Who: #17 UNI (5-4, 5-0) vs #2 Oklahoma State (10-0, 6-0)
Where: Gallagher-Iba Arena | Stillwater, OK
When: 7 PM Friday, February 1, 2019
Tomorrow night the University of Northern Iowa wrestling squad makes it’s second trip to Stillwater, Oklahoma in two years, as they take on #2 Oklahoma State in a Big 12 dual. The matchup between the two schools features the final conference opponents to go undefeated in Conference action. The Panthers have two Big 12 opponents left in Utah Valley and Iowa State, while the Cowboys have only Air Force.
Back to Friday, the dual looks to be a little one-sided, as Oklahoma State brings in nine ranked wrestlers, with five in the top five. Where UNI has ranked wrestlers at 149 and 174, the Cowboys counter with smaller numbers by their name. What that means for Max Thomsen and Taylor Lujan is they have an opportunity to get their hands on a pair of the best wrestlers in the nation in Kaden Gfeller and Joseph Smith.
Lujan is the defending Big 12 champion, but Smith has run through 174 pounds this year, going 14-1 with the 1 being a 5-1 loss to Mark Hall. Smith redshirted last year, but the junior is a two-time All-American, placing fourth in 2017 and seventh in 2016, both times at 157 pounds. This match isn’t as important as a potential rematch in the Big 12 championship, as the two seem destined to meet on Sunday night in Tulsa in a month, but a win here will put Lujan back into the national conversation of who is the top of the tier not named Hall, Valencia, and Lewis.
Thomsen’s opponent, Gfeller, only has two losses on the season, both to undefeated wrestlers in Matt Kolodzik and Anthony Ashnault. The freshman vaulted to the top five of 149 pounds this season by winning the both the Reno Tournament of Champions and the Southern Scuffle. Thomsen is going to have to find his offense, like he did against Alec Pantaleo in the semifinals of The Midlands, if he wants to take down Gfeller. Thomsen has some head-scratching losses this year and whether or not it’s a mental or a physical issue doesn’t really matter at this point: he needs a big win like this on his resume to boost his NCAA seed.
Josh Alber will look to get the Panthers off to a good start where they are favored. Number 12 Kaid Brock will attempt to derail Alber, who is himself on a 12-match winning streak. Alber has shown in his last few matches that he’s a very patient wrestler and he’s not going to panic if he gets down early, as evidenced by his 4-3 win over Jaydin Eierman in Missouri two weeks ago.
Bryce Steiert will need to avoid the upset bid by usual-157-pound wrestle Andrew Shomers. Shomers is filling in at 165 as Chandler Rogers is dealing with a shoulder injury and is just 2-3 at the higher weight.
One of the most interesting matches of the night will come at 184 pounds, where number six Drew Foster will take on number nine Jacobe Smith. Smith, some may remember, beat Taylor Lujan in the bloodround of the NCAA tournament last season 10-8, after having lost to Lujan 10-7 at the Big 12 Championships. Smith is a big, physical wrestler, and I can’t remember Foster having wrestled someone like him this season.
It would be great for Paden Moore if he could pull off the “upset” at 157 pounds, just to help get him back on the right track after coming back from injury. Moore is just 3-3 on the season and 1-1 in his two dual matches, and while a win over a backup isn’t as good as a win over a ranked wrestler at this point any win is good for Moore.
As for the rest, it would be over-the-moon-fantastic if any of them could pull off an upset win. If Tyrell Gordon has found his offense he’d be the most likely to get a win, but at this point he has shown little and less in that category. As it stands Carter Isley and Jay Schwarm might be tied for the next most likely, as Schwarm is funky at (mostly) the right times and Isley has looked nothing short of fantastic (and BIG) since coming back from a knee injury. Jack Skudlarczyk has the chance to pull off one of the biggest upsets in UNI history has he takes on number two Dayton Fix.
The dual gets started at 7 PM Friday night and while we won’t actually be in Stillwater, check out our Twitter for live updates and we’ll have a Rapid Recap after the dual is done with all the results.
125: Jay Schwarm
133: Jack Skudlarczyk
141: #3 Josh Alber
149: #10 Max Thomsen
157: Paden Moore
165: #9 Bryce Steiert
174: #8 Taylor Lujan
184: #6 Drew Foster
197: Tyrell Gordon
285: Carter Isley
#2 Oklahoma State
125: #4 Nick Piccininni
133: #2 Dayton Fix
141: #12 Kaid Brock
149: #5 Kaden Gfeller
157: Wyatt Sheets or Jonce Blaylock
165: #19 Andrew Shomers (ranked at 157)
174: #5 Joseph Smith
184: #9 Jacobe Smith
197: #11 Dakota Geer
285: #3 Derek White