DES MOINES — A day before leaving for the NCAA wrestling tournament, Oklahoma wrestling coach Mark Cody said he thought his gang of five qualifiers could bring home a top-five finish.
That may be difficult, but his band of Sooners still enjoyed a pretty good day as the national meet opened up Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
After two rounds on the mats, OU’s in ninth place with 13 1/2 team points behind Penn State (32 1/2), Oklahoma state (29), Minnesota (24), Iowa (22), Oregon State (16), Ohio State (14 1/2) and Nebraska (13).
Two Sooners can still win a national championship, while three others remain alive in the wrestleback brackets, two of them after winning the first of their two bouts Thursday.
Second-seed 141-pounder Kendric Maple garnered a 13-1 major decision over Maryland’s Frank Goodwin to begin the day and followed it up by pinning Northern Iowa’s Joey Lazor in 2:42, setting up a quarterfinal match against Iowa’s Mark Ballweg, the seventh seed.
A good sign for Maple, he had already met Lazor Jan. 18 in Cedar Falls, winning a 6-3 decision.
Also wrestling in today’s quarterfinal round is 133-pounder Cody Brewer, who began by moving past Utah Valley’s Josh Wilson with a 4-3 decision. Brewer won the late session, stopping the No. 9 seed, Northern Iowa’s Levin Wolfensperger, 11-2.
The only Sooner to suffer an upset was 165-pounder Bubby Graham, the No. 6 seed.
Graham began with a 15-3 major decision over Rider’s Ramon Santiago but was stopped 4-3 by Iowa’s Cody Yohn, the No. 11 seed.
Nick Lester, OU’s unseeded 149-pounder, began with a 4-3 decision over Utah Valley’s Josh Wilson before falling to Boise State’s Jason Chamberlain, the second seed, 14-5.
Matt Lester, unseeded at 157 pounds, was OU’s only first-round loser, dropping a 5-4 decision to Air Force’s Joshuan Kreimer, before an 8-2 win over Rutgers’ Scott Winston.
Graham and both Lesters can still finish as high as third place in their weight brackets, while Maple and Brewer can earn spots in Saturday’s national round with two wins today.