The biggest roar from Gallagher-Iba Arena came prior to a loss in a match by the Oklahoma State wrestling team Friday against Northern Colorado.
While the Cowboys won the dual, 24-10, the excitement from the faithful was for the collegiate debut Bixby native Zach Blankenship, a true freshman in the program.
Blankenship was inserted into the lineup more out of necessity as top 15-ranked wrestler Trevor Mastrogiovanni was sidelined with an undisclosed injury sustained in his 6-0 loss to an unranked opponent at Colombia last weekend.
And it wasn’t an easy introduction to the home crowd for Blankenship.
He squared up with the 17th-ranked wrestler at 125 pounds in one of the last matches of the night as the dual started at 149 pounds. While he suffered a loss in his first appearance for the Pokes, he did avoid giving up any bonus points in the team scoring with a 5-0 decision to Stevo Poulin.
“It just shows him a little bit, and I think maybe gives him a chance to come firing back,” Cowboy coach John Smith said.
Fortunately for Blankenship, the dual was well in hand prior to taking the mat.
That was, in part, thanks to the trio of Dustin Plott, Travis Wittlake and Luke Surber who picked up bonus-point victories in the middle of the lineup following an upset loss by Wyatt Sheets at 165 pounds.
Plott picked up a 11-2 major decision at 174 pounds, while Wittlake (184 pounds) and Surber (197) matched each other’s final score with a 17-5 major decision.
“That’s kind of what we thought we could do (at those weights), and it was good to see them do it,” Smith said.
With their matches giving the Cowboys a lead – and wrestling earlier than they normally would in the lineup – they were able to take in the moment Blankenship made his debut.
For Plott, a fellow Oklahoma native who was thrust into the starting lineup as a true freshman, he could relate. So much so that he gave the wrestler that weight 50 pounds less than him some advice heading into the dual.
“I told him just to have fun, try to enjoy the moment, because that was something I didn’t do as a freshman,” Plott said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself and dealing with injury really made it miserable. So I was hoping he’d wrestling hard but have a little bit of fun.”
Smith said he expects Blankenship to be in the lineup for a some time while Mastrogiovanni works his way back.
That means the former three-time state champion in the state of Oklahoma will get another opportunity to pick up his first dual win a Poke on Sunday when Oklahoma State hosts West Virginia at 2 p.m.
“He was short-noticed on wrestling, so hopefully we’ll see a little better wrestling Sunday against some body even a little tougher,” Smith said of Blankenship who will likely face No. 8-ranked Killian Cardinale.