Ryan Smith’s late match heroics weren’t enough to save the Mustang wrestling squad on Friday night as American University defeated Cal Poly 25-13.

The 197-pound Smith faced No. 14 Daniel Mitchell who pinned the Mustang over Winter Break in a match Smith said he was not mentally prepared for. That changed on Friday as Smith took a 1-0 lead in the 2nd period only to surrender it early in the final period. Stuck in the neutral position with his opponent, Smith found an opening and took Mitchell to the ground for the match-winning takedown.

“Wrestling is a mental game,” Smith said. “Getting pinned by (Mitchell) gave me fire. I knew he wasn’t as good as me, and I could beat him. It was a great feeling to have another shot at him and beat him here.”

The win has Smith, a qualifier for the 2011 NCAA Tournament, looking for more out of 2012 for himself and his fellow seniors.

“I will not be satisfied unless I am an All-American at the end of the year,” Smith said. “I know that Boris Novachkov will not be satisfied unless he is a national champion, and Ryan DesRoches will not be satisfied unless he is a national champion.”

Novachkov and DesRoches, both ranked at No. 4 in the country at 141 and 174-pounds, respectively, improved their records with wins versus Eagle wrestlers.

DesRoches, known for his cool demeanor, plodded along in his match steadily working up a lead with four takedowns in the first five minutes then added three more points in the final period to earn a 13-4 major decision (a win by 8 or more points).

“I think all my hard work is paying off, but I just want more,” DesRoches said. “Winning by a major (decision) wasn’t good enough for the team. The team needed a pin so there’s always room for improvement.”

DesRoches credits his hot start to a new coaching staff that he said helped him to slow down matches and not get panicked in close duels.

The senior, who moved up a weight class on Friday allowing Dominic Kastl to take the mat, is now 18-0 on the year with three tournament victories.

Also nationally-ranked, Novachkov, who claims a 18-2 record, never lost control of the match against No. 14 Matt Mariacher — even though the two ended with a 3-2 score.

Novachkov, also a senior, placed second in the nation in 2011 losing to Kellen Russell in the final match of the NCAA Tournamnet. Russell also defeated Novachkov 3-2 earlier this season in a match decided by riding time (Russell defeated Novachkov twice last season in 3-2 matches).

The match turned in favor of the Eagles in the third to last match when Brandon Rocha, leading by two points and controlling the match with an unpredictable mix of single and double-leg takedowns, was caught off balance by Corey Borshoff and taken straight to his back. A few seconds later, the referee’s hand hit the mat, and Rocha stormed back to the bench suffering third period pin.

Redshirt freshman Kastl took DesRoches spot at 174-pounds in a tactical move by first-year head coach Brendan Buckley in an attempt to earn some extra points against the Eagles. Kastl controlled the match from end to end, earning two takedowns in the first period to put him in front for good. He finished with a 8-3 minor decision, a victory by seven or fewer points.

Junior transfer Atticus Disney had an off night as the heavyweight looked like he ran out of gas in the third period trailing 3-1 and couldn’t fight his way to attack opponent Blake Herrin’s legs in the waning seconds. He falls to 8-8 on the year.

“That’s just wrestling,” Disney said. “Sometimes you go out and lose to someone you shouldn’t lose to, but it’s all about if you can come back and respond like you should.”

Smith, Disney and DesRoches were all quick to complement the new coaching staff headed by Buckley, who came to Cal Poly via Columbia this summer, and are pleased with the changes they see in the wrestling room.

“I actually feel like (the coaches) are taking an interest in us, not just as wrestlers, but they care about us as students and people,” said Disney, who’s sentiment was echoed by his teammates.

The Mustangs host a depleted Boise State squad on Sunday night in their first conference match of the season.

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