STILLWATER, Okla. — Oklahoma State’s lineup looked nothing like it’s been at any point this season.
The second-ranked Cowboys saw the return of two injured All-Americans and the dual debut of a redshirt freshman – in place of another All-American – in a 39-0 blowout of Air Force on Friday night in Gallagher-Iba Arena.
The dual started off with Chandler Rogers, who has been sidelined with an ankle injury since the Southern Scuffle at the beginning of January, facing an unranked wrestler at 165 pounds. The Stillwater High graduate got two takedowns, but also gave up a two-point nearfall from the defensive position in the second period to hold on for a 6-4 decision.
“It was a little bit rough start coming back,” Cowboy coach John Smith said. “It just kind of looked like he was trying to get the big throw at the beginning and used a lot of energy to try to get that big throw and try to end the match quickly, and it ended up being a mess that he had to wrestle all the way out.
“I didn’t think much of it, but I did like the fact that when things don’t go well, you still get your hand raised and you get that last takedown and it’s not nearly as bad.”
Stillwater High graduate Christian Bahl made his OSU dual debut at 174 pounds for Joe Smith – who had lost his last two matches, against top 10 opponents. Bahl earned a 4-3 decision, which brought a raucous response from the Gallagher-Iba Arena crowd.
“It was nice to see Christian wrestle and get a win,” John Smith said. “It’s an opportunity he’s been waiting on, and those are great moments for us to see those guys who come into the room every day, working their tails off every day with an outside chance that you’re ever going to step out there, and today he got that opportunity.”
While the switch at 174 was a bit of a surprise, as the Cowboy coach did not identify why Joe Smith did not wrestle, perhaps the bigger surprise came following Jacobe Smith’s 14-3 major decision at 184 pounds.
John Smith was holding out hope to see Preston Weigel return to the mat for the first time since Dec. 8, against Bedlam rival Oklahoma, but it wasn’t as much of a certainty as Rogers’ return. But it was Weigel, who was an All-American in 2017 and suffered an injury in the NCAA tournament last year, that took the mat at 197 pounds.
“It was definitely nice. I’m just working my way back into it,” Weigel said following his 2-0 decision. “It’s always a struggle with all the ups and downs, but it makes you stronger. But it’s nice to be back.”
Having been sidelined for the past two months, Weigel elected to challenge himself in the return to the mat.
OSU’s best wrestler from the top position, Weigel elected to take the defensive position to start the second period – getting a quick escape to earn the match’s first point.
“I wanted to make it hard on myself, I didn’t want to just pick top and turn him up,” Weigel said. “I needed to go all three rounds, and that was really my first match of the year where it was a full match. I needed that feel and to get back in it.”
So he returned to his better position in the third period and proved his dominance once again by riding out Anthony McLaughlin for the entire two minutes to secure the riding time point – doing so despite only having wrestled for the past week and a half, according to Smith.
While it was a low-scoring affair, the match impressed Smith enough that he went as far as making it known of his intentions with his lineup for the final month of the season.
“Going to start the process of moving some people down probably,” Smith said. “… We will make the move likely for Dakota Geer to move down to 84 and Jacobe Smith down to 74, and likely somebody is going to have to fight it out at 65 or 74.
“I just recognized the power difference in some of these guys and I really feel like Jacobe and Geer are not wrestling bad, but the size difference is really seen in positions.”
There likely won’t be any changes from remainder of the lineup, however, and for good reason.
Heavyweight Derek White blitzed Kayne Hutchinson the entire match – with nine takedowns – before getting a third-period pin.
When the dual flipped back to the lower weights, Nick Piccininni did get pushed a bit – giving up a takedown at the start of the first and third periods – but three late takedowns pushed it out to a 13-6 decision for the No. 4-ranked Cowboy at 125 pounds.
“I thought he go pushed … the whole match changed when he couldn’t get off the mat (in the first period),” Smith said. “A little bit sloppy. It just wasn’t real good.”
OSU closed out the dual with four-straight bonus point victories.
Daton Fix got an 18-2 technical fall in 3:47 at 133 pounds, followed by Kaid Brock (141 pounds) and Kaden Gfeller (149) getting major decisions at their respective weights. Wyatt Sheets, coming off a big win over a ranked wrestler last weekend, nearly finished the dual with a pin at the buzzer, but ultimately finished the match with an 18-3 technical fall at 157 pounds.
The Cowboys will return to action Feb. 16 with a road dual at No. 6 Missouri. The dual is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
Follow News Press sports editor Jason Elmquist on Twitter @jelmquistSW for updates on Oklahoma State wrestling.