“From the moment the weights were drawn,” 197-pounder Ryan Smith said, “I was thinking, ‘Great, it’s going to come down to me winning, or we lose.”
He was right.
The fate of a victory rested on Smith’s shoulders, as Cal Poly trailed No. 25 Wyoming 16-15 with one match remaining.
As two minutes remained in the match, Smith clung to a one-point lead as he and his opponent Lee Helbig alternated takedowns, bringing the score to 8-6 with 15 seconds remaining. Luckily, Smith had racked up over a minute of riding time in the first period, giving him a virtual three-point advantage. Helbig tied the score with a quick takedown, but was forced to release his prey in hopes of getting another score, but it was not to be.
Smith resisted a last-second shot and took home the upset victory for the Mustangs.
“He’s a captain, that’s what captains are supposed to do,” co-head coach Mark Perry said. “That’s a good learning experience for him when he’s got to win to be an All-American. He’s got to win to be a national champion.”
Heavyweight Atticus Disney sweated Smith’s match out on the sideline and was relieved at the outcome.
“It’s great,” Disney said. “We beat the (No. 25) team in the nation and I was sitting there saying, ‘Please Ryan, just please do it for the team.’”
The fairy tale ending was anything but certain earlier in the dual, when No. 10 Filip Novachkov fell in an upset to No. 20 Tyler Cox. Novachkov got an unexpected matchup with Cox, who moved up from 125-pounds to face Novachkov. The senior, originally from Bulgaria, took a 2-0 advantage in the first period, but a late reversal by Cox took Novachkov to his back.
The Cowboy scored four points in the final 20 seconds of that period and would control the match for the remainder.
Perry remains confident in his wrestler, he said, but expects Novachkov to cut his weight in a better fashion in the coming days, instead of losing 10 pounds at the last minute.
Disney started off the match by taking Bubba McLaughlin from his feet to his back in a quick head throw in the first 15 seconds of the dual. McLaughlin eventually fought away from Disney’s hold. But the sophomore repeated the feat a minute later to take a quick 10-3 advantage. He held on to earn a major decision, giving the Mustang team an early 4-0 lead.
In what was maybe the biggest match of the night, 165-pounder Ryan DesRoches took on No. 6 Shane Onufer of Wyoming. DesRoches clung to a 4-3 lead against the undefeated wrestler as time ticked away in the third period, then Onufer went for a takedown. As the two battled, Onufer capitalized on a mistake by capturing DesRoches’ legs and, consequently, the match.
“I really gave it to him,” DesRoches said. “I was up by one with 25 seconds left, I let him in on my leg, didn’t stay solid and he got it. I got a little anxious and tried to scoot around behind and that was the worst thing I could have done.”
Perry consoled DesRoches after the victory and said he was happy with how his team responded.
“If you would have told me that Filip Novachkov and Ryan DesRoches were going to lose and we were still going to win the dual, I’d have a hard time figuring that one out,” Perry said. “That’s a testament to the guys that might not be the guys that get all the spotlight, but they’re in there battling everyday. They got the job done for us plain and simple.”
Hoping to shift a bit more spotlight onto himself after his match on Friday was Steven Vasquez at 174-pounds, who earned three critical points against Patrick Martinez. The match was deadlocked going into the final period, but Vasquez quickly escaped from underneath Martinez, opening up a slim lead.
Instead of sitting on his lead, Vasquez continued to pester Martinez with shots at his legs, never allowing him to mount a counterattack. The strategy paid off as Vasquez went on to improve his record to 10-9.
Boris Novachkov and Barrett Abel also earned victories, but not pins, in their matches.