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Cowboys Down Cornell 23-19, Stay Unbeaten

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This is a guest post by Lee Cothran

Cornell Big Red Wrestling visited Stillwater, Oklahoma for the first time in program history on Friday night to take on the storied Oklahoma State wrestling squad. In the previous five matchups, Cornell had failed to come within two matches of the Cowboys despite the previous matches being hosted in New York.

Cornell hoped to provide a different outcome this time around, but with the Cowboys rolling to four straight 30+ point victories in the 2016-2017 campaign and being the top ranked team in every college wrestling poll, the task proved to be just out of reach with the Cowboys winning their sixth against the Big Red 23-19.

The night began with the closest ranking matchup of the night between sixth ranked Brian Realbuto of Cornell taking on fourth ranked Cowboy Kyle Crutchmer. In their previous matchup at the 2015 Southern Scuffle, Crutchmer took the match on his way to fifth place in the tournament. Both wrestlers tend to look like they are going to be national champions one night, and the next look like they couldn’t beat their grandmother in thumb wrestling.

Tonight proved to be one of those nights where both wrestled conservatively in order to not beat themselves. The result was a 3-2 decision in favor of Realbuto. This is most certainly a match that we will see again in Saint Louis at NCAAs if the bracket is seeded favorably for both wrestlers.

Edmond native Nolan Boyd, the fifth-ranked Cowboy, has been one of the most exciting wrestlers at Oklahoma State since his debut his freshman year. Last season against Cornell, Boyd was able to upset No. 1 Gabe Dean 14-6 on his way to an All-American season. Dean got his revenge on Boyd in the quarterfinals at NCAAs in Madison Square Garden on his way to a national championship. The question of the week leading up to the match was if Boyd would be able to repeat his performance from last season’s Cornell match. While Boyd has improved over the course of the season, Gabe Dean is in a class all by himself. The Dan Hodge Trophy candidate was able to keep Boyd at distance on his way to a 14-6 Major Decision.

After two matches, Cornell led the dual 7-0. 197 pounder and No. 4-ranked Preston Weigel of Oklahoma State outwrestled unranked Ben Honis of Cornell with a decision. Heavyweight wrestler and #13 ranked Austin Schafer, a wonderful surprise for the Pokes this season, was able to out wrestle Cornell’s Craig Scott with a decision as well to bring the dual to 7-6 turning back to the lighter weights.

At 125 pounds, Oklahoma State’s highly touted Freshman and No. 11-ranked Nick Piccininni looked to make quick work of unranked Noah Baughman. In his aggressiveness against a good defensive wrestler, Picc found himself in a bad position and Baughman was able to hold Picc on his shoulders just long enough to get the fall called. Although it is rare, occasionally a wrestler will end up on his back while trying to wrestle offensively and score more points. Piccininni found himself in trouble, and was punished badly for it. This is a mistake that he will learn from for future matches, but in this dual it put the Cowboys in a bind as Cornell now led the dual 13-6 with five matches remaining.

Kaid Brock has had an exciting return season after being put out of his true freshman campaign at the Southern Scuffle with a torn knee ligament. After pinning defending national champion Cody Brewer in his debut match as a Cowboy, in Bedlam no less, Cowboy fans were excited at the opportunity of seeing a potential four time national champion. With Brock ranked sixth in his redshirt freshman season, it is still a certain possibility for the Cowboy. This match against No. 14 Mark Grey would be a wonderful early test, and Brock proved that he is capable of outmatching wrestlers that are not as aggressive as he is. Brock and Grey sit at opposite ends of the aggressiveness and strength styles, and Brock was able to capture a 17-6 major decision to pull the dual score to 13-10.

Defending national champion, and No. 1-ranked Dean Heil took care of business in the most Dean Heil way possible with a 6-1 decision. Heil is a consistent wrestler. If he makes an offensive move on a wrestler from his feet, he scores. If an opponent makes an offensive move on Heil, he fights it off. For the Cowboys to have a shot at capturing their 35th national title, they would like to see more bonus points from Heil in matches like this one where he is the far superior wrestler.

In the 149 match-up, No. 3 Anthony Collica looked like one of the best wrestlers in the country by jumping out to a 13-3 lead at the end of the first period. Within a minute and a half of the beginning of the second period, Collica caught unranked Joey Gallasso in a cradle and put him on his back for the fall. This match was refreshing for Cowboy fans as it showed a wrestler that completely outmatched his opponent on paper, and then proved it on the mat.

“I know we started slow, so I had to change something up,” Collica said. “I just came out a little tougher. I expected a tough match because every guy on their team wrestled tough. Coming out tough made the difference.”

For top ranked guys like Collica, the Cowboys need to see matches like this in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament to get the bonus points that have been the difference between Penn State and Oklahoma State winning titles the last three years.

Joe Smith sealed the victory for the Cowboys in his 2016-2017 debut with a major decision over unranked Taylor Simaz. OSU fans have been excited for Smith to return this year after a short hiatus for undisclosed reasons. Smith looked to be ready to wrestle as he worked fundamental offensive moves against his opponent in a dismantling of Simaz’s style.

In the final match of the evening, No. 6 Chandler Rogers took on No. 20 Brandon Womack. Rogers has been a bit inconsistent this season, and it showed in this match when he allowed Womack to get a tight lock on a cradle and turn Rogers over for the fall. While it is disappointing, Rogers has an opportunity to show that he is still an All-American caliber wrestler at the upcoming Southern Scuffle in Chattanooga.

“I don’t think we had a great match, but at the same time I was glad we grinded out matches that we needed to win,” head coach John Smith said. “Not the perfect match, but Cornell looked like a team that was more seasoned than us in a lot of different positions. It’ll help us.”

With a month between the Cornell dual and the next dual against Iowa, the Cowboys certainly have some things to work on that should show at the Southern Scuffle on New Year’s Day. Although this was a closer match than Cowboy fans would hope, an early season test is not the worst thing that could happen. Some flaws were exposed, and the guys will be in the wrestling room this week to work out the kinks before being released to their families for the holidays.

The next home match is on January 15th at Gallagher-Iba Arena when the Cowboys take on the Iowa Hawkeyes. It is very important that Oklahoma State fans make the trip to Stillwater for this dual. Iowa fans routinely put 18,000 plus fans in their arena for this match. It would be a great showing for John Smith and his No. 1 Cowboys if all 13,611 seats in GIA were filled for this one. Oklahoma State is fortunate to have such a storied history in this sport. It is time to start supporting the Pokes the way that fans support Iowa, Penn State, and Ohio State.

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