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The Antelope

Central Oklahoma squeaks by Lopers in heavyweight matchup

No. 1 Central Oklahoma traveled to No. 3 UNK on Saturday for a much-anticipated wrestling matchup at the Health and Sports Center. The Bronchos came away with the win 18-17 in a dual that featured many painstakingly close matches. 

With the Lopers up 17-15, it all came down to the 285-pound matchup between mid-year Purdue transfer Shawn Streck of Central and UNK’s Lee Herrington. Streck took a 3-2 lead early in the third period, which forced Herrington to make a takedown to win. Herrington was unable to make a successful move and Streck countered with a takedown himself to win the match.

“When you look at big-time duals at any level it’s going to come down to three or four matches at any level that are very even and can come down to one takedown or one action,” said UNK coach Dalton Jensen. “They came out ahead on a couple of those close ones and that was definitely the difference.”

UNK’s biggest upset of the day was at 184 pounds when Billy Higgins defeated top-ranked Heath Gray. Higgins earned a two-point takedown in the second period and was able to hold on for the 3-2 win. Higgins switched weights recently with Austin Eldredge at 174 pounds and UNK is starting to see the benefits of that move. 

“That was big,” Jensen said. “That was good for Billy’s confidence. Now seeing where Billy’s at 184 and just taking down the returning National Champ. So far it looks like it’s panning out but we won’t know until March.”

Central Oklahoma got a few clutch overtime wins. Nate Keim was able to get a takedown in overtime to beat UNK’s Nick James at 141. Brik Filippo also recorded a takedown to beat UNK’s Sam Turner in overtime at 149. After a win by Ty Lucas over Jacob Wasser at 157, Central Oklahoma had a 12-4 lead over UNK.

UNK secured two technical fall victories with Matt Malcom beating Hunter Jump at 165 and Eldredge beating Tre’Vaugn Craig at 174. These wins allowed the Lopers to reclaim the lead, 14-12, midway through the match.

“I figured there’s a couple of matches on each side where they have some studs and we have some studs,” Jensen said. “I didn’t think we were gonna be out of any matches. On paper, you might say we’d lose at 184 and probably win at 149. Those two kind of offset each other so you’re left with a bunch of other matches that were going to be decided by a point or so. They came out on more of those than we did.”

Wesley Dawkins was the only other Loper to record a win at 133 over Studd Morris. Paxton Rosen at 125 and Dalton Abney at 197 won for Central Oklahoma. 

UNK took on No. 24 Newman on Monday night winning the dual 49-0. The Lopers will travel to Fort Hays State for a dual on Friday in their last match before the NCAA Super Regionals on Feb. 26 in Grand Junction, Colorado.

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GRANT TIGHE, Sports Editor
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