Cowboy Up No 2 Oklahoma State clinches fourth straight national title and 34th overall

By Craig Sesker | March 23, 2006, 12:05 p.m. (ET)
OKLAHOMA CITY - Winning national championships never gets old.

Even for the best wrestling program in collegiate history.

Second-ranked Oklahoma State wrapped up its fourth straight NCAA title and record 34th overall much earlier than expected with a strong performance Friday night before 16,126 fans at the Ford Center.

The powerful Cowboys flexed their muscle by placing two-time national champions Steve Mocco (heavyweight) and Jake Rosholt (197) in the finals along with national champion teammate Johny Hendricks (165).

"I'm really proud of the way this whole team has wrestled," OSU coach John Smith said. "It's a real credit to these guys the way they've maintained their focus and the fire they've wrestled with. It's tough out here, but our guys have handled the pressure really well."

Oklahoma State enters the final day of the competition Saturday with a whopping 106 points, 33.5 ahead of top-ranked Minnesota. The Gophers have three finalists in top-ranked Cole Konrad (heavyweight) and Dustin Schlatter (149), along with Roger Kish (184).

Sixth-ranked Oklahoma is next in line with 64.5 points with No. 11 Iowa holding down fourth with 61.5.

Oklahoma State nearly had five in the finals, but defending champion and No. 3 seed Zack Esposito (149) ran into a buzzsaw in the semifinals when No. 2 seed Ty Eustice of Iowa overcame a slow start to prevail 7-4.

OSU's Nathan Morgan, the No. 2 seed at 133, was knocked off by No. 6 Matt Valenti of Penn 7-3 in the semifinals.

Cowboy sophomore Coleman Scott continued his remarkable run through the consolation bracket at 125. Scott lost in the first round, but has now rattled off six straight wrestleback wins and with two more victories could place third Saturday.

Top seed Shawn Bunch of Edinboro failed to make it back to the finals at 133, suffering a stunning and decisive 9-2 loss to No. 5 seed Chris Fleeger of Purdue in the semifinals. Fleeger was a finalist at 125 three years ago.

"My strategy was to smother him and make sure to contain him," Fleeger said. "Every time he took a few steps back I would take two steps into him. He moves really well. I didn't want to give him back that room."

Top seed Nick Simmons of Michigan State dropped a 2-1 decision to true freshman Troy Nickerson of Cornell in the 125 semifinals. Dustin Schlatter also is a true freshman. Nickerson will meet defending champion Joe Dubuque of Indiana in the finals.

"Dubuque is as tough as nails," Nickerson said. "He proved that by getting to the finals again this year. I'm looking forward to the match."

So is Dubuque.

"(Nickerson) is a true freshman and a hell of a wrestler," Dubuque said. "He's got more to prove than me. I've already proved myself. Right now, if we wants to be an NCAA champion, he has to come through me. He's going to have to take the belt away from me."

Hendricks drew boos from many in the crowd when he was awarded a controversial stalling point late in his bout with American's Muzaffar Abdurakmanov. The point broke a 3-3 tie and gave Hendricks a 4-3 victory.

The puzzling call came after it looked like Hendricks was fleeing the mat after the senior from American shot in on a single-leg attempt.

"He was stalling - he wasn't doing anything," Hendricks said. "I outworked him the whole match from the very beginning to the very end. He knew he was down by a point and he still didn't doanything."

Hendricks was asked if the crowd loves him or hates him.

"There seems to be a lot more hate," he said. "I've got 13,000 hating me and 3,000 loving me. But you know, I don't know why. Whenever I'm out there, I'm having fun and wrestling my hardest. I go harder than anybody … Every time I win they boo me bad. I'd rather hear boos than cheers because I guess that means I won."

Two rematches of thrilling finals bouts from last year's tournament will take place again at 141 and heavyweight.

Oklahoma's second-ranked Teyon Ware (141) seeks his third national title when he meets No. 1 Nate Gallick of Iowa State in the finals. Ware edged Gallick last year in the final round.

"Ware's a tough competitor," Gallick said. "I'm just going to wrestle smart. If he does something different, I'm going to adjust. No matter how many times I beat him he's a threat."

The matches between Ware and Gallick have been low-scoring and strategic.

"A takedown is about all you need," Ware said. "We know each other so well, we've got good defense on both parts. I just have to keep moving."

At heavyweight, Mocco seeks his third title when he faces Konrad. Mocco has lost all three times to Konrad this year. Mocco, a four-time finalist, beat Konrad in overtime in last year's NCAA finals.

"I've got to scrap it out and get after it," Mocco said. "I need to come at him hard and keep the pressure on.