STILLWATER — Oklahoma State coach John Smith was still steaming by the time he made the walk from the north side of Gallagher-Iba Arena, where the wrestling room is, to the south side, where he held his post-match press conference on Sunday afternoon.
Smith’s fourth-ranked Cowboys had just finished off a 26-9 win over No. 15 Lehigh, but the one-sided score hardly reflected how the coach felt his wrestlers performed.
“I didn’t think we wrestled well at all,” Smith said. “I thought we wrestled really soft. I’ve been too soft on this group.
“Not saying that (Lehigh) didn’t compete at several weights and didn’t put some fight out there. They did that. But we had a little bit of a tendency to do the bare minimum. Trying to get out of matches without maybe — some matches we didn’t even score points.”
The Cowboys had three bonus-point victories, with Daton Fix pinning his opponent 1:34 into the 133-pound match, and Dakota Geer (184) and A.J. Ferrari (197) adding major decisions.
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But it wasn’t enough to cool Smith’s frustrations with his team, which has some more challenging duals ahead in the next three weeks, including one with second-ranked Iowa on Feb. 12.
Smith had a stern message for his team after the victory that improved OSU’s record to 10-0.
“You probably got the simmered down version of it,” Geer told the media after Smith spoke. “We were going through it up there. Understandably, though. You can’t take it in a negative way. He just wants the best out of the guys. You’ve got to take it in a positive light, understand what he’s saying. He can get a little fired up. You’ve got to understand what he’s trying to say to you.
“He means the best. He’s on your side. He’s trying to get you to wrestle the best you can.”
The Cowboys got off to a strong start, with 125-pounder Trevor Mastrogiovanni earning a 5-1 decision over Lehigh’s Jaret Lane, which was followed by Fix’s pin. But OSU went into a lull from that point, including back-to-back losses at 157 and 165, where Jalin Harper was wrestling up a weight class in place of injured starter Travis Wittlake.
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Smith used the word “minimum” in describing the effort of several of his wrestlers on Sunday, but acknowledged that his disappointment centers around their intensity on the mat, not their talent.
“Get a little fight out there, and we just did the minimum,” Smith said. “Sometimes you just need to recognize that it’s a little too soft in the room. It kind of exposes you for maybe who you are right now.
“This is not some of the teams that we’ve been competing against. This is a different team, so you bring a different level to the mat, and it just didn’t seem like we wanted to do that today. It looked like we worked toward doing the bare minimum in trying to win matches.”
Smith feels this could be a critical turning point for a team with big goals down the stretch of the regular season.
“I think it really gives us a better look at who we are, rather than who we want to be or who we think we are,” Smith said. “I think we saw who we are today. And it’s OK. We need to move forward from it.
“We need to recognize that as we approach next weekend, there needs to be a sense of urgency, our intensity needs to come up and we’ve got to work harder to score points. Much harder.”
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Up next, the Cowboys have a two-dual weekend, with Northern Iowa coming to Stillwater at 7 p.m. Saturday and Iowa State at 2 p.m. next Sunday. After that, the Cowboys have duals with South Dakota State, Missouri and Iowa in the following weeks.
“I think this is gonna be a big week of trying to iron out some of the flaws we’ve had, work through those and get ready for these next matches,” Geer said. “We’ve still got a while until Big 12s and nationals, but being prepared for these matches coming up and making statements against those guys can do a lot for the team come Big 12s and nationals.”
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At Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater
OKLAHOMA STATE 26, LEHIGH 9
125: Trevor Mastrogiovanni, OSU, dec. Jaret Lane, 5-1
133: Daton Fix, OSU, pinned Malyke Hines, 1:34
141: Carter Young, OSU, dec. Connor McGonagle, 5-4
149: Kaden Gfeller, OSU, dec. Paul Watkins, 5-1
157: Josh Humphreys, Lehigh, dec. Wyatt Sheets, 7-3
165: Brian Meyer, Lehigh, dec. Jalin Harper, 2-0
174: Dustin Plott, OSU, dec. Jake Logan, 5-3
184: Dakota Geer, OSU, maj. dec. A.J. Burkhart, 23-10
197: A.J. Ferrari, OSU, maj. dec. J.T. Davis, 12-2
HWT: Jordan Wood, Lehigh, dec. Luke Surber, 6-0
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OSU vs. Lehigh wrestling: John Smith frustrated by effort in victory