Cowboy wrestling opens dual season with Pennsylvania pair

IMG_0565.JPG

OSU's Nick Piccininni vs Northern Colorado's Rico Montoya during the quarter-final round of the Big 12 Wrestling Championship at the BOK Center in Tulsa on Saturday, March 9.

The Oklahoma State wrestling team will begin its 2019-20 dual campaign on Friday night against Drexel.

The Drexel match will be a warmup for OSU, as the No. 10 Cowboys travel to Lehigh on Saturday for a battle of top 10 programs.

OSU dominated Lehigh 27-6 in its dual last season. However, Lehigh could be a candidate for a breakout season as it has a ranked wrestler at eight of the ten weight classes.

Coach John Smith said Lehigh has always been a tough program.

“They’re routinely good,”  coach Smith said. “They’ve had a pretty strong program throughout their history.”

Depending on the lineup coach Smith decides to use, there could be as many as three rematches from last season’s dual.

Here are the projected matchups for Saturday’s dual (All rankings are according to FloWrestling).

125: No. 4 Nick Piccininni vs No. 19 Brandon Paetzell

Nick Piccininni said he’s looking forward to traveling to the east coast.

“It’ll be good to have my family there,” Piccininni said. “It’s about a four hour trip for them.”

The New York native will face junior Brandon Paetzell, who has a 29-23 record in his three seasons.

133: Reece Witcraft vs No. 14 Nick Farro

Witcraft will most likely start at 133 this weekend after the possibility of him redshirting was removed after the OCU open.

“He looked good this weekend,” Smith said. “But this is a really good opportunity for him to grow up… it’s an opportunity for him to learn the hard way.”

Nick Farro will make his first dual start at 133 for Lehigh. He had previously started a dual at 125, but has since moved up. 

141: No. 10 Kaden Gfeller vs Ryan Pomrinca

After moving down from 149 pounds, Kaden Gfeller looks to improve upon his impressive freshman season where he went 9-4 in dual matches and 28-6 overall.

Gfeller will face Ryan Pomrinca, a senior for Lehigh, who has gone 69-35 overall in his career and will look for the upset on Saturday.

149: No. 8 Boo Lewallen vs No. 25 Jimmy Hoffman

Former All-American Boo Lewallen, who’s coming off an injury-riddled season, looked impressive in the OCU open and won all four of his matches in the tournament. He has an 48-12 record during his time in an OSU singlet. 

He will face Lehigh junior Jimmy Hoffman, who has appeared in duals before for the Mountain Hawks, but is beginning his first season as the lone starter in the lineup.

157: Wyatt Sheets vs No. 12 Josh Humphreys

Sheets and Humphreys faced each other in last season’s dual matchup in Stillwater. Sheets won the match 7-5 with a sudden-victory takedown. 

John Smith named Sheets as the starter at 157 and Sheets won both of his matches at OCU last weekend.

“I think he started a little slow,” Smith said. “He was a little bit hesitant… it’s hard to hit your timing when you haven’t competed for six months.”

165: No. 25 Travis Wittlake vs Brian Meyer

Wittlake and Meyer will make their dual debuts as Wittlake is a redshirt freshman and Meyer competed unattached last season at 157.

John Smith gave Wittlake high praise after his first place finish in the OCU open.

“I was really impressed with him,” Smith said. “He scored the most takedowns of anyone on the team as a freshman.”

174: No. 6 Joe Smith vs No. 2 Jordan Kutler

Smith and Kutler have met twice before with Kutler winning both times. Smith, a two-time All-American, will look for revenge against one of the few opponents he has never defeated.

184: No. 4 Dakota Geer/Anthony Montalvo vs No. 25 Chris Weiler

Depending on who John Smith decides to use at 184, this could be the third and final rematch from last year’s dual, in which Geer defeated Weiler 13-5.

Anthony Montalvo is also a candidate for this spot, given his strong performance at 184 in the OCU open. Montalvo went 2-0 in the tournament before John Smith opted to save a potential Geer versus Montalvo matchup for the practice room.

Their opponent, Chris Weiler, is a former NCAA qualifier and has a 69-32 record on his resume.

197: Dakota Geer/Anthony Montalvo vs No. 14 Jake Jokobsen

Whichever guy does not wrestle at 184 will likely take the 197 spot after it was revealed that Alex Kauffman was suspended this weekend for a violation of team rules.

Geer does have previous experience at 197 as he filled in for Preston Weigel while he was injured last season and went 15-4 in his 19 matches.

“We will be taking both Geer and Montalvo this weekend,” Smith said. “Chances are one of those guys wrestles at 197.”

For Lehigh, Jake Jakobsen qualified for the NCAA tournament last season, but has struggled this season with a 3-2 record so far.

HWT: Austin Harris vs No. 4 Jordan Wood

Neal Putnam will not wrestle this weekend so Austin Harris will start at heavyweight.

Lehigh junior Jordan Wood is one of the top-ranked wrestlers at heavyweight and will be a tough matchup for anyone. He finished fourth at the NCAA tournament last season with a 25-5 record.

This dual will likely be a close one, as both Oklahoma State and Lehigh have several highly-ranked wrestlers as well as talented, yet unproven wrestlers who could provide a spark.

“It’ll be a tough dual meet,” Smith said. “It looks to be very competitive, for us, it’s going to be about winning six matches.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com