STILLWATER — For Oklahoma State wrestling, there's no such thing as moral victories.
Still, after falling to second-ranked Minnesota 16-15 on Sunday in Stillwater — OSU's second one-point loss in a week to a top-five opponent — the fifth-ranked Cowboys remained optimistic about their chances as a national title contender.
“I just know our upside is a lot greater than where we are right now,” OSU coach John Smith said. “That's not a given, though. That upside is earned, and you're going to earn it on a weekly basis. (Minnesota) is a team that I believe can win a national championship and we can judge ourselves a little bit by this.”
The Cowboys split five of the 10 matches, but were unable to earn any bonus-point victories, which proved to be the difference
“In most of our wins, we just wanted wins,” Smith said. “We didn't want more. We need to score more points. We need to start scoring after we score. That comes down to wrestling for seven minutes instead of five and a half.”
Smith knows it's not about where his team is now, but where they are in March when the postseason rolls around. Still, he says dual losses are tough to swallow regardless of the opponent or score.
“It's not a good feeling starting 1-2,” said Smith, whose team had won nine straight at Gallagher-Iba Arena coming into Sunday. “I'm not sure I've ever had a losing record through our first three matches, so it's another first for me.”
One of the positives for OSU was No. 2 Alex Dieringer's 4-2 win over No. 4 Dylan Ness at 157 pounds. Dieringer won with a takedown in sudden victory overtime, but like his coach, he was focused on the points he left off the board.
“I knew if I kept working I could take him down,” Dieringer said. “I got two (takedowns), but I really could've had five or six. I was a little too cautious because he has a funky style, but you live and you learn.”
The Cowboys got another important victory at 174 pounds from second-ranked Chris Perry, who defeated No. 5 Logan Storley 6-3.
But like last week's 16-15 loss at rival Oklahoma, the final three weights failed to come through for OSU as Minnesota erased a 15-6 deficit.
Jordan Rogers dropped a 14-5 major decision to Kevin Steinhaus at 184 pounds, giving the Golden Gophers the only bonus-point win of the dual.
At 197 pounds, OSU's ninth-ranked Blake Rosholt took a 2-1 lead into the third period over top-ranked Scott Schiller. But Schiller scored the next six points and added one more for riding time to get an 8-2 win.
“I don't think Blake wants any moral victories losing close matches,” Smith said. “I think he's got his hopes on something a lot bigger than just being another All-American.”
Minnesota didn't take its first lead of the afternoon until the final match at 285 pounds as top-ranked Tony Nelson defeated No. 12 Austin Mardsen 2-0 for the decisive victory.