By JASON ELMQUIST
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.”
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.
“I’ve never seen Z show any emotion. He didn’t know how to raise his arms up,” Smith joked. “I think these guys grow up in Gallagher-Iba Arena for five years and hear the stories and hear us say how important it is to perform in Gallagher and how this is our home.
“They see the pictures on the wall, and the trophy cases, and to be a part of that history and know they are part of that history ... we all feel it’s a privilege to be a part of that tradition. That’s why you saw both of them chase those pins.”
OSU saw its second freshman earn a Big 12 title at 157 pounds with redshirt freshman Alex Dieringer. The seventh-ranked Dieringer was no match for No. 17-ranked Matt Lester of Oklahoma, rolling to an 11-3 major decision victory.
In another Bedlam bout between top 5 competitors, it was OSU getting the better of OU at 165 pounds. No. 3-ranked Tyler Caldwell got a second-period escape for the only point scored in a 1-0 decision over fifth-ranked Bubby Graham.
“I wasn’t putting the points up that I was wanting to, but against a guy like that it’s sometimes not going to open up until the second or third period,” Caldwell said. “I expected a tough match coming in, and I just got mentally ready for that and went out there and executed.”
At 174, second-ranked Perry kept the Cowboys’ streak of titles rolling with an 8-0 major decision over Iowa State’s Tanner Weatherman.
Chris Chionuma (184 pounds) delivered OSU its only “upset” of the day. Chionuma, who was actually ranked higher but was the second seed behind Iowa State’s Boaz Beard due to an early-season loss to the Cyclone wrestler, got his chance at revenge and came away with a 5-3 decision to earn a Big 12 title in his final year in Stillwater.
“It was a huge win for me, having lost to him earlier in the year ... so this was something that I wanted,” said Chionuma, who was very emotional after the victory. “Also this being my last match at Gallagher-Iba, with my mom and my brother here, facing a lot of adversity with my shoulder. Everything just built up to this moment today.”
Blake Rosholt nearly made it two victories by OSU wrestlers at the second seed. But Rosholt lost his final title with Iowa State’s Kyven Gadson by a 5-3 decision, which had some fireworks late in the bout — which forced Iowa State coaches to drag Gadson away from Rosholt.