Tahlequah Daily Press

March 22, 2014

Perry survives, advances to force Bedlam showdown in 174 finals


— OKLAHOMA CITY — Winning one championship is hard enough, but for Stillwater High graduate Chris Perry championship No. 2 may be just as difficult.

The Oklahoma State senior and No. 1 seed at 174 pounds in the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships had a scare in his semifinal match against Iowa's Michael Evans to return to the championship bout Friday in Oklahoma City.

The moment was big enough, after winning by riding out Evans in the third period to force overtime and scoring the winning point with an escape, that the normally stoic Perry had an outburst of excitement — as he embraced his inner Pistol Pete, firing imaginary pistols before holstering them.

"I've been booed my whole life ... but I win and sometimes you just get caught up in the moment," Perry said. "I apologize to the Iowa fans, but at the same time its emotions. They don't understand  how hard it is to ride a guy out for two minutes when you are trailing."

The victory set up the perfect storm at 174 pounds: No. 1 Perry vs Bedlam nemesis Andrew Howe, the second seed with a national title on the line in Oklahoma City.

The two wrestlers split their first two meetings, with Howe getting the best of Perry earlier in the season before the Cowboy wrestler top OU's lone NCAA finalist in the Big 12 Conference championships.

"This is what I wanted. I didn't want anybody else," Perry said. "I know this is the guy everybody thinks is better than me. People believe this guy is better than me and I just stole one in Norman.

"I want to go out (Saturday) and prove that I can beat him twice. But I'm going to have to come out with better wrestling than that, that's for sure."

With the Bedlam matchup in front of a rowdy crowd of Cowboys and Sooners fans — matched with a pair of former NCAA champions looking to end their careers with a second title — could be a big enough draw for NCAA and ESPN to move the championship bout as the final match of Saturday's finals.

"We did it at Bedlam and it was the best match of the night," Perry said. "The crowd was into it, the place was rocking."