TULSA, Okla. — Luke Surber stood on the side of the stage Saturday afternoon while the plot changed throughout the freestyle championship at the Junior National Duals.
There was the back-and-forth beginning, the Oklahoma run in the middle and the late Illinois comeback that put Surber in the spotlight with a national title riding on his shoulders.
“Those are the matches you get excited to wrestle in,” Surber said. “They’re fun still when you get out there and tech them real fast, but when there’s bigger stuff on the line it’s more fun.”
Surber experienced the best of both Saturday.
A 77-second technical superiority win against 2017 Fargo Cadet freestyle champion Fidel Mayora in the winner-take-all 160-pound bout locked up a 32-31 victory and a championship for Oklahoma on its home turf.
Oklahoma’s second down-to-the-wire dual win of the day secured the state’s first freestyle title since 2015. Brady DeArmond’s fall in the last match against Minnesota clinched a spot in the finals for Oklahoma.
In a dual that featured nine technical superiority victories and two falls, Oklahoma swept all three of the close ones. Dustin Plott downed Cadet World bronze medalist Abe Assad 4-2 at 182 pounds. Joshua Heindselman defeated Aydin Guttridge 3-2 at 285 and Reece Witcraft beat Joel Vandervere 9-8 at 132.
“I think there were a couple things that could’ve went either way,” Illinois coach Justin Pearch said. “A couple 50-50 positions that maybe we could’ve had two that they got two. But, man, Oklahoma wrestled great. They stole it from us early and then we came back and tried to rally but just couldn’t pull it out.”
Witcraft’s win finished a run of four victories in five bouts for Oklahoma, pushing its lead to 28-18. Cooper Mahaffey and Carter Young registered shutout techs and Cruz Aguilar pinned Fargo Junior freestyle finalist Ronan Schuelke in 18 seconds at 113.
Illinois strung together three wins after that to go ahead 31-28. Noah Villarreal spladled Ryder Ramsey for a first-period fall at 138. Luke Odom and Trevor Chumbley notched shutout techs at 145 and 152.
That left the dual up to Surber and Mayora, an Oklahoma State recruit against a Michigan commit.
“(Surber) couldn’t wait,” Oklahoma coach Bobby Cook said. “He’s wrestled long enough, he knew the situation and the scenario. There was no skin off his back. He couldn’t wait to get out there and wrestle against a guy who had beaten him on top of that. If you’re an athlete, that’s what you want.”
Surber scored a quick four-point takedown, added another takedown, a two-point exposure and then ended it with a turn.
“I just went out and wrestled,” Surber said. “I knew I could outwrestle him if I just wrestled and wrestled like I’ve been wrestling all weekend. I went out there and just kept wrestling.”
Ohio Red defeated Iowa for third place, avenging a loss in Friday’s Pool D championship dual. California Blue beat Minnesota Blue for fifth and New Jersey downed Ohio Blue for seventh.
by Andy Hamilton