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Notebook: Freshmen rebound from losses, lineup continues to shuffle

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Cowboy Kaden Gfeller wrestles Jaron Jensen during No. 4 Oklahoma State's wrestling match vs. No. 20 Wyoming on Nov. 25, 2018, in Stillwater, Oklahoma at Gallagher-Iba Arena. (DEVIN LAWRENCE WILBER)

Kaden Gfeller and Daton Fix have been in many big matches in their lives. 

During OSU’s last four duals, the duo has faced five ranked opponents, resulting in three losses. 

Gfeller, a redshirt freshman from Oklahoma City, lost on Jan. 12 and Jan. 13 when OSU faced off against Princeton and Rutgers. Wrestling at 149 pounds, Gfeller lost to the two top-ranked wrestlers at his weight in Matthew Kolodzik of Princeton and Anthony Ashnault of Rutgers. 

Fix lost his first match Saturday against Pittsburgh’s Micky Phillipi 3-1. Phillipi was ranked No. 4 entering the match. The loss dropped Fix’s record to 21-1. 

Gfeller and Fix, both redshirt freshmen, aren’t used to losing in their first season competing in duals for the Cowboys. Their combined record is 42-3. All three losses, however, came in the past two weekends. OSU coach John Smith said he likes what he’s seen from his freshmen since the defeats. 

I feel like off of those losses there’s a level of maturity and that’s what you’re looking for,” Smith said.  “Be mature when you lose, let it be a motivator.”

After Gfeller lost his pair of matches, he responded with two falls Friday and Saturday against West Virginia and Pittsburgh. While Fix hasn’t had another match yet, Smith said he’s impressed with how both of them have responded.

 ‘We judge ourselves against other wrestlers’

The Cowboys have three All-Americans sidelined because of injury, resulting in constant lineup changes. Smith said the status of his three starters, Boo Lewallen (149), Chandler Rogers (165) and Preston Weigel (197) is uncertain. 

Lewallen hurt his shoulder in the Cowboys’ first dual of the season Nov. 18 against South Dakota State. Rogers suffered a lower body injury Jan. 2 at the Southern Scuffle. Weigel has wrestled just once this season. He won by technical fall against OU’s Ruston Duke on Dec. 9, but hasn’t wrestled since because of an undisclosed injury. 

“If any of them I felt was 100 percent healthy, or even 75 percent, they’d probably be wrestling right now,” Smith said. “But I don’t think we’re there yet. We’ll wait and see.”

Smith said there is a possibility Lewallen could wrestle this weekend, but said he is still unsure whether his shoulder can take it. The injuries have forced OSU to shuffle its lineup. Andrew Shomers is wrestling up a weight at 165, as is Jacobe Smith at 184. 

“I’m really focused on performance right now,” Smith said. “Whoever performs the best, they’re gonna wrestle for me. You gotta step out and perform against other people. We don’t judge ourselves against each other, we judge ourselves against other wrestlers.”

Low man wins

Smith said before the season how competitive practices were between OSU’s wrestlers at the lower weights, specifically talking about Nick Piccininni (125), Daton Fix (133) and Kaid Brock (141). 

Piccininni said the competition has done nothing but helped him.

“You look to your left and look to your right, you have two really competitive guys,” Piccininni said. “You know, the best guys in the country. So yeah, you’re gonna be competitive.

“If you don’t, there’s a problem. If you have a bad day, you’re gonna have a real bad day. I promise you.”

Add Kaden Gfeller at 149, and OSU is 76-6 at its four lowest weights. 

Smith said he thinks the performance by the lower weights has taken the air out of opponents at times. 

“With Gfeller, it seems like he’s generating a lot of energy,” Smith said. “Anytime you have a freshman winning big matches like Daton (Fix) has, I think that generates a lot of energy for you. When you got a guy that’s putting up a lot of points every time he wrestles like Nic Piccininni, that’s big.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com