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Oklahoma State wrestling: 5 things to watch for No. 8 Cowboys at No. 20 Northern Iowa

The Cowboys begin their Big 12 weekend road trip in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

2019 NCAA Div I Wrestling Championships Session One Photo by Hunter Martin/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The No. 8-ranked Oklahoma State wrestling team will face its toughest test to date this weekend when it faces the top two challengers for the Big 12 conference title in the state of Iowa.

The Cowboys (7-1, 3-0 Big 12) face No. 20 Northern Iowa (4-3, 3-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday then turn around and meet No. 16 Iowa State (5-3, 2-0) at 2 p.m. Saturday. With OSU coming to Cedar Falls for the first time as a conference opponent, UNI has moved the dual from its usual home of West Gym to the Panthers’ basketball arena, McLeod Center. Both OSU duals will be streamed on FloWrestling.

OSU is on a roll to start the second half of the season with three straight home conference victories against Northern Colorado, West Virginia and No. 10 Pittsburgh. The Cowboys are coming off a weekend sweep of WVU, 37-9, and No. 10 Pitt, 30-10.

The Panthers are 3-1 in the second half, with their lone loss to unranked South Dakota State, 25-13, at West Gym. UNI has rebounded from the loss with three straight wins, including a 20-13 victory against then-No. 19 Missouri and a road sweep last weekend against Northern Colorado, 32-6, and Air Force, 28-12.

Series history

OSU is 27-2 in the all-time series against UNI, including an 8-2 record in Cedar Falls. The Panthers’ last win in the series was a 21-16 victory Feb. 10, 1991. OSU coach John Smith is 18-0 against UNI in his coaching career, including a 24-19 win against then-No. 16 UNI last season.

5 things to watch

Knowing when to give

Smith liked his team’s performances this past weekend, but there was something he didn’t like at times — decision making. Whether it was not bailing soon enough on a shot attempt and ceding a takedown or knowing when to cut a guy loose to go for another takedown instead of riding, Smith wanted to see a more active approach from his wrestlers. He stressed better starts prior to the duals against WVU and Pitt, and the Cowboys delivered. Now it’s time to see if his latest message will be received.

149: No. 3 Boo Lewallen vs. No. 12 Max Thomsen

Lewallen is 3-0 against Thomsen, but did not face him in last season’s dual. The undefeated Cowboy has dominated lately with three of his past four matches with bonus points attached. After Thomsen defeated Northwestern’s Yahya Thomas, 4-3, back in November, the UNI grappler lost three straight dual matches with two in sudden victory before he posted back-to-back wins against Northern Colorado and Air Force. It’s the highest ranking match in the dual, but given the form Lewallen is in of late it doesn’t seem like it’ll be close.

174: Andrew Shomers vs. No. 5 Bryce Steiert rematch

Smith has given no indication his son, No. 12 Joe Smith, will compete this weekend at 174 pounds which points to Andrew Shomers facing No. 5 Bryce Steiert, who defeated Shomers 2-0 in last season’s dual. Shomers, however, has three straight wins by major decision, including a 10-0 victory against No. 17 Gregg Harvey of Pitt.

184: Anthony Montalvo vs. No. 4 Taylor Lujan

Montalvo is wrestling at his best right now with back-to-back bonus-point wins, a 2:30 fall against WVU’s Jackson Moomau and a 6-4 upset against No. 7 Nino Bonaccorsi of Pitt. Montalvo has a relentless pace and appears to gain steam as the match goes on, but that youthful excitement can get him caught out of position at times. It’ll be interesting to see how he competes against one of the nation’s best.

McLeod Center environment

With it being the first conference matchup between the two schools at UNI, it’s sure to be a lively atmosphere Saturday night for one of the Big 12’s newest members. It’s also a “Purple Out” for UNI and Panther fans usually deliver.

As a side note: It’s a special weekend for wrestling fans in the state of Iowa as each of its three Division 1 wrestling programs with host a dual: No. 4 Ohio State at No. 1 Iowa (Friday), No. 8 Oklahoma State at No. 20 UNI (Saturday) and at No. 16 ISU (Sunday).

Lineups: No. 8 Oklahoma State at No. 20 Northern Iowa

125: No. 4 Nick Piccininni (16-1) vs. Jacob Schwarm (14-7) — Piccininni leads, 2-0

133: Reece Witcraft (11-5) vs. Jack Skudlarczyk (10-8) - OR - Drew Bennett (9-4)

141: No. 11 Kaden Gfeller (5-1) - OR - Dusty Hone (14-4) vs. Michael Blockhus (15-6)

149: No. 3 Boo Lewallen (12-0) vs. No. 12 Max Thomsen (16-6) — Lewallen leads, 3-0

157: Wyatt Sheets (12-4) vs. Keaton Geerts (9-11) — OR — Derek Holschlag (13-8)

165: No. 9 Travis Wittlake (18-1) vs. Pat Schoenfelder (9-7) — OR — Austin Yant (8-7)

174: No. 12 Joe Smith (2-1) - OR - Andrew Shomers (11-7) vs. No. 5 Bryce Steiert (19-2) — Smith leads Steiert, 1-0; Steiert leads Shomers, 1-0

184: Anthony Montalvo (13-4) vs. No. 4 Taylor Lujan (19-2)

197: No. 11 Dakota Geer (14-4) vs. Nolan Glaser (8-12)

285: Austin Harris (4-6) - OR - Cornelius Putnam (0-1) vs. No. 11 Carter Isley (14-6)

How to watch

What: No. 8 Oklahoma State (7-1, 3-0 Big 12) at No. 20 Northern Iowa (4-3, 3-1)

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: McLeod Center; Cedar Falls, Iowa

Live stream: FloWrestling

Live stats:

Radio: Hot 93.7 KSPI-FM