Wrestling

Bison Illustrated In Tulsa: Tying A Bow On The Big 12 Championships

On the final day in Tulsa, Bison wrestling continued their strong performance from the day before. We break down how the final four Bison fared against the rest of the Big 12.

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Photo By Nolan P. Schmidt

Gut-wrenching.

That is how I would describe today at the Big 12 Wrestling Championships for North Dakota State. By day’s end, the Bison had put two wrestlers in the runner-up slot on the podium with two others finishing sixth and third respectively.

It’s no secret that I lose my attempted objectivity when it comes to the wrestling program. I’ve gotten to know both student-athletes and coaches really well over the course of this season, more so than any other program on campus. So when I say there were multiple times where I felt like vomiting, it is not because of the amount of caffeine I’ve had over the last two days. I genuinely felt sick for those kids. I almost vomited during Andrew Fogarty’s match, no joke.

Anyway, besides my personal inklings, North Dakota State did perform well. While it did not end with the school’s first Big 12 champion, they still had a great showing and represented NDSU well.

Let’s breakdown what occurred on this full day in Tulsa.

Luke Weber

After dropping his semifinal match to Oklahoma’s Justin Thomas yesterday, Weber had an opportunity to capture third at 157 pounds. I was also told that had he won his consolation semifinal match and a consolation final match, he would have been in a true second-place match.

Unfortunately for Weber, he fell in the semifinal to Air Force’s Alex Mossing. Both wrestlers battled through the first two periods and it seemed as though a sudden victory period may be imminent. That was before Weber suffered a knee injury after Mossing twisted his knee in the opposite direction. For the rest of the match, it was clear Weber was in a significant amount of pain. Mossing took advantage and put the Nebraska transfer into the fifth-place match against Fresno State’s Jacob Wright.

Despite the injury, Weber put on a truly gutsy performance against Wright. While he ended up dropping the match by a score of 7-5, the match had to go into a sudden victory period followed by two tie-breaker periods. Weber was clearly in pain and had his knee heavily taped, yet he was able to stay competitive with Wright.

That being said, sixth place at a busy weight like 157 is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s clear that Weber has an extremely bright future with this program and will surely be in the Big 12 championship conversation next year and the following year. Add him to the list of phenomenal transfers brought in by Roger Kish.

Lorenzo De La Riva

I think De La Riva has flown under the radar to the casual fan, but he has had a pretty incredible run over the last few months. While he fell to Northern Iowa’s Taylor Lujan in the 174-pound quarterfinals yesterday, he wrestled his way back near the top of the weight’s leaderboard. Taking on Wyoming’s Hayden Hastings in the consolation semifinal, De La Riva was tactical and forced Hastings to wrestle his style. With the match tied at three points apiece heading into the third period, De La Riva needed an escape from bottom to grab the lead.

He did just that and was able to survive some ferocious takedown attempts by Hastings. While Hastings came close to a takedown in the final seconds of the match, he was not deemed in control. With the 4-3 victory, De La Riva automatically qualified for the NCAA Tournament at 174 pounds and notched is 25th win of the season, a team high. He also set up a battle with Utah Valley’s Kimball Bastian for third place with the victory. The two did not meet in the regular season meeting between the two teams as Bastian was given the day off.

Both Bastian and De La Riva were clearly tired as this match wore on. Yet, it did not stop them from attacking one another. De La Riva was up 1-0 heading into the third period. What ensued in the final two minutes was an onslaught of scoring from Lorenzo, as he picked up nine points over the course of the period. De La Riva sealed the deal with near fall points on Bastian, leading to a 10-5 decision victory and his 26th win of the year.

To rally the way De La Riva did over the last two days to capture third place is a demonstration in toughness, grit and resolve from the Cal State Bakersfield transfer. De La Riva is by no means the most physically imposing 174 and I think he would even admit that. However, he has shown time and time again that he can beat opponents with a sheer force of will, technical ability and grit. That alone makes him a real threat at the NCAA Tournament.

Brent Fleetwood

Out of the two Bison in the Big 12 finals tonight, Fleetwood got the toughest draw in two-time Big 12 champ Nick Piccininni of Oklahoma State. The redshirt junior was 29-0 coming into the match and was ranked the second-best 125-pounder in the country by FloWrestling.

That being said, I thought Fleetwood put up a hell of an effort against Piccininni, who ended up winning by decision 2-0 with a riding time point. The deciding factor was the third period. After Piccininni picked up an escape point in the second period, Fleetwood began the third frame on bottom. While he got to his feet on multiple occasions, he was unable to break free of Piccininni’s hold. He came close once, but the duo ended up out of bounds before Fleetwood broke free entirely. Considering he was not able to get loose, Picininni was able to get over a minute of riding time. At that juncture, Fleetwood needed an escape and a takedown to win. Unfortunately, there were only 30 seconds or so left in the match when Picininni reached the riding time criteria. That is a tough ask of any wrestler.

Never the less, I thought Fleetwood wrestled well against one of the best in the weight class. It’s not the result he wanted, but I still feel this tournament gives him some tremendous momentum heading into the NCAA Tournament. It is his highest finish at a conference tournament, though (previously, he finished third at the MAC Championships). Still, if you look at his docket, Brent Fleetwood has faced every top guy at 125 this season and has only lost four times, all to top-ranked opponents.

Sooner or later, that tide is going to turn for Brent. I think it happens in Pittsburgh.

Andrew Fogarty

Fogarty had a ton of momentum heading into tonight after his performance yesterday. However, so did Demetrius Romero, his opponent from Utah Valley. While Fogarty controlled the early part of this match, taking a 4-1 lead at one point, Romero was able to come out on top. He scored a takedown on Fogarty in a sudden victory period. It is the second consecutive season Fogarty has finished runner-up at 165.

I don’t have much to say because my stomach is in knots. You have to feel for a kid like Andrew, who has been so close each of the last two seasons. Ultimately, I think he may have used up all of his energy early in the match because he did look tired from the third period onward. Honestly, it just sucks. So, there is your analysis…

The one redeeming thing is that Fogarty’s season is not yet over. I have a hard time believing he won’t be ready in a few weeks for NCAAs.

I’m out, that’s a wrap from Tulsa. See you in Sioux Falls tomorrow, Bison fans.

Bison Illustrated In Tulsa: Tying A Bow On The Big 12 Championships
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