Lucas Cochran and Mason Christiansen have been on a collision course for a couple years now. They enter the 2019-2020 ranked third and fifth in the Beehive 25. Cochran comes to us as a homegrown product of Box Elder. He was a freshman state placer at 152 pounds which is always a weight class riddled with strong, mature upperclassmen. Last season, he only lost to one Utahan. After a dominant sophomore campaign, many fans wondered if there was anyone in the state who could pose a challenge. Look no further than the Bingham Miner, Mason Christiansen. We didn’t get to see Christiansen last season due to injury. In case you’ve forgotten him, he was a state finalist in 2017, a 2018 state champion and picked up bonus points in every match at the state tournament. Unless you’re totally new to this website, you’ll know that this is a match people have been clamoring for in the comment section of the rankings — and for good reason. The intrigue in this match is so high because these wrestlers have similar statistics but have very different tactics to pick up wins. People love to see a clash of styles. This week, at the Layton Invitational, it’s possible that fans will get their wish. Let’s take a deep dive into this matchup.
Box Elder is a program with a strong tradition. That tradition includes a long line of state champions who did some of their best work with a crossface cradle. Lucas Cochran embodies that tradition when he competes. Last season, Cochran showed us all that he was a force in the upper-weights. Very few opponents could match his technical prowess as he ascended through the Utah ranks. One thing that stands out about Cochran is his continued technical development. He barely resembled the wrestler we saw in 2017-2018 season last season and if this trend continues, the sky is the limit.
Every match starts standing. On his feet Cochran opts to use a square stance where he keeps his hands low as he stalks his opponents to get inside. He does a great job of staying active in the ties. He his constantly battling for superior head position and inside control. As he hand fights, he will often pull his opponent’s head and take a level change into high crotch and single leg attacks. He makes every shot count and is often in a solid finish position before his opponent can react. From there, he is already looking for extra points as he immediately looks to split the legs to score with a turk or catch a bind such as a cross wrist or crossface as soon as he secures takedowns. When his opponent looks to take the offense to him, his defense is sound. He is often the taller man in his matches and by keeping his square stance and maintaining head position, his legs are hard to get to. If his opponent manages to get past his head and hands defense, he does a excellent job of getting his legs back and being busy with a front headlock to score quick go behinds or near side cradles if his opponent clings to his leg too long.
We briefly touched on the top game of Mr. Cochran because it’s arguably his best skill. Cochran is one of the best riders in the state because he has a deep bag of tricks that pairs wonderfully with his physical attributes. We all see him cradling people left and right but it always starts with a tight waist. He really attempts to reach all the away around the stomach and to his opponents spine. We all know that kind of squeeze can drain someone of their energy quickly. He uses this tight waist with a chop to break down his opposition before he puts on a crossface and hunts down his signature cradle. He is also one of the best tilters in the game. Any time someone looks for hand control, he uses his free hand to snatch their wrist, transitions to a two-on-one and either loads them into his lap or rolls through and starts to pile up back points. If opponents break free, he immediately returns to his tight waist and repeats the process as frequently as possible.
We don’t see much of Lucas on the mat due to his solid defense and smothering top work. However, that doesn’t mean it’s weakness. On bottom we haven’t seen many guys able to hold him down. He does a good job of getting to his feet and creating scramble situations with granby rolls and switches. His ability to flow into his secondary techniques makes him a difficult opponent whenever the match goes.
It’s always interesting to see how competitors bounce back from injury. We’ve seen some athletes return with newfound motivation wanting to make up for lost time. I’m not fond of predictions, I’m predicting we see Christiansen return to form. Mason is a lifelong competitor and has been one of Utah’s best since his junior high years and has made multiple national dual teams. He knows how to compete and train so his opponents shouldn’t bank on him losing a step during his year off. Fans love Mason Christiansen because he is such a good athlete who can drive a high pace and summon great amounts of strength that is sure to wow any audience.
Christiansen has played football for powerhouse Bingham High School and his explosive athleticism is on full display from the neutral position. He hand fights hard and his always pulling and pushing to keep his opponent off balance. He will often punch into an underhook and hit explosive far knee taps. This attack is great for avoiding scramble positions because he doesn’t have to touch a knee and takes his opponent directly to their hip. He will also look to control an elbow to hit outside leg dumps (outside leg fireman carries) which also takes away a lot of scramble technique much like the knee tap. A lot of people don’t enjoy the high intensity handfighting Mason utilizes so they look to wrestle from space where he is equally effective. He will move forward as if he’s looking to put his hands on his opponent and when they start to anticipate a club, he drops his level and hits blast doubles. Once he hits one of those big double leg attacks, it makes it easier to draw out reactions by using quick level changes, fakes and stutter steps to keep the opposition guessing and wrestling on a hair trigger which is exhausting. Defensively, he’s very quick and does a fantastic job of getting his legs back and out of trouble and hitting great reattacks when his opponent attempts to recover from a failed shot attempt. He understands that the first line of defense is his head followed by his hands and uses them well to thwart takedown attempts.
Christiansen makes his money on top with a cross wrist series. He maintains constant forward pressure until he’s able to capture the wrist and from there he he rolls through with an Anthony Robles style tilt. He also has great lifting ability so he’s more than happy to hit lift returns and transition to the wrist to get back to his tiles. When his tilts aren’t available, he likes to slip in bars that can also turn into tilts on the opposite side of the bar. He keeps it simple and effective and uses his physicality to his advantage. He also isn’t afraid to take risks on top because he is so good at scoring takedowns so he’s happy to trade escapes for takedowns until his opponent starts to slow down.
The theme of Mason Christiansen is his dedication to keeping things simple and being extremely effective by doing those basic things with high levels of intensity. He abides by this philosophy on bottom as well. He pops up to his feet repeatedly and immediately starts looking for his high amplitude takedowns as soon as he breaks free. When he gets to his feet he moves well and forces the man on top to work hard and sometimes, they are forced to let him go to avoid stall warnings.
In this matchup we have a wrestler who has a deep bag of tricks that he has honed for years to look nearly effortless and a wrestler who loves the fight and has the physical attributes to stifle a lot of technique. Both of them are lifelong winners and this weekend, we might get to see it. What will be interesting to see is what both of these combatants do to negate the obvious strengths of the other. Will we see Christiansen attempt to turn the match into a takedown battle? Or will we Cochran doing something like picking top to look to pile up nearfall points? The key moments in this match will come in the handfighting. Cochran likes to close the distance to get to his pull and go offense. He will have to be disciplined while closing the gap to avoid the outside shots of Christiansen. Once the match his the floor, it will be exciting to see what Christiansen does to combat Cochran’s constant attacking from on top. This could be a war of attrition. Can Cochran slow down the onslaught of Christiansen in the neutral position? Can Christiansen get out from underneath Cochran before he gives up back points? Hopefully these questions are answered this Saturday in Layton.