ST. LOUIS — With no championships to be won Saturday morning, Oklahoma State sent seven wrestlers to the mat hoping to still finish their seasons with a victory.
For three of those seven, that’s exactly what happened.
The Cowboys capped off the final session of consolations with every remaining wrestler finishing seventh or better – with the top eight in each weight receiving All-American honors. Oklahoma State had two wrestlers finish fourth, two finish fifth, two finish sixth and the other taking seventh.
“It’s been a good tournament for us,” Cowboy coach John Smith said. “We knew coming in that it was going to take a lot of numbers on our part and we had eight All-Americans. Obviously, that’s hard to do, and we’re the only team here to do that.”
Oklahoma State redshirt sophomore Chandler Rogers made the biggest leap of the seven All-Americans in the consolations.
The Stillwater High graduate came into the tournament as the No. 9 seed at 165 pounds, he was the only Cowboy to get at least two pins and exceeded his seeding with a fifth-place finish after beating Missouri’s Daniel Lewis by 9-6 decision in a rubber-match between the two.
“I was real happy with my performance. I wouldn’t change anything,” Rogers said.
Though he didn’t finish as high as he was seeded, fellow Stillwater High product Kaid Brock capped his redshirt freshman season with a 5-3 decision over Nebraska’s Eric Montoya to finish fifth at 133 pounds.
After suffering a season-ending injury in the middle of last season, Brock bounced back to finish his first full season at Oklahoma State with a 29-4 record – with three of those losses all being to South Dakota State’s Seth Gross, who finished as the national runner-up in the weight class.
“He had a great season,” Cowboy coach John Smith said. “He overachieved, he really did. I know that he came in ranked third, but this is a weight class where you could be third or you could be 10th but you are going to have to come to wrestle and if you don’t you’re not going to fall into All-American honors. So for Kaid Brock, it was a great season, a great finish.”
Redshirt freshman Nick Piccininni (125) and sophomore Joseph Smith (157) lost their third-place matches, but Piccininni capped his first year as an All-American while now two-time All-American Smith improved on his seventh-place finish from a year ago.
Finishing sixth in their respective weight classes were Oklahoma State’s heaviest wrestlers remaining the tournament.
Senior Nolan Boyd, a former walk-on from Edmond, lost to defending national champion Myles Martin of Ohio State by 10-6 decision – but did get a late takedown to finish his Cowboy career from the top position. Redshirt sophomore Preston Weigel, who won three matches as an unseeded wrestler last year, earned his first All-American honor with his sixth-place finish after a 9-0 major decision loss to Nebraska’s Aaron Studebaker.
An eye-opening experience
Growing up as young wrestlers watching the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, Brock and Rogers recalled after wrapping up this year’s tournament their desire to one day wrestle in the tournament. But they both admitted after winning their final matches that the view from the mat is much more grueling than in the stands.
“It’s different than when you’re a kid looking on from the stands,” Brock said. “I said that my first bout. It gets to you.
“It gives you stuff to grow upon though. A lot to grow upon.
“I think it was at the semifinals and on, it just felt like, ‘Wow, a lot of eyes (on you).’ I let little things affect me that shouldn’t. This tournament can get to you, and it got to me.”
For Rogers, this was his second trip to the tournament, but his first actually wrestling at his weight.
Last year, the redshirt sophomore wrestled at 174 pounds in place of Crutchmer – who got injured late in the season. He went 2-2 in the tournament, including a pin and major decision victories in his first two matches.
“I didn’t have to worry about size this time because everybody in the stands could tell I was a little bit smaller than everybody at the weight,” Rogers said. “But I never really had to worry about anybody at 165 being bigger than me, because I’ve wrestled really, really big guys and was pretty successful in my standards. It definitely prepared me.”
But it’s all part of the growing experience for the young Cowboys.
Even their coach admitted to succumbing to the pressures of the national tournament when he was a wrestler.
“I know I got that when I was a freshman and I didn’t place, and I realized it my sophomore year how tough it was,” said John Smith, a two-time NCAA champion and three-time All-American. “You’re preparation and you’re focus on the sport, you may think that you’re doing some of the right things, but then you come here and find out that you need to do even more.”
Cowboys finish third in team standings
Behind a record number of All-Americans in the 26-year coaching career for John Smith, the Oklahoma State wrestling team racked up enough points to finish third in the team standings.
The eight OSU All-Americans – the most of any team at the 2017 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships – are the most at Oklahoma State since 1990. They combined for 103 points, just ahead of Iowa with 97 points.
Penn State, which had clinched the team title before the finals were held, finished with 146.5 points while Ohio State earned national runner-up with 110 points.