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FEATURE: Big boys set to tussle again: Konrad, Mocco to meet for heavyweight championship



OKLAHOMA CITY - Minnesota heavyweight Cole Konrad knows it doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter whether he wrestles two-time national champion Steve Mocco of Oklahoma State on the elevated platform Saturday night in the finals of the NCAA Championships in the Ford Center or he battles him in his basement back home in Wisconsin.

The top-ranked Konrad knows the No. 2 Mocco is going to be coming after him. Especially after Konrad handed Mocco three losses this year, including the final bout of the National Duals when the Minnesota junior launched and pinned Mocco.

The heavyweight matchup everyone wants to see will become a reality Saturday night when the two big boys end the national tournament.

"The way that I've wrestled him and the fact that I've beaten him the last three times gives me a mental edge," said Konrad, who is unbeaten this season. "I have a lot of confidence going into the match, but it's going to be a battle either way. You never know what's going to happen. I go in there planning to win and I'm sure he does too. He's very tough - that's why he's been in the finals the last four years."

The match won't affect the team race since second-ranked Oklahoma State clinched its fourth straight team title Friday night and the No. 1 Gophers are 33.5 points behind and stuck in second.

Mocco, a senior who is a four-time NCAA finalist, beat Konrad in overtime in last year's national finals, but Konrad finally broke through by beating Mocco in the all-star dual early this year.

Konrad followed with the pin heard around the college wrestling world at the National Duals. Konrad then added a third win over Mocco in a dual held at the Ford Center.

"It's time to go," Mocco said. "The time to talk about it is over. The time to think about it is over. Now I have to go out there and scrap for it."

Konrad outlasted Arizona State's No. 4 Cain Velasquez in two cycles of overtimes in the semifinals, earning the marathon win with a 21-second edge in riding time in the four tiebreaker periods.

"He's tough," Konrad said. "He's constantly moving in and out. A lot of people like to set up and tie up with you, but he doesn't tie up. He stays away so it makes the match a little more interesting."

Mocco rode No. 3 Greg Wagner of Michigan for nearly the entire third period to pull out a 2-1 win in the semifinals.

"He's a big guy and a real tough competitor," Mocco said. "He's very strong. In the third period, my game plan was to ride him and take the match away. I did a good job riding and that was the key in the match."
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