By Jason Elmquist
CNHI News Service
STILLWATER – At the start of the year, true freshman Eddie Klimara was likely to receive a redshirt and sit out his first year in the Oklahoma State wrestling program.
Due to a series of events, Klimara’s redshirt was pulled and the freshman was asked to fill in a glaring hole at 125 pounds for the Cowboys. After a slow start on the mat for the Joliet, Ill., native, Klimara proved coach John Smith the wiser with a Big 12 Conference championship Saturday at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“It was really ugly when he first brought him out, it wasn’t pretty. But once he got comfortable, and Chris Perry did a good job helping him fit into the starting team,” Smith said. “... It was a good tournament for him, a good weekend for him to move into nationals. And of course, with a guy like him anything he does for us is a bonus.”
The individual title was just the beginning of a good night for Oklahoma State, which had eight individual champions to win the Big 12 Conference postseason trophy — scoring a Big 12 record 118.5 team points — and had nine wrestlers qualify for the NCAA Wrestling Championships.
With only one NCAA bid at stake at 125 pounds, Klimara stamped his ticket to the national championships in Des Moines, Iowa, by winning the Big 12 championship with a 15-5 major decision over Iowa State’s Ryak Finch.
“At first, I wasn’t doing too well and didn’t really think (I could qualify), but as the season progressed and was wrestling all these big kids and having close matches, I thought there was a chance,” Klimara said. “But coming here, knowing I have to win Big 12s, I’ve been putting extra time in, practicing extra because I wanted to get to my goal of being an All-American at the NCAA.”
In a Bedlam battle between two top 10 wrestlers, Oklahoma State’s No. 7 Jon Morrison earned a hard-fought 6-2 decision over ninth-ranked Cody Brewer of Oklahoma. With 28 seconds, Morrison flipped the script and took what looked to be a takedown by Brewer into a takedown of his own.
“I probably didn’t wrestle my best match,” Morrison said. “I just defended it and went on the counter attack and was able to get that takedown. ... But even when I was up by a point I was looking get that takedown because you know he’s going to be coming hard and still has hope. If you get that takedown it kind of takes the match out of reach and then it’s over.”
Oklahoma’s Kendric Mapled defended his Big 12 Championship crown from a year ago with a dominant performance at 141 pounds after he topped Iowa State’s Luke Goettl with a 13-3 major decision to remain undefeated on the year with a 26-0 overall record.
“It felt good to go out there and get that win, especially after the first match earlier today that was forfeited,” explained Maple. “It was nice to be able to go out there, wrestle and get a couple of good periods in tonight for the championship bout.”
“You have to find a goal for the night, and mine was to get the win,” said Maple. “My objective is to go out there every time and dominate every match: whether it’s by one point or by tech fall.”
Even though a third-place finish was not what he was hoping for, Oklahoma coach Mark Cody liked his team’s effort.
“I’m proud of the way the guys competed tonight,” remarked Oklahoma head coach Mark Cody. “It was a lot more fun to come in here today and have the guys come out here and battle – yesterday was heart wrenching to sit through.
“Today to have them all out their wrestling was definitely a good boost for our team.”
While Morrison held on for his Big 12 title, three-time All-American Jordan Oliver made quick work of his championship opponent, Max Mayfield of Iowa State. Oliver pinned Mayfield in 1:19 in his final collegiate bout in Gallagher-Iba Arena — marking his fourth Big 12 title and his fourth fall of the weekend.
“It means a lot. The fans have given me so much love and support, just to be able to give it back to them with four pins — though it should have been five, but didn’t happen and settled for four pins and technical fall — to end it like that here in Gallagher-Iba Arena, right where it started, is an awesome feeling,” Oliver said.
Oliver wasn’t the only senior to get the dream moment walking out of Gallagher-Iba Arena. OSU heavyweight Alan Galogaev also pulled out a first-period pin against his opponent, Iowa State’s Matt Gibson — who Galogaev beat just 4-1 in Friday’s dual action — to win a Big 12 title after injuries prevented him from competing in the conference tournament the previous two years.