Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

March 22, 2014

Howe advances as Oklahoma's only wrestling going for first

OKLAHOMA CITY — Andrew Howe is the last one standing. Of the eight Oklahoma Sooners who began the weekend with dreams of carrying home a championship, the 174-pounder is the only one with a chance to still make it happen.

However, standing in Howe’s way is an old nemesis who would love nothing better than to see him leave empty-handed. Oklahoma State’s Chris Perry will meet Howe for the third time this year when they face off tonight in the finals of the NCAA Wrestling Championships.

“I guess just finishing up the series on top would be good,” Howe said. “It’s the rubber match. Just winning it here in front of the home crowd. I know there’s a lot of Sooner fans in the audience.”

Howe (31-1) won the first matchup between the two earlier in the season, but Perry came back and won two weeks ago. That has not quenched his passion to beat him again.

“This is what I wanted,” Perry said. “I didn’t want anybody else. I know this is the guy people think is better than me. Hands down, people think this guy is way better than me. They think I stole one in Norman. I want to go out tomorrow and prove that I can beat him twice.”

The matchup almost didn’t make it when Perry (32-1), the No. 1 seed, found himself upside down and having to hold on to Iowa’s Michael Evans for the last 10 seconds of regulation to send the match into overtime. Once there, Perry had enough left to come away with a 3-2 victory.

After the win, Perry popped up and gave the fans a double pistol salute, which he admitted was out of character.

“You know, I’ve been booed my whole life,” Perry said. “I’m not the prettiest wrestler, but I win. Sometimes you just get caught up in the moment. I probably shouldn’t have done what I did, but at the same time, it’s emotions.”

Comparatively, the semifinals were a walk in the park for Howe. The No. 2 seed made easy work of Minnesota’s Logan Storley.

I got a couple of takedowns in the first period and escaped and rode him a little bit in the third,” Howe said. “So that was about it.”

Under the new format adopted this year by the NCAA, the championship matches will not go in their normal order. Tournament officials will decide the order, making sure to make the last match the one juiciest for fans to enjoy. More than likely, it will be Howe and Perry.

The scenario reminds Perry of when they hooked up at Bedlam when the entire crowd was going crazy during the battle. He knows this time, much more is at stake.

“That’s what I’m coming out for,” Perry said. “This is what I’ve been waiting on. This is what I train for, this guy and this time.”

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