Konrad provides winning margin

David McCoy

The best ones usually do come down to the wire.

It did the first time around, when Minnesota heavyweight wrestler Cole Konrad’s pin of Oklahoma State’s Steve Mocco broke a 15-14 score and gave Minnesota the 21-14 in the National Duals Championship on Jan. 15.

And though barely possible, Sunday’s rematch in Oklahoma City was even tighter.

With the nation’s best two teams deadlocked 16-16, it took overtime for top-ranked Konrad to take down No. 2 Mocco for the 3-1 win ” a win which gave the Gophers a 19-16 victory.

“We pretty much know going into it that most likely it was going to come down to that match,” Konrad said. “But either way, we have a big enough little rivalry there that whether it’s down to that or not, we’ve still got a lot on the line.”

But while Konrad’s win sealed the Gophers’ victory, it wasn’t still wasn’t the biggest of the afternoon.

It was just the third match of the dual, but in terms of points, none was bigger than Minnesota’s Manuel Rivera’s pin of Justin Porter with 13 seconds left in the 141-pound match.

Konrad’s win provided the crucial final three points to give Minnesota the victory, but without Rivera’s pin, Konrad’s win would have only served to tie the Cowboys.

Both teams won five matches, and both won one by major decision. But while Oklahoma State won four by decision and Minnesota won three, Rivera’s pin was the difference maker, providing the crucial bonus points to knock off the Cowboys.

“Bonus points, that’s what it comes down to,” assistant coach Joe Russell said. “Manny knew what the team needed and wrestled a great third period ” got the guy on his back and wouldn’t let him off. Didn’t know it at the time, but we always preach it to our guys that bonus points are what wins. And when it ended up five matches a piece, that was the difference maker.”

With the win, top-ranked Minnesota (19-0) tied the 2000-2001 national champion Gophers for the school’s best undefeated record.

No. 2 Oklahoma State (13-2) won the first two matches by decision. No. 4 Coleman Scott beat Travis Lang 12-5 at 125 pounds, followed by a tense 2-1 win by No. 2 Nathan Morgan over No. 3 Mack Reiter at 133 that was decided by riding time.

But then came Rivera, who once again sparked Minnesota as he has done all season.

Rivera beat Daniel Frishkorn 9-4 to get Minnesota rolling at National Duals, and this time with a 9-4 lead over Porter, he turned the backup wrestler on his back and gave Minnesota a big kick-start.

Frishkorn, last year’s fourth place finisher at NCAAs, missed the match due to injury, which likely hurt Oklahoma State immensely.

Although Rivera had previously beaten Frishkorn twice this season, Rivera didn’t earn bonus points in either one.

“It makes a big difference when you don’t have all your big guns in there,” Russell said. “Anything can happen, but picking up those bonus points, that’s a huge lift for your team and definitely got our guys fired up.”

Rivera’s big win was parlayed into more big wins for the Gophers, as top-ranked 149-pounder Dustin Schlatter didn’t just beat defending national champion Zack Esposito, but majored him 11-2, fueled by a pair of second-period near falls.

Schlatter, a true freshman, is now 32-1 and the likely top seed for NCAAs at 149.

“I think part of it was I just capitalized on his mistakes,” Schlatter said. “He got sloppy, and I just stayed solid and capitalized on that. And I think I was in better shape, and he got tired.”

Then No. 4 C.P. Schlatter fed off his younger brother’s momentum, taking down No. 15 Kevin Ward 27 seconds into the match and finishing him off with a 7-3 win.

The Cowboys pulled back with a pair of 3-1 wins at 165 and 174. Second-ranked defending national champion Johnny Hendricks beat Matt Nagel at 165, aided by three stalling calls against Nagel, and ninth-ranked Brandon Mason beat Gabe Dretsch at 174.

10th-ranked Roger Kish beat Rusty Blackmon 5-1 at 184 before No. 3 Jake Rosholt majored a clearly overmatched Mitch Kuhlman 14-2 at 197 to knot the score at 16 and set up the crucial heavyweight face-off.

Konrad and Mocco traded escapes in the second and third periods, and in overtime, Mocco missed a shot at Konrad’s leg and the big Gophers heavyweight took him to the mat to secure the Gophers win ” his 31st straight individually.

“For our guys, it kind of solidifies what our guys did at National Duals, you know, these guys are for real,” Russell said. “We are for real, and we’ve got a pretty good team. To come down here just one-on-one against them and win is a tribute to where these guys are at. We’ve just got to keep making progress here, but we feel pretty good about where we’re at right now.”