Cowboys leave Pittsburgh without individual title, finish third in team competition

IMG_2955.JPG

OSU's Derek White wrestles Fresno State's AJ Nevills during the final round of the Big 12 Wrestling Championship at the BOK Center in Tulsa on Sunday, March 10.

It has been 13 years since coach John Smith and the Oklahoma State wrestling team hoisted an NCAA championship trophy.

Unfortunately for the Cowboys, they had to settle for third in the 2019 NCAA wrestling tournament at the PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.

OSU fell behind Ohio State and eventual champions Penn State in the team competition. 

The Nitty Lions finished with 137.5 points, followed by 96.5 points from the Buckeyes and 84 points from OSU.

OSU consistently struggled in the opening rounds of the tournament on Thursday. 

Daton Fix, Derek White, Nick Piccininni and Preston Weigel were the only Cowboys to progress to the quarterfinals.

All four managed to win their matches and advanced to the semifinals.

At 125, No. 2 Piccininni faced No. 3 Spencer Lee. 

Piccininni previously pinned Lee during the Cowboys dual against Iowa on Feb 24.

Lee got the upperhand in their second match, getting the 11-2 major decision.

Piccininni moved to wrestleback bracket but lost his semifinal match to Vitali Arujau (Cornell).

Piccinni finished fifth overall after he pinned Michigan State's RayVon Foley. 

"Nick losing his first match was tough but then coming back and picking up a pin, those bonus points are important," coach John Smith said.

At 197, Weigel paired with Ohio State's Kollin Moore. 

Moore quickly took Weigel to the ground and pinned him in 57 seconds. 

Weigel had to settle for third place after defeating No. 4 Patrick Bruchi (Princeton) and No. 6 William Miklus (Iowa State).

"I feel like I maybe could've done a little better last night, but that's just the way it goes," Weigel said. "If I could play the matches out the way I wanted, I'd be winning it. It was fun though. It was a fun tournament."

At heavyweight, No. 1 Derek White and No. 4 Jordan Wood (Lehigh) were held to a standstill in the semifinals. 

Both wrestlers only scored a point each from escapes.

In sudden victory, White got a takedown with 26 seconds left to move onto the championship.

In the finals, White faced No. 2 Anthony Cassar (Penn State).

Both wrestlers started slow in the first period. Cassar, however, took over the match in the second.

After White scored a point from an escape, Cassar proceeded to score 10 unanswered points. 

Cassar had two takedowns and a nearfall on White before he claimed his first NCAA title.

At 133, Fix had a smooth tournament overall before meeting No. 5 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State) in the semifinals. 

Fix outscored his opponents 41-13 in his first three rounds. 

Against Pletcher, Fix lead 3-0 until the last seconds of the match.

Pletcher scored a takedown with eight seconds left to bring the score to 3-2. 

Fix, however, escapes seconds later and won the match 4-2.

In the finals, Fix met Rutger's Nick Suriano.

In January, Fix defeated No. 3 Suriano in contraversial fashion.

Suriano was called for hands to the face and Fix won 3-2 in sudden victory.

In their rematch, both wrestlers only scored points from escapes. 

The pair went into overtime tied 1-1. 

In the first tiebreaker, Suriano was called for stalling, giving Fix a one point lead.

In the second tiebreaker, Suriano tied the match with an escape. 

With seconds left in sudden victory, Suriano got the takedown and apparently won the match.

Smith furiously yelled at the referees claiming Suriano grabbed Fix's headgear.

The officials went to the monitors and replayed to see what had happened. 

After the official review, the call stood and Suriano was deemed the champion.

OSU failed to claim an individual title for the second year in a row.

Smith was proud of Fix's freshman performance in the tournament.

"Daton had a great season," Smith said. "It was his freshman campaign. He wrestled everyone. He had a good tournament, likely at the toughest weight class, and put himself in a pretty good position to win."

The third place finish was better than the Cowboys' placement last year where they failed to break into the top-10.

Fix, White, Piccininni, Weigel and Dakota Geer garnered All-American honors.

"We had a great season, and great seasons sometimes end when you're striving for more," Smith said. "We definitely want more than what we got, but man, we had a good season and a good tournament. We had a few little mistakes here and there that were critical. In the end there was a lot of effort. Taking a trophy home is important for the program."

sports.ed@ocolly.com