By Jason Elmquist
DES MOINES, Iowa —
Oklahoma State’s strive for 35 got off to a solid start on the first day of the Division I Wrestling Championships at the Wells Fargo Arena on Thursday.
The Cowboys ended Day 1 with 29 team points, trailing two-time reigning champion Penn State by just 3.5 points. More importantly, the Cowboys still have all 10 wrestlers alive — including seven in the championship bracket, the most of any team — to contribute to the point total.
“It was a good day as far as the number of wins we got,” OSU coach John Smith said. “We had to fight out a couple of tough matches at some weights we didn’t expect, but that’s what you’ve got to do in this tournament.”
Oklahoma State got some essential bonus-point wins in the first round.
Though the Cowboys had just seven wrestlers open with victories, five of those were bonus-point wins.
Jon Morrison, Jordan Oliver, Alex Dieringer and Tyler Caldwell opened with major-decision wins, while heavyweight Alan Gelogaev recorded a pin in 18 seconds over Michigan’s Ben Apland.
“I think we ended up with three pins and six or seven major decisions, but is it enough, I don’t know,” Smith said. “But for us, I was proud of the effort.”
The quick pin by Gelogaev wasn’t the fastest in the history of the NCAA championship — that mark belongs to Louisiana State’s Clarence Richardson with a 9-second fall in 1983 in a 177-pound match. It did, however, set a personal best for the OSU senior, whose previous best was an 18-second pin in his first year in the program.
Gelogaev made quick work of his opponent in the second round as well, picking up a pin in 34 seconds to advance to Friday’s quarterfinal match against Boise State’s J.T. Felix, the 11th-seeded heavyweight.
“I think his demeanor is different,” Smith said. “As we get into (Friday), rounds get tougher and we need him to maintain that demeanor.”
OSU got just one surprise victory on the opening day with Blake Rosholt, the 11 seed at 197 pounds, avenging a loss to Iowa State’s Kyven Gadson from the Big 12 Conference Championship at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Gadson, seeded six, won a heated conference championship match by one point and had some choice words for Rosholt after the match. On Thursday, the Ponca City native got the last word by holding on for an 8-7 decision to advance to Friday morning’s quarterfinals.
“It felt great, especially doing it here in front of his home crowd,” Rosholt said. “I’m still not wrestling my best, but I’m moving forward and advancing the tournament like I wanted to. That’s always a positive.”
Much like in Stillwater, where the OSU fans rained boos down on Gadson, the Iowa State fans were just as chirpy about Rosholt holding on to upset the sixth-seeded Cyclone wrestler.
“Oh, I loved it,” Rosholt said of being booed.
Freshman Eddie Klimara (125 pounds), sophomore Julian Feikert (141) and senior Chris Chionuma (184) were the three Cowboy wrestlers to lose in the first round of the tournament. Klimara and Feikert were OSU’s only unseeded wrestlers, while Chionuma was upset as the nine seed.
Chionuma’s 4-1 loss came to Pittsburgh’s Max Thomusseit, whom Chionuma beat 7-2 earlier in the year at Gallagher-Iba Arena. The senior responded in the wrestleback Thursday night with a pin.
Klimara had to wrestle a pigtail in the wrestleback and collected a pair of backside victories, including an 11-2 major decision, to stay alive.
Feikert, an at-large bid for the Cowboys at 141 pounds, started his first bout strong, scoring a takedown and back points, but ultimately fell to Harvard’s Steven Keith by pin in the second period. In his wrestleback match, Feikert picked up a gritty 8-5 win — after having trailed 3-1 early in the third period.
“I liked what I saw out of my three guys down there. They came back and put some points on the board and advanced to (Friday),” Smith said. “Those are some things it takes to have a really great tournament.”