By Chuck Reherman
TULSA – Seconds after the 149-pound match ended, the partisan Oklahoma State University crowd at the BOK Center in Tulsa let out a roar of “Boo’s.”
But, it wasn’t showing displeasure of the outcome, but a celebrating chant.
The crowd was cheering on Yukon’s Boo Lewallen, who claimed his first Big 12 championship Sunday night in Tulsa.
Lewallen decisioned No. 1 seed Max Thomsen, 9-3, in the finals to claim the title and earn an automatic berth to the NCAA Wrestling Championships at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland March 15-17.
Lewallen, who moved into a full-time starters role midseason, went into the Big 12 championships as the No. 2 seed.
He was one of four Cowboy wrestlers to win a big 12 title. OSU also won the team title
He beat Kyle Gliva of North Dakota State University 11-7 in the quarterfinal round and beat Davion Jeffries of the University of Oklahoma 10-4 in the semifinals.
In the finals, he faced Thomsen, who he had lost to earlier in the season. Lewallen had taken an early lead with a takedown, then broke a 3-3 tie with a takedown and a nearfall late in the second period.
He held off any moves Thomsen made it the third to earn the win.
“I felt really confident going into the finals, and wouldn’t say I had a specific plan for the match,” Lewallen said. “All I have to do is continue to wrestle in every position.”
Lewallen came out to the mat with a sense of confidence as he was introduced to the crowd.
He came out attacking and had taken the lead on Thomsen early in the match.
“I was just very anxious to finally get out there and wrestle,” he said. “I think you gain confidence anytime your offense is clicking.”
Lewallen, 26-5, has drawn the No. 8 seed and will wrestle Jeffries again in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday morning.
Lewallen has faced Jeffries, of Broken Arrow, twice this season. He beat Jeffries 13-4 in a dual match on Feb. 11 and beat him again in the Big 12 tournament. Jeffries is 24-17.
The two have known each other well, having competed against each other in high school and faced off in the state tournament two years in a row.
A win would send Lewallen against the winner of Thompson, 27-5 and Alfred Bannisterm, 23-8, of Maryland. A win in that match would pit Lewallen against the No. 1 seed, Zain Retherford of Penn State University, 26-0, in the quarterfinals.
“I am ready to go into nationals and to compete as hard as I can each and every match,” Lewallen said. “I am not overlooking anyone and I’m ready to have fun.
“I think if I just focus on putting the best version of myself out there every match no matter who I’m wrestling I will be okay,” he said. “I have had a goal ever since I came to OSU that I wanted to be a national champion and that’s been my goal all season! I like what Russell Westbrook says “why not me?” That’s how I think going into nationals. Why can’t I win this tournament!
“I’m focusing on getting better everyday leading up to nationals we have a long time to put a lot of work in. I’m just focusing on myself and how I perform.”
By Chuck Reherman