Mocco proves unsolvable

Gophers heavyweight Cole Konrad lost to Steve Mocco for the third time this year.

Matt Anderson

ST. LOUIS – It started with a flurry of batting to each other’s heads and ended with a foot sweep in overtime.

The first and the last chapters in Saturday’s heavyweight NCAA title match between Minnesota sophomore Cole Konrad and Oklahoma State junior Steve Mocco went the same as their Dec. 5 bout, and so did the result: a 3-1 overtime win for Mocco.

In his third match this year against Mocco, Konrad lost the title when he was taken down by Mocco’s leg 20 seconds into the sudden-victory period.

It was the same way Mocco took down Konrad for a 3-1 overtime win Dec. 5, but a slight variation made Konrad unable to fend off Mocco’s trademark offensive maneuver.

“He typically foot sweeps with his left foot,” Gophers assistant coach Marty Morgan said. “But tonight, he came back with his right foot. That kind of caught Cole off guard.”

Although the final score was identical to the Dec. 5 bout, Saturday’s match differed from the dual-meet matchup in the way Konrad forced the action in the final.

On Saturday, Konrad was able to tie up Mocco whenever he attempted to get in position for his legendary move and had Mocco on a single-leg shot three times.

“It was my goal to get in there on his right leg so I could get in there and snatch it,” Konrad said. “But I couldn’t finish.”

Only once during the match did Mocco shoot on Konrad, getting in on a single leg before losing it early in the first period.

The only other offense Mocco attempted was his overtime foot sweep. But it was all he would need to win his second-consecutive title after taking an Olympic redshirt last year.

“It’s the only thing that Mocco’s got,” Gophers coach J Robinson said of Mocco’s maneuver. “It’s the only thing he can do. He can’t shoot Ö In a match like that, you can’t let up. There’s that one second of one little hesitation, he scores.”

With both wrestlers returning next year, Mocco will again likely stand between Konrad and a national title. To close

the gap and take the championship, Morgan said, Konrad will need to make his body leaner during the summer and work on his conditioning, both things he said Konrad is capable of doing.

If the heavyweights are to meet again next year, Konrad said that to win, he must take what he’s learned in their first three meetings and apply it to the mat.

“If I don’t learn from this experience,” he said, “there’s really no hope.”

Mocco said having wrestled Konrad twice previously this season worked to his advantage in Saturday’s final.

“I feel it helps me whenever I get a chance to wrestle my opponents,” he said. “They can feel my face, you know, feel my hands, feel my pecs. I’m not worried about being scouted, because I feel I have enough offense that if they’re looking out for one thing, I can hit them with something else.”

Mocco proved in the title bout that even as slight a change as the direction of his foot sweep is enough of a difference for him to stay on top.