LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The 22nd-ranked Oklahoma wrestling team earned an unblemished 3-0 record at the Little Rock quad-dual after defeating Little Rock, South Dakota State and No. 21 Stanford in dual action. The Sooners were especially good at the heavier weights, compiling a 12-3 record on the day in all weight classes above 165.
"It was a good day of wrestling for us, any time you can get three wins it is a good day," head coach Lou Rosselli said after improving to 5-3 in 2021. "I think that Stanford is a pretty good team, South Dakota State is always tough and Little Rock has some guys that can present some challenges, so we are happy to get out of here with three victories. Today will help create some momentum as we start to look to Bedlam next Sunday."
After narrowly dropping the first match of the dual with Big 12-foe South Dakota State, 7-6, the Sooners (5-3, 2-2 Big 12) used Tony Madrigal's pin at 133 to take a lead that they wouldn't surrender. Following the loss at 125, the Sooners wouldn't surrender a takedown on the scorecard until the match at 165. The win moved Oklahoma back to .500 in conference play heading into the Bedlam showdown on Feb. 7 in Norman.
The Sooners dropped their first two bouts in the dual vs. Little Rock but won the final eight bouts, including five by tech fall to dominate the Trojans 34-6. The five tech falls are the most for an Oklahoma team since Rosselli arrived in Norman in 2016, beating the previous high of four, set in a 53-0 drubbing of Sacred Heart in 2017.
After another rocky start in dual action, The Sooners stormed back in the second half vs. the Cardinal after trailing 12-3. Troy Mantanona kicked the comeback off with a fall (2:02) at 165 pounds, and the Sooners kept on rolling, winning the dual's final five bouts to claim the 21-12 upset. The win marks the eighth win over a ranked opponent under Rosselli and the first of 2021.
Mason Naifeh went 0-3 on the day but was close in each bout, losing each time by just a single point.
At 133 pounds, No. 19 Tony Madrigal got the second pin of his career when he put SDSU's Trayton Anderson against the mat in the first period. He ended his day with a pair of losses to Paul Bianchi, 8-5, and an overtime loss to Jason Miranda from Stanford.
No. 7 Dom Demas shined on Sunday, defeating No. 22 Clay Carlson (SDSU) via 3-2 decision before securing a 16-1 tech fall vs. Little Rock's Jaylen Carson. In the day's final match, he turned the jets back on to earn a 6-2 decision over Luciano Arroyo (STAN) and give the Sooners their first points of the dual. Demas (7-1, 3-1 Big 12) will look to continue his winning streak vs. Oklahoma State on Feb. 7.
No. 13 Mitch Moore opened his day with a pair of wins before suffering his first defeat of the year vs. Stanford's No. 14 Jaden Abas. The junior moves to 7-1 on the season with his two wins.
At 157 pounds, No. 11 Justin Thomas won his first two matches by a combined score of 20-0 nothing, including a 16-0 tech fall over Little Rock's Noah Aziere in the first period. He dropped a 5-4 decision to Requir Van der Merwe in the Stanford dual, just his second loss of the season.
Troy Mantanona moved into the lineup for the Sooners at 165 pounds on Sunday and defeated Alex Hernandez (LR) via a 6-5 decision in his first bout of the day. But Mantanona shined in the dual with No. 21 Stanford. With his team trailing 12-3 heading into the dual's second half, Mantanona was able to turn Tyler Eischens in the first period and pin him to secure the fall and bring No. 22 Oklahoma within striking distance of the Cardinal. The San Francisco State transfer's win would jumpstart the Sooners' comeback that saw Rosselli's team win out and knock off the Cardinal.
"If I had to give a game ball to anyone, it would be Troy," Rosselli said. "Here is a guy who didn't know he was going to be in the starting lineup until we called on him, and he goes and gets a win vs. Little Rock and then pins the guy in the Stanford dual. That pin was huge for us; we were down 12-3 at that time and his pin put us back in the fight and gave us momentum. I'm really proud of him today."
In the day's first bout at 165, Jake Stiles fell 22-11 to SDSU's Colten Carlson.
No. 22 Anthony Mantanona was downed 7-5 in his first match of the afternoon after surrendering a last-second takedown to SDSU's Cade King. But the All-American bounced back later in the day, winning via 15-0 tech fall over Triston Wills (LR) and 8-7 over Stanford's Jared Hill after escaping at the buzzer.
Darrien Roberts made his case to the pollsters after going 3-0 on the day and outscoring opponents 28-7, including a 15-0 tech fall over Little Rock's Tanner Mendoza, the first of his Oklahoma career. The sophomore from Bethlehem, Pa., now boasts a 6-2 record in 2021, and his last win of the day was the 20th of his career.
Jake Woodley dropped his match with No. 9 Tanner Sloan (SDSU) 6-1 but got back on track in the afternoon by picking up two wins. He won via 16-1 tech fall over LR's Dylan Johnson and 5-1 over Stanford's Haydn Maley to help deliver the Oklahoma upset.
A week after going toe-to-toe with two of the country's best, No. 24 Josh Heindselman proved that he deserved his spot in the rankings by going undefeated on the day and defeating No. 9 Nathan Traxler (STAN) via a 10-5 decision to finish off the Sooners' victory.
"Josh is just such a tough kid who finds ways to win," Rossell said. "There are some things we can improve on the mat, but I know that when he steps out onto the mat I know that he is going to give every ounce he has to this team and the Sooners. That's why I like watching him wrestle so much, it's because he goes out there and gives it his all, which is what I want to see."
Following the duals, a number of Sooners competed in extra matches for NCAA-qualifying purposes. Caleb Tanner and Willie McDougald both picked up the first wins of their collegiate careers, while five other Sooners picked up victories.
The Sooners now turn their focus to No. 5 Oklahoma State, who they'll play host to at 1 p.m. on Feb. 7 inside Lloyd Noble Center. Fans can purchase their Bedlam tickets now.