The Ohio State wrestling team was back in action this weekend at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Collegiate Wrestling Invitational. The two-day event featured a lineup stacked with national powers like Oklahoma (#5), Nebraska(#7), and Cornell (#11). The Buckeyes entered the weekend as two-time defending champions, but an underdog to complete the three-peat. While the team wasn't able to defend its tournament title, the Buckeyes still placed a respectable third (119.5 points) with eight individual place winners. Oklahoma (154.5) and Nebraska (130.5) placed first and second respectively.
Leading the way for the Buckeyes was defending national champion, and the #1-ranked pound-for-pound wrestler in the country, Logan Stieber. Ironically, Stieber's closest match of the weekend was his opening round contest against CSU Bakersfield's Ian Nickell, a 13-3 major decision. Stieber would go on to pin his next three opponents in less than 2:30 each. Stieber pinned Purdue's Danny Sabatello, the eigth-seeded wrestler in the tournament, in 0:44. In the semifinals, he pinned #5-seed Nick Lester of Oklahoma in 2:22. Most expected Stieber to match up against #2 seed Devin Carter of Virginia Tech (#3 nationally at 141 pounds) in the finals, but an injury forced Carter to bow out of the tournament, setting up a contest with 6-seed Anthony Abidin of Nebraska. Stieber dominated Abidin from the opening whistle. By the time 2:06 had passed, he had accumulated a 16-1 lead, earning him the victory via technical fall.
The dominant weekend brought Stieber's record to 9-0 with all 9 wins being of the bonus point variety (maj. decision, tech fall, or pin). It also earned him the tournament's most outstanding wrestler award.
Joining Stieber atop the podium was sophomore 133 pounder Johnni DiJulius. An NCAA qualifier as a freshman, DiJulius racked up five wins to improve his record to 14-1. Entering the tournament as the #4 seed, DiJulius won his first four contests by decision, including a 6-2 win over the #1 seed Joe Colon of Northern Iowa (#4 nationally). In the finals, DiJulius faced the sixth-ranked 133 pounder in the country, Oklahoma's Cody Brewer, and won by fall at 0:44 of the very first round. In beating two of the top 6 wrestlers at his weight class in consecutive matches, DiJulius has announced his presence on the national stage. Expect a significant jump up the rankings for a wrestler who currently sits at #16.
Buckeye All-American and #1-seed Nick Heflin was well on his way to a finals appearance before a foot injury forced the RS senior to bow out after his quarterfinal match. Despite forfeiting his final 3 matches with the injury, Heflin still placed sixth in the tournament.
Also placing for the Buckeyes were Nick Roberts (7th Place, 125 pounds), Ian Paddock (5th place, 149 pounds), Randy Languis (8th place, 157 pounds), Kenny Courts (3rd place, 184 pounds), and Nick Tavanello (8th place, HWT).
The Buckeyes next outing is next Sunday at noon against defending NCAA champ Penn State. The dual meet will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network.