STILLWATER, Okla. ― Most wrestling types outside a small wrestling room in Raleigh, N.C., probably would have laughed if you had told them an early-December meeting with the nation’s preseason No. 1 inside Gallagher Iba Arena would result in a Wolfpack victory.
North Carolina State is the only one laughing now.
The Wolfpack, ranked 13th entering Sunday’s dual meet with No. 4 Oklahoma State, won the final three bouts and left Stillwater with a 19-15 win in front of just over 3,000. It marked N.C. State’s first victory in seven tries against OSU, but the significance was much larger for fourth-year head coach Pat Popolizio.
“The first time you do anything to this level it is a breakthrough for a program,” said Popolizio, who wrestled at Oklahoma State from 1997 to 2002. “Both teams were missing some guys, and we knew coming in here it was going to be tough. We had some guys really step up to the plate; there were a lot of matches that could have gone either way.
“Historically, (NC State) has been a program that has had success. It’s dropped off, but maybe this is the start to getting us back to where we need to be.”
The Wolfpack finished 16th at the 2015 NCAA Championships, the best showing since earning seventh in 1993. There were many contributions on Sunday in a dual that saw N.C. State win six bouts.
Jamal Morris (3-0) had 6:17 of riding time in a 4-0 win over Brian Crutchmer at 133 pounds. Sam Melikian (5-2) used a pair of takedowns to beat backup Davey Dolan, 5-2, at 149 pounds. Dolan filled in for Anthony Collica, who injured an ankle in his last outing. Tommy Gantt (3-0) routed Chance Marsteller, 18-6, at 157 pounds to put the visitors up 10-6. Gantt had five takedowns and a near fall in a dominant second period.
Like last week, in a 20-17 win over Minnesota, the Cowboys’ 1-2 punch of Alex Dieringer (7-0) and Kyle Crutchmer (7-0) brought the Gallagher Iba crowd to life. Dieringer moved his win streak to 56 win a :29 pin at 165 pounds and Crutchmer followed with a tough 7-2 victory over Max Roskopf at 174 pounds. Roskopf is ranked among the top 10 at 165 pounds, but could not solve a confident Crutchmer in a match that saw the hosts build its lead to 15-10.
The rest of the afternoon belonged to the visitors.
The match of the dual followed at 184 pounds where Pete Renda (5-0) won a wild 9-8 decision over Nolan Boyd. Renda turned a scramble into a 4-0 lead early, then scored a big takedown with under :05 left in the second period for a 7-4 lead. The final two minutes got December crazy as Boyd turned Renda for two to cut the lead to one only to see the Wolfpack junior reverse for a 9-6 lead. Boyd escaped for 9-7 and official Josh Briscoe hit Renda for stalling late for the wild 9-8 outcome.
“That was crazy, not exactly what I had planned,” said Renda, a native of Pennsylvania. “It was a wild match. I tried to keep my composure.
“I gave up those two back points, so I tried to catch my breath. I wasn’t going to go down like that in the third period. I had to find a way to win that match … it’s kind of hard to remember exactly what happened, but I just knew I had to keep my composure the best I could. The reversal was big.”
Renda’s win drew the visitors to 15-13 and Michael Boykin’s tough 3-2 win over Austin Schafer at 197 pounds put the outcome into perhaps the best closer in collegiate wrestling.
Nick Gwiazdowski brought a 63-match win streak into Sunday. He made it 64 with a 7-4 win over the fourth-ranked heavyweight in the country, Austin Marsden. Two first period takedowns and a nice counter into a third two pointer in the final minutes gave the reigning NCAA champion a 7-4 victory and pushed the Wolfpack’s record to 9-0 this season.
“This is my fifth year with (Coach Popolizio) and we’ve been close to beating some really good teams,” Gwiazdowski (9-0) said. “Big matches like this, it means even more when you’ve got a couple thousand people rooting against you.
“It was a big dual meet for us because we knew we had the guys to get this done. Coach (Popolizio), this is his fourth year here, and you can see what he is building.”
“We have a great staff and (Coach Popolizio) and Coach (Obe) Blanc come from (Oklahoma State) so they know what it takes to compete at a high level,” Renda added. “They are recruiting good guys and are building something again. They know the work it takes and our guys have really bought into it.”
Having Gwiazdowski at the end is always nice for a head coach.
“You feel good at the end, but you realize just how good (Marsden) is,” Popolizio said. “That could be the national finals, so it was a tough match. Getting those two takedowns in the first period were big, but it was still a battle in the third period. Nick (Gwiazdowski) is part of what we are building (at N.C. State). He’s a leader on this team .”
For the Cowboys (2-2) it was another average performance for a team predicted to compete for a national championship in March.
“The lineup is not good,” OSU head coach John Smith said. “The team that we put out today is going to have a hard time beating anyone. Overall, it was an ugly match from our part. Chemistry-wise, something isn’t working, so that is something that I am going to work on.
“I am going to have to make sure that people stepping out and wrestling hard recognize that today was unacceptable and we just have to get better from it.”
All-American Eddie Klimara (10-1) scrapped out an overtime victory over NCSU rookie Sean Fausz at 125 pounds. Fausz appeared headed to the upset, but a third period reversal tied the bout at 3-3 with 16 seconds remaining. A poor shot from Fausz resulted in a Klimara counter and a 5-3 win midway through the one-minute overtime.
In a battle of two All-Americans at 141 pounds, Dean Heil (7-0) edged Kevin Jack, 10-8, at 141 pounds. The two top-ranked men traded takedowns in the first and the Cowboy sophomore led 6-5 entering the final period where a Heil takedown with 30 seconds left proved the difference.
“All week I’ve pondered re-watching last year’s match against him just to see if there was anything I wanted to work on and I ended up not watching it,” said Heil, who lost to Jack in last season’s dual meeting in Raleigh. “It has been many months since then and we’ve both improved in certain areas. Instead I watched a few matches from this year so I had an idea from that and he did change. I knew where I could go in my offense and I pulled off three takedowns to get the win.”
Oklahoma State travels to Norman next Sunday for a dual with an improved Oklahoma squad. Popolizio’s bunch, most likely a member of the top 10 in the next NWCA poll, faces Grand Canyon (Ariz.) in its next action.
No. 13 North Carolina State 19, No. 4 Oklahoma State 15
125-Eddie Klimara (O) dec Sean Fausz, 5-3 OT
133-Jamal Morris (N) dec Brian Crutchmer, 4-0
141-Dean Heil (O) dec Kevin Jack, 10-8
149-Sam Melikian (N) dec Davey Dolan, 5-2
157-Sam Gantt (N) maj dec Chance Marsteller, 18-6
165-Alex Dieringer (O) pin Stacy Davis, :29
174-Kyle Crutchmer (O) dec Max Roskopf, 7-2
184-Pete Renda (N) dec Nolan Boyd, 9-8
197-Michael Boykin (N) dec Austin Schafer, 3-2
285-Nick Gwiazdowski (N) dec Austin Marsden, 7-4