DES MOINES, Iowa -- Oklahoma State decided Penn State needed a challenger to its throne.

The tradition-rich Cowboys pushed seven to Friday morning’s quarterfinals and showed that another trophy in State College, Pa., is not going to come easily.

Cowboys head coach John Smith
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“As we get into [Friday] things get tougher,” said Oklahoma State head coach John Smith, whose squad of 10 totaled 29 points on the first day of competition and trails Penn State by 3.5 points. “We had two big wins … actually we had a lot of big wins [Thursday]. Any time you can turn around a loss, that is big. And to me, Julian Feikert coming back to win a big match for us after losing earlier ... that is what we are going to need, everybody winning matches, scoring points.”

Penn State won seven of 11 matches in the first session, but the bonus-point train kicked into gear Thursday night. Matt Brown, David Taylor and Ed Ruth all scored falls to move to the quarterfinals, joining teammates Nico Megaludis, Dylan Alton and Quentin Wright.

Bryan Pearsall also got into the act, picking up a major decision in a 141-pound wrestleback. Andrew Alton rebounded after a first-round loss, picking up a first-period pin at 149 pounds.

At the end of the first day of carnage, Penn State scored 32.5 points. The field, including Minnesota (24) and Iowa (22), will try and chase down the leaders during the next two days.

The Cowboys got a big lift from 197-pounder Blake Rosholt, who avenged a Big 12 tournament loss to Iowa State’s Kyven Gadson. A five-point move early gave Rosholt, the younger brother of three-time NCAA champion Jake, a cushion that he held on to in the final minutes to win 8-7.

Jordan Oliver remained unbeaten at 149 pounds, freshman Alex Dieringer (157), Tyler Caldwell (165), Chris Perry (174) and Alan Gelogaev (285) also won twice on the first day. Perry, the top seed at 174 pounds, won two tough decisions, while Gelogaev followed an 18-second pin in the opening session with a 34-second flattening in the evening session.

Minnesota did not have the type of day it was hoping for, pushing five to the quarters led by 2012 champion Tony Nelson. The Gophers saw two All-Americans, Dylan Ness (149) and Kevin Steinhaus (184), both suffer upset losses in the evening session.

“We took a couple of losses in the quarterfinals we didn’t expect, but those guys have an opportunity to come back and take third,” said Nelson, who faces All-American Jarod Trice on Friday morning. “We are right in this thing, still.

“The first day is big for bonus points, and I was able to pick up a pin. Those extra two points add up all week.”

Despite the up-and-down day, the Gophers know a solid Friday can change things in a hurry.

“Whatever round you are in is the most important,” Minnesota assistant coach Brandon Eggum said. “It’s always nice to pick up those bonus points when you can and not just because everybody is chasing Penn State. There are four or five teams in this thing that can score a lot of points.”

Iowa kept six in the championship bracket, led by 133-pound fireball Tony Ramos, who had a pair of pins on the first day. Matt McDonough (125), Mark Ballweg (141), Derek St. John (157), Mike Evans (174) and Luke Lofthouse (184) all won twice, Lofthouse beating Steinhaus with a late third-period takedown. Lofthouse was an All-American in 2012 at 174 pounds.

“It’s 1-1, there’s nothing to lose,” Lofthouse said. “Go to the legs. My main focus is to just finish and finish quick.

“Before the match even starts, in my head I’ve already won. Then the crowd gets behind you and it makes you feel good.”

The Hawkeyes did take a blow when All-American heavyweight Bobby Telford injury-defaulted in the second round.

As anticipated, the separation between the top four and everybody else is significant -- at least after the first day. Fifth-place Oregon State has 16 points with Missouri, Ohio State, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Boise State and Cornell all within four points of head coach Jim Zalesky’s Beavers.

Friday morning, as usual, will determine who is going to hang around.

Missouri's Drake Houdashelt takes out Minnesota's Dylan Ness.
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Unseeded and unknown
Winning a national championship as an unseeded wrestler does not happen often. In fact, not since 1994 when Oklahoma State’s Mark Branch won the 167-pound championship has it been done. Ten years ago, Pittsburgh’s Carl Fronhofer advanced to the title bout at 174 pounds but lost to Oklahoma’s Robbie Waller.

The first step is winning two matches on Thursday.

The 149-pound bracket is sure to have at least an unseeded wrestler among the final eight thanks to Missouri’s Drake Houdeshelt and American’s Kevin Tao.

Houdeshelt, a sophomore, had a day to remember. It opened with a win against Andrew Alton in the 149-pound bracket. A few hours later, Houdeshelt (30-9) knocked off 2012 NCAA runner-up Ness.

Tao beat third-seeded Donnie Vinson of Binghamton in an overtime tiebreaker to start his day. He finished it with a win against Navy’s Raymond Borja.

Appalachian State’s Dominic Parisi, a sophomore 125-pounder, opened the tournament with a win against fifth-seeded Jarrod Garnett of Virginia Tech. On Thursday night he followed it up with a victory against 12th-seeded Tyler Cox of Wyoming. Parisi gets second-seeded Megaludis in the quarterfinals.

Three wrestlers in the 157-pound quarters are unseeded: Northern Iowa’s David Bonin, Boise State’s George Ivanov and Ohio State’s Josh Demas.

Hometown favorite Tanner Weatherman of Iowa State won twice Thursday, including what may have been the match of the tournament thus far, a 16-14 roller-coaster against Illinois’ Jordan Blanton.

Pittsburgh’s Max Thomuseitt beat the ninth and eighth seeds Thursday. He will test top-seed Ruth on Friday morning.