By Jason Elmquist
CNHI News Service
DES MOINES, Iowa – Under the unintentional dimmed lights of Wells Fargo Arena, Oklahoma State’s Chris Perry clinched a spot in Saturday’s championship match with a sudden victory win over Nebraska’s Robert Kokesh on Friday in the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships.
It is the first trip to the title round for the Stillwater High graduate, who finished third last year to earn All-American honors. He was unable to hold back his emotions after getting the takedown in the first overtime period – pumping his fists and screaming.
“It’s just been a dream of mine since I was a little kid to walk on that stage. I’ve had it on the background of my phone since I was in the ninth-grade, the NCAA finals stage,” Perry said. “... This is where I wanted to be forever and now I can let it fly.”
The match took a unique turn in the third period when, during a delay in action to fix Perry’s headgear, the main lights went out in the arena. There was still enough light to finish the match, which was wrestled in low light.
“It was kind of weird. It reminded me of the Super Bowl a little bit, you know,” Perry said. “It was kind of like everything was kinda going good and you had to regroup a little bit. But it is what it is.”
Perry, who in the first two days has looked similar to the first-half performance of the San Francisco 49ers in that Super Bowl, believes it’s time for him to perform like the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
“I know this whole tournament has been pretty ugly for me,” said Perry, who will take on second seed Mathew Brown of Penn State in the 174-pound championship. “If I was a fan, I wouldn’t probably be a fan of me and the way I’m wrestling right now, but I feel like I got a lot to prove (Saturday).”
Perry is one of just two OSU wrestlers to have an unblemished Friday to reach the championship round – joining now three-time finalist Jordan Oliver. The Cowboys have fallen further behind two-time reigning champion Penn State – which has five finalists – due to the rough day, and sit in second with 94 points while the Lions stand at 114.5 points.
Wrestleback action begins at 10 a.m. today with the Cowboys having five wrestlers – Jon Morrison, Alex Dieringer, Tyler Caldwell, Blake Rosholt and Gelogaev – competing in medal-round matches. The championships will begin at 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN (Suddenlink channel 31).
OU’s Maple in the finals
Kendric Maple becomes the first Sooner to make the NCAA Championship finals since 2011, following his 4-0 semifinals decision over The Citadel’s No. 6 Undrakhbayer Khishignyam on Friday night in the Wells Fargo Arena in front of 16,131 onlookers.
“It’s not quite the match that I wanted, but you need to get it done no matter how it happens,” explained Maple. “It will all be different tomorrow.”
Maple secured his first NCAA Championship appearance with a takedown in the first period to go up, 2-0. The Wichita, Kan., native would add an escape in the second and collect a bonus point with riding time to blank Khishignyam (4-0) in the semifinal bout and earn his ticket to the big stage for tonight.
The two-time All American will face a familiar foe on Saturday night in Edinboro’s No. 4 Mitchell Port.