The wrestling season wasn’t headed in the right direction for Scott Sakaguchi and he needed to change something up.
A quick evaluation of his training and mindset helped the Oregon State senior detour a downward slide.
The turnaround process for the 2013 all-American started two weeks ago with a fourth-place finish at a tournament in Las Vegas and continued Friday night after some long hours in the practice room.
Sakaguchi earned an 11-1 major decision against Wyoming’s Brandon Richardson at 149 pounds to help the Beavers to a 26-12 dual meet win at Gill Coliseum.
“The training wasn’t there obviously in the beginning,” said Sakaguchi, who was ranked first at 149 earlier this season before suffering three straight losses in November duals. “It makes a big difference, just doing little things right.”
The team win ended OSU’s stretch of three consecutive dual losses.
The Beavers finished up fall term final exams last week and had the rest of the time since then to concentrate solely on their sport.
“I think our guys looked a little sluggish but they pushed through it,” coach Jim Zalesky said.
Sakaguchi’s victory followed teammate Joey Delgado’s 10-2 major decision win versus Cole Mendenhall at 141.
OSU’s R.J. Pena came on after Sakaguchi and gutted out a 4-3 decision to put the Beavers up 17-5.
In the dual’s lone matchup of ranked wrestlers, Pena’s takedown late in the second round provided the first points of the match.
Pena grabbed McCulley’s right ankle and secured another takedown for a 4-1 lead in the third. McCulley was awarded two stalling points late in the match, but Pena escaped with the win and improved to 16-2, the best record on the team.
“Sometimes you’ve got to win matches like that, and that’s just the way it is,” Zalesky said. “Sometimes they’re pretty, sometimes they’re ugly.”
Wyoming’s Dakota Friesth held off Alex Elder 6-5 at 165, but OSU’s Joe Latham got those three team points back with a 3-1 overtime win against Brent Havlik at 174.
Havlin’s escape in the first round and Latham’s in the second were the only points scored in regulation.
Latham managed a takedown to get the sudden victory with seven seconds left in the one-minute extra period.
OSU missed on its first opportunity to secure the win with Brian Engdahl losing 15-3 to Benjamin Stroh at 184.
Taylor Meeks didn’t miss on his chance. The junior at 197 blanked Shane Woods 6-0.
Zalesky asks his wrestlers not to think about the team score and instead focus just on their match.
Meeks did that, and in turn helped the Beavers build some positive momentum.
He credited practice time for what the team was able to accomplish.
“I think it was a good training phase to get us prepared for this dual,” Meeks said. “It was good that we snapped back from this and got back on track a little.”
OSU heavyweight Amarveer Dhesi, like Latham, won for the first time at Gill when he defeated Leland Pfeifer 9-4 to close out the dual.
The Beavers won six of the nine matches contested and also took a win by forfeit with Drew Van Anrooy at 133.
Sakaguchi got a first-round takedown and earned an escape early in the second to go ahead 3-0. He took down Richardson again late in the second round and added a nearfall for an 8-0 lead.
Richardson got an escape in the third before Sakaguchi added a takedown for the match’s score. Sakaguchi was awarded a bonus point for riding time.
“It seems like when he gets the first takedown he opens up a lot more,” Zalesky said. “He did today and it opened things up for him.”
Sakaguchi said positives can snowball, and he’s hopeful that’s what started Friday night.
“It’s a long, long season. When you can get these little victories and capitalize on them and build from there it helps a lot,” he said. “This is a big win for me and the team. I’m really happy.”
Oregon State 26, Wyoming 12
125: Tyler Cox, Wyoming, tech. fall Pat Rollins, 2:42
133: Drew Van Anrooy, OSU, won by forfeit
141: Joey Delgado, OSU, maj. dec. Cole Mendenhall, 10-2
149: Scott Sakaguchi, OSU, maj. dec. Brandon Richardson, 11-1
157: R.J. Pena, OSU, dec. Andy McCulley, 4-3
165: Dakota Friesth, Wyoming, dec. Alex Elder, 6-5
174: Joe Latham, OSU, dec. Brent Havlik, 3-1 (OT)
184: Benjamin Stroh, Wyoming, maj. dec. Brian Engdahl, 15-3
197: Taylor Meeks, OSU, dec. Shane Woods, 6-0
Hwt: Amarveer Dhesi, OSU, dec. Leland Pfeifer, 9-4