The on-paper upset was there for the taking Friday night.
Right from the onset, things were set up perfectly for the No. 21 ranked Fort Hays State University wrestling team to take out No. 6 ranked University of Central Oklahoma in front of a good-sized home crowd at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
But after the good start, Tiger coach Chas Thompson said, FHSU went flat — and ended up dropping a 22-14 decision to the visiting Bronchos. It dropped the Tigers to 0-2 in duals in the early season.
“The upset was set up,” Thompson said. “We could have done some things.”
However after Conrad Cole scored the major decision victory to start the night at 125 pounds, the Tigers lacked the aggressiveness the coach wanted to see.
Cole, a sophomore from Brush, Colo., by way of the University of Wyoming, scored a 16-1 victory over Joshua Lindsey, the No. 4 ranked wrestler in NCAA Division II. It was just Cole’s second victory of the season.
Even at the end of that match, Thompson said, the Tigers didn’t have much fire.
“He wanted to make sure to not lose his major (decision), but he could have really got the crowd going with a technical fall,” Thompson said.
From there the Tigers took just three more matches.
Brandon Ball, the No. 2 ranked 141-pounder remained unbeaten after a 7-0 decision. Ball, the sophomore Hoisington grad, moved to 10-0, now tied with Christian Lance for the team lead in victories.
Lance, the Tigers’ 285-pounder, missed action again as he battles a knee injury. It is unclear if the sophomore will compete again this season.
After Ball, the Tigers dropped four straight before Micah Felton grabbed a win at 184 pounds, a 3-0 decision.
“When you see an opening you have to take it,” Thompson said. “Everyone has to do their part. We could have done something tonight.”
Of the Tigers’ four straight losses (149, 157, 165 and 174), one came 3-2 in overtime at 157 and the other was an 8-5 decision at 174. At 157, the Tigers’ Efe Osaghae fell 3-2 in OT to No. 7 ranked Bryan Dutton. At 174, Tiger senior Dylan Wiesner made a late rally but fell 8-5.
After Felton’s win at 184, Rakim Dean followed up with a 6-5 win at 197, setting up a deciding match at 285. With FHSU trailing 19-14, the Tigers’ Dakota Gulley fell 6-3 to end the night and the Tigers’ hope of the upset.
“That’s not a style we want to show,” Thompson said of the effort. “We had a good home crowd tonight and the guys were flat. We weren’t offensive enough. That’s a good team, but we’re good enough to pull off an upset.”
Now, FHSU will play host to the Bob Smith-FHSU Open on Sunday. The all-day tournament will feature wrestlers of all levels, including NCAA Division I Oklahoma State University, which will bring its entire team to Gross Memorial Coliseum.
“It’s going to be quality, very quality,” Thompson said.
Action begins at 9 a.m. at GMC.