No. 1 Oklahoma St. holds off No. 2 U

by Sarah Mitchell

Accomplishing the expected was not enough to give the No. 2 Gophers wrestling team an edge over top-ranked Oklahoma State on Sunday.
Heading into the matchup, Minnesota assistant coach Mark Schwab said upsets were necessary for the team to steal the No. 1 ranking. But aside from freshman Chad Erikson’s 15-9 decision over a higher-ranked Jamill Kelly at 141 pounds, the Gophers stuck to the norm on the Williams Arena mats.
“We just took on what I would say to be the best team in the nation,” said the Cowboys’ Teague Moore of his team’s 21-17 win. “It was a squeaker towards the end, but we got the job done.”
The Gophers had the opportunity to steal the No. 1 ranking. No. 9 Delaney Berger (174) had a win over top-ranked Mark Smith in his grasp before falling 2-1 — costing the Gophers three points and giving Oklahoma State a 11-10 match lead. But even more crucial than Berger’s match was the fight at heavyweight.
Under revised NCAA rules, the biggest wrestlers met in the ninth match instead of the finale, with Gophers junior Brent Boeshans going against No. 16 Dave Anderton.
Heavyweights usually find themselves wrestling in the deciding match, but even in the new-look position the weight class proved to influence the outcome.
Boeshans wrestled well with the higher-rated Anderton, suggesting an upset could be in store. But early in the third period, the Gophers’ hopes were pancaked when Boeshans was pinned.
“He got flipped over and caught on his back,” Gophers All-American Chad Kraft said. “He’s a big move guy.”
The six-point gainer for the Cowboys put the match at 17-17 with only freshman Leroy Vega to wrestle at 125. The Cowboys retained their ranking as Vega was decisioned 16-6 by defending national champion Moore.
Although his team defeated the threatening Gophers at home, Cowboys coach John Smith said he was unimpressed — especially with his team’s competitiveness in the third period of each match.
“We’re counting on some big wins and it just didn’t happen,” Smith said. “As ugly as we looked we found a way to win.”
Gophers coach J Robinson was on the other end of the emotional spectrum. For Robinson, Erikson’s defeat of No. 8 Kelly and Vega’s ability to battle the veteran Moore made Minnesota’s second dual meet of the season a success.
“The team looked tough; they looked hardnosed,” Robinson said. “We’ve just got to make up some ground in a couple of areas.”
Oklahoma State, a team that downed an unranked Wisconsin team 34-4 on Friday, won’t wrestle men in maroon and gold singlets again until mid-March, assuming both the Cowboys and the Gophers qualify for the national championships.
The mid-March rematch will have a little twist to it. By then junior college transfer Brock Lesnar, who defeated Boeshans at the Bison Open, could be the Gopher that gives Minnesota the edge it needs to claim the title.
With or without Lesnar, Kraft predicts Sunday’s match to be the only tally in the Gophers’ loss column.
“We don’t like losing. We don’t expect to lose,” Kraft said. “But the big one is three months from now. The big one is in March.”