ST. LOUIS -- If Thursday’s first session was any indication, Ohio State’s Logan Stieber and Oklahoma State’s Alex Dieringer may have a team race of their own -- for the Outstanding Wrestler award.
Stieber, a senior 141-pounder, needed just 3:33 to dismantle Princeton’s Jordan Laster 18-1. The Cowboys’ Dieringer flattened Southern Illinois-Edwardsville’s Connor McMahon in 4:33 of a 165-pound bout.
The victory for Stieber, a three-time NCAA champion, was his 25th against no defeats this season. For Dieringer, a junior who won a national title last March, it was victory number 30.“This tournament is about taking it one match at a time,” Stieber said. “It goes by so fast. I’m sure in a month, a year, or ten years, I’ll look back and really think about it, but for now I’m just living in the moment and having a great time.”
Dieringer echoed Stieber’s thoughts.
“One at a time,” said Dieringer, who takes a 96-4 record into his match with North Carolina State’s Max Rhoskopf. Stieber, who is 115-3, meets West Virginia’s Mike Morales.
Oklahoma State leads the pack with 15 Outstanding Wrestler selections since the tournament starting giving the honor in 1932. The first Cowboy to win, however, was Pat Smith in 1994, who finished his career with four national titles.
Stieber is attempting to join Smith, Iowa State’s Cael Sanderson (1999-2002) and Cornell’s Kyle Dake (2010-2013) as the only people to win four national titles and would be the Buckeyes' first OW recipient.
There were plenty of highly-touted individuals who did not survive the first-round gauntlet.
Iowa, in search of its first title since 2010, suffered a pair of body blows. Three-seeded heavyweight Bobby Telford took a loss -- for just the fourth time in 31 matches -- to Maryland’s Spencer Myers, a senior and All-American in 2011. Josh Dziewa, the five seed at 141 pounds, lost to North Carolina State’s Kevin Jack.
By the time the round was over, Iowa, No. 1 for most of the season, won six bouts and lost four.
Ohio State, co-champions with Iowa at the Big Ten Championships, holds a narrow 2-point lead against 2014 champion Penn State entering Thursday’s second session. The Buckeyes pushed seven into the second round, including 184-pounder Kenny Courts, who knocked off six seed Hayden Zilmer of North Dakota State. OSU’s Josh Demas won a head-to-head battle with Iowa’s Mike Kelly at 157 pounds.
Home-standing Missouri, behind an energetic Scottrade Center crowd, had a solid opening round. Despite fourth-seeded Jon Eblen falling at 174 pounds, MU kept seven in the winner’s bracket. Head coach Brian Smith got a boost when 184-pounder Willie Miklus pinned Penn’s Lorenzo Thomas, the No. 10 seed in 2:16.
“There’s still plenty of work to do,” Smith said. “This tournament is going to be three days. Tonight it gets tougher.”
Missouri is tied with Cornell behind the Buckeyes and Penn State, who won all seven first round bouts. The Nittany Lions have won the past four NCAA titles.
Iowa, Michigan, and Nebraska are tied for fifth with Oklahoma State, Illinois, and Virginia Tech rounding out the top 10.
The Cowboys went 7-2 in the first round, while the Hokies, sparked by Sal Mastriano’s 13-11 overtime win at 149 pounds, kept six alive in the winner’s bracket. Michigan and Nebraska also had six winners.
It did not take long for the craziness to start.
The 125-pound bracket saw the Nos. 16, 9 and 8 seeds all lose within a few moments. Wyoming senior Tyler Cox, an All-American in 2013, had the unfortunate task of opening with two-time NCAA champion Jesse Delgado of Illinois. Delgado was injured much of the season and brought at 9-3 standard into his final tournament.
“Seedings don’t matter,” said Delgado. “It’s about winning five matches. When I was seeded first I didn’t think where my opponent was seeded.”
At 133 pounds, Edinboro’s A.J. Schopp, a two-time All-American, entered the week less than 100 percent. He lost to Penn’s Caleb Richardson in the opening session.
The injury bug also bit Oklahoma State’s Josh Kindig and Ohio State’s Hunter Stieber this year. Kindig, unseeded after advancing to the 2014 NCAA finals at 149 pounds, lost 7-0 to Edinboro’s David Habat, while Stieber, with both elbows taped up, lost a 9-7 decision to Hofstra’s Cody Ruggirello.
Iowa State did not have a good opening session. Senior Mike Moreno, a senior seeded second at 165 pounds, lost to Nebraska’s Austin Wilson. Two of Moreno’s three losses this season came to Dieringer. Of the seven Cyclones in St. Louis, only two -- All-Americans Earl Hall and Kyven Gadson -- won matches Thursday afternoon.