NORMAN — Oklahoma wrestling coach Mark Cody sees Keldrick Hall as a top-five guy. If he can only get Keldrick Hall to think of Keldrick Hall as a top-five guy.
Perhaps Saturday night will help.
Though OU got out to a 13-point lead over longtime conference rival Iowa State, when Hall stepped on the mat the Sooners were clinging to a one-point edge with just three bouts left on the card.
In the end, thanks also to Cody Brewer, who anchored OU this night at Howard McCasland Field House, the Sooners emerged 19-15 victors. But if Hall hadn’t taken down Cyclone heavyweight Cole Shafer with a second remaining in the third period the Sooners would have lost.
It’s like that sometimes on the mat: a two-point takedown with one second remaining can create a six-point swing on the scoreboard and be the difference in the dual.
“I’ve been trying to find my way,” said Hall, who grappled at 197 last season and has an agility edge on just about every heavyweight he faces. “I’ve been thinking a lot. I knew I could take him down, but I just waited and waited. And then he took me down.”
Shafer last scored by gaining control of Hall with 1:07 seconds remaining. Nineteen seconds later, Hall escaped, yet still trailed 3-2. In the end, getting his arms wrapped around Shafer’s body, Hall powered the Cyclone to the mat, simultaneously keeping the action inbounds.
Cody hopes the final flourish propels Hall toward being the wrestler he’s shown the potential of becoming. He also hopes the way Hall pulled victory from the jaws of defeat doesn’t become a habit.
“He didn’t commit to anything until the last 15 seconds of the match,” Cody said.
“I just want to keep wrestling and building off matches like this,” he said.
That might go for the whole team, because while Cody liked winning a lot more than losing — “The only thing worse than beating a good friend is losing to a good friend,” he said, referring to Iowa State coach Kevin Jackson — he wasn’t wild about how the Sooners came back from the Midlands Championships, held Dec. 29-30 in Evanston, Ill.
The Sooners finished third behind Illinois and Virginia Tech and picked up individual titles from Kendric Maple at 141 pounds and Bubby Graham at 165.
Cody rewarded the effort with three days off. In retrospect, he believes some on his roster let their weight creep up and, forced to cut the weight before Sunday, were not themselves.
“We have to do a better job of keeping our legs under us,” Cody said.
It’s a lesson, at least, that won’t have to be taught by a defeat.
After Hall emerged victorious, Iowa State’s 19th-ranked Ryan Finch topped OU 125-pounder Kyle Garcia 2-0, making the team score 16-15 Sooners.
That put it all on Brewer, OU’s 133-pounder
He trailed momentarily, 2-1, but a reversal with a minute remaining in the second period put him up for good. A late takedown made him a 6-4 winner.
The Sooners opened with a 12-0 major decision from Maple, ranked No. 1 at 141, who avenged his first loss of last season by topping Iowa State’s Luke Goettl.
Getting wins from Nick Lester, Matt Lester and Graham at 149, 157 and 165, OU led 13-0. The Cyclones stormed back and were in position to win until Hall got his last-second takedown.
“He needed to get a win,” Cody said.
Just in time.
Clay HorningFollow me @email@example.com