mormile, Cornell 6-3 (Morgan advances to first round)
(2) Nate Morgan dec. Andrae Hernadez, Indiana 9-3 (Morgan advances to second round)

149 pounds: (3) Zack Esposito fall (:31) over Darren McKnight, Michigan State (Esposito advances to second round)

157 pounds: (5) Ben Cherrington, Boise State dec. Kevin Ward 7-0 (Ward goes to consolations)

165 pounds: (2) Johny Hendricks tech fall 25-8 (6:15) over Brian Busby, Cal-State Bakersfield (Hendricks advances to second round)

174 pounds: (11) Brandon Mason tech fall 17-0 (3:12) over Jeremy Larson, Oregon State (Mason advances to second round)

184 pounds: (10) C.B. Dollaway, Arizona State maj.dec. Rusty Blackmon 14-3 (Blackmon goes to consolations)

197 pounds: (4) Jake Rosholt maj.dec. Willie Breyer, Michigan 21-9 (Rosholt advances to second round)

285 pounds: (2) Steve Mocco fall (6:15) over Israel Silva, Tennessee-Chattanooga (Mocco advances to second round)

2006 NCAA Wrestling Championships Team Scores
1. Oklahoma State ... 17
2. Hofstra ................ 16
3. Oklahoma ............ 13.5
4. Arizona State ....... 13
Iowa .................... 13
Minnesota ........... 13
Wisconsin ............ 13
8. Penn State ........... 12

GoPokes Top Stories