Looking to continue its ascension up multiple college wrestling polls around the nation, the No. 25-ranked Fresno State wrestling team battled a hard-fought season finale against No. 22 Oklahoma at the Save Mart Center on Sunday, Feb. 17.
The Bulldogs (9-8, 4-4 Big 12) came up short at the hands of the Sooners (8-6, 3-3 B12) 25-16 to end the season in front of a season-high crowd of 2,971 three weeks before. The Bulldogs travel to Tulsa, Okla. for the 2019 Big 12 Championships set to be held at the Bank of America Center on March 9-10.
The Bulldogs were able to keep the meet close for the first few matches, thanks in part to a 184-pound victory from No. 20-ranked Jack Hemauer, as he defeated Kayne MacCallum with a 9-1 major decision. Hemauer was able to get a decisive win using a take down and near fall in the first period, going up 6-0 and never looking back as he rode out the rest of the match for his fourth major decision of the season.
Heavyweight AJ Nevills was able to help regain the lead for the ‘Dogs as he got on the board, making quick work of opponent Jake Boyd in just 3:30. The victory was the fifth fall of the season for the No. 17-ranked Nevills and the 20th win of the season, moving his overall record to 20-6.
In a post-meet interview with Fresno State Athletics, ‘Dogs head coach Troy Steiner spoke highly of Nevills and his pin-fall victory, but had some critiques for the way he started the matchup.
“I did not like how he came out in the match and let the other guy control the ties. But once he got into a position he was comfortable with, he really got after it and attacked hard on top to turn him and get the fall,” Steiner said.
Riding high on a nine-match winning streak, No. 13 Josh Hokit came into Sunday’s meet looking to extend that number to double-digits, but came up short against No. 27-ranked Jake Woodley in a 3-1 decision. Woodley was able to knock off Hokit with a takedown in the final seconds of a decisive third period, giving Hokit just his fourth loss of his junior campaign.
Despite early success, Oklahoma would take four of the next five matches, with the lone Bulldog victory coming from redshirt freshman Gary Joint, who won a 2-0 decision over Anthony Madrigal in the 133-pound weight class. The victory cut the Sooners’ lead down to 14-13, and that would be the closest the match would be for the rest of the meet.
With an insurmountable lead, the Bulldogs were able to win the final match of the evening as 165-pounder Isaiah Hokit received the decision over Jeremy Thomas with a score of 3-0. Hokit’s victory brought the score to 25-16, as the Bulldogs finished their regular season on a losing note.
Coach Troy Steiner described his thoughts on the Bulldogs’ effort against Oklahoma and how he felt the Bulldogs needed to start the meet off in his post-meet interview.
“I thought we wrestled Oklahoma’s tempo and pace of the match, and I told our guys we have to come in and set the tone early and wrestle our pace and our tempo and we didn’t do that at certain weights,” Steiner said. “At other weights, we did not stay disciplined and just have to stay disciplined in certain positions.”
Despite the loss, the Bulldogs will now have a few weeks to prepare for the Big 12 Championships happening March 9 and 10 in Tulsa, as they look to capitalize on their efforts this season and make a splash at the tournament.