By Michael Kinney
The Moore American
OKLAHOMA CITY — Andrew Howe wanted one more shot. The Oklahoma senior endured multiple surgeries to earn another chance to win a national championship.
Howe got his shot Saturday in his own backyard when he faced Oklahoma State’s Chris Perry for the 174-pound title at the NCAA Wrestling Championships. Unfortunately for Howe, it didn’t go as planned as he fell 3-0 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“It’s not what I came here to do,” Howe said. “It was a tough one.”
Perry took home his second consecutive national championship. But this one meant more because of who it came against.
“I haven’t beat a guy like an Andrew Howe-quality in an NCAA Finals or an NCAA Tournament,” Perry said. “That’s the best guy I’ve ever wrestled in an NCAA Tournament. Hands down, one of the best competitors I’ve ever competed against, counting even guys overseas. He’s a tough dude, man. I have so much respect for Andrew, and maybe we’ll meet again one day or we can train together some day for the Olympics or something.”
This was the third meeting of the season between Perry and Howe. Each had handed the other their only loss on their record.
Because the two know each other so well, the first period was a wash. They circled the mat for three minutes without making a move.
Perry scored the first point when he got an escape to start the second period. After he got a warning for stalling, he took Howe down and led 3-0.
Howe, a native of Cedar Lake, Ind., was unable to get an escape and trailed heading into final two minutes.
“I needed to get an escape that period,” Howe said. “Needed to get some more offense on my feet. Just didn’t happen.”
Perry’s ability to stay out of dangerous situations and nearly stalling kept Howe from being able to climb back into the match. The seconds ticked off the clock and Howe was left standing in the center of the ring with 18,000 wrestling fans looking on.
“I think he was aggressive,” OU coach Mark Cody said. “He wrestled his style. That takedown was the difference in the match and it caught him off guard. A lot of times in those matches, that’s what it will come down to, those takedowns. Particularly with these two guys.”
Howe was seeking his second national championship, also. He won his only one as a sophomore at Wisconsin in the 165-pound weight class. But after taking third as a junior, then Olympic redshirting in 2011, he came back to Oklahoma.
While he didn’t finish his career the way he wanted, Cody said he has set an example for the entire team to follow.
“Andrew has been a great warrior for us,” Cody said. “He’s been great for our program. He’s got one of those elusive titles under his belt and he’s a four time All-American. We’re proud he decided to come join us. He’s been a great asset to our program.”
Yet, Cody couldn’t hide the disappointment for Howe.
“He’s been through a lot,” Cody said. “He’s had three surgeries just since I’ve known him. To come back from that, and do what he’s done here, it’s incredible. It really hurts to see somebody who’s worked so hard. He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around.”
The Sooners’ Cody Brewer and Kendric Maple also earned All-American honors with eighth place finishes Saturday.
At 133 pounds, Brewer faced No. 12 seed Joe Roth from Central Michigan, while Maple took on Penn State’s James English in the 149-pound bout.
Brewer, who fell by an 8-6 decision, trailed 2-1 after the first period but grabbed a 4-3 advantage in the second period with a takedown and an escape. Brewer added two more escapes in the final two minutes, but it was not enough to catch Roth.
Against English, Maple tallied an escape with about 1:20 remaining in the second. He started the third period on top and controlled the position for most of the period before English escaped his grasp.
Regulation ended with a 1-1 tie, and in the first tiebreaker period, English added an escape to take the advantage. In the next 30-second period, Maple could not escape, dropping the bout.
“It’s nice to come away with three All-Americans,” Cody said. “I surely expected more out of them. But we’ve had some tough breaks. So to come in here, we can at least come out and hold our heads up and say we got in the top-10. We’ve done better each year the last three years. So we’re going in the direction we need to go.”
Michael Kinney Follow me @eyeamtruth email@example.com