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OU wrestling: No. 19 Sooners drop 6 bouts, can't overcome No. 11 Arizona State in 20-12 season-opening loss

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Justin Thomas

Then-redshirt junior Justin Thomas during the match against Iowa State Feb. 9.

In what was supposed to be one of the biggest bouts of Oklahoma’s home opener Friday night, junior Tony Madrigal came out looking gassed and could never overcome the strength of Michael McGee.

Ranked matchups weren't hard to come by at Norman’s McCasland Field house, as there were four total bouts between ranked opponents and 12 total ranked wrestlers who competed Friday. But the battle between No. 10 Madrigal and No. 12 McGee at 133 pounds, which OU head coach Lou Rosselli had labeled as a key matchup coming into the dual, didn’t pan out in the Sooners’ favor.

McGee defeated Madrigal, 13-3, to give No. 11 Arizona State (2-0) an 8-0 lead early, and the Sun Devils held off No. 19 Oklahoma (0-1), 20-12, in the Sooners’ opening dual.

“(Madrigal) had no energy,” Rosselli said. “It wasn’t even close. They were in different stratospheres.”

The Sooners started off slow, as redshirt senior Mason Naifeh fell to No. 5 Brandon Courtney, 10-2, in the 125 bout, followed by McGee’s dominant upset of Madrigal.

Despite the sluggish start, OU ended the first half with big wins. At 141, No. 6 redshirt junior Dom Demas defeated No. 23 Peter Lipari, 2-1 in overtime. No. 13 junior transfer Mitch Moore beat Cory Crooks, 4-3, at 149.

To finish out the opening period, No. 16 redshirt senior Justin Thomas notched a huge 6-2 upset win over No. 10 Jacori Teemer to give OU a 9-8 lead at the break. Oklahoma looked poised for a comeback win despite its previous lack of energy, and the strange atmosphere. Only those on a pass list were allowed into the meet due to COVID-19.

“It’s obviously different now with less fans,” Thomas said. “I just get in that mentality of just not thinking about the fans and I can just wrestle.

“It’s really important to get that first win, just to get that ball rolling, the mentality of staying on that winner’s column.”

Oklahoma’s lead wouldn’t last, however, as the Sun Devils won four of five matches in the second half. No. 6 redshirt junior Anthony Mantanona was upset by unranked Trey Munoz, 8-3, at 174 pounds, and redshirt freshman Josh Heindselman fell to Cohlton Schultz at heavyweight, 3-2.

Perhaps the most competitive bout of the night came at 197 pounds, as No. 8 Kordell Norfleet narrowly escaped with a win over No. 13 redshirt junior Jake Woodley via the riding time tie-breaker.

“When they deleted the riding time, the riding time is actually cumulative,” Rosselli said. “(Woodley) probably would’ve won by one second if they wouldn’t have erased everything. His effort was through the roof.”

Some other bright spots for OU came from unranked wrestlers. In the 184 pound bout, sophomore Darrien Roberts defeated Cade Belshay, 4-1, and in the 165 bout, redshirt freshman Jake Stiles made his collegiate debut, battling No. 5 Anthony Valencia to the final seconds. Valencia would win the bout 3-1.

“He’s going to get better,” Rosselli said of Stiles. “I was pleased with his effort. He put himself in a position to win a high-profile match.”

Arizona State got its second victory of the season after beating Little Rock on Jan. 2. Meanwhile, the Sooners will return to action on Jan. 17 in Morgantown against Bucknell and West Virginia.

“I’m not satisfied,” Thomas said. “We’ll get back next week and we’ll have another chance to prove ourselves.” 

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