Nobody expected Ohio State wrestling to beat Penn State in Rec Hall this weekend. Three, maybe four matchups were toss-ups. The only sure thing was Logan Stieber, who was taking on a freshman in Zain Retherford. Retherford was 10-0, but hadn't really faced any of the "big boys" yet. Keeping it to a major decision was probably the best that he could hope for.
The match started as many expected. Stieber scored the early takedown and went to work with his armbar series. He sunk in the armbar and went for the turn, but a potentially dangerous call reset things and Stieber couldn't score. Eventually, Retherford escaped, giving Stieber the 2-1 advantage after the first period.
Stieber began the second period from the bottom and that's when things started to get strange. Retherford kept top position as Stieber looked almost passive from the bottom. Two minutes passed and the period ended with the defending national champion still on bottom. Retherford chose neutral to begin the third period. The two wrestlers traded takedown attempts with neither being able to finish. The riding time accumulated in the second period gave Retherford a point resulting in a 2-2 score, and overtime.
Then it happened. Retherford shot. Stieber defended. Both wrestlers adjusted. Retherford came behind Stieber. The referee raised two fingers. A winning streak spanning two seasons and two NCAA tournaments was over in a flash. Retherford 4 Stieber 2. Retherford would later say that he dreamed about a win over Stieber the night before. His dream came true, but the Buckeyes' nightmare was just beginning.
Down 8-3 after the Stieber loss and Nathan Roberts' loss by tech-fall to Nico Megaludis (Johnni DiJulius won a close decision at 133), Ian Paddock was up at 149 pounds. Paddock was the only "favorite" left for the Buckeyes. He also went down to a Freshman, dropping a 5-3 decision to Seth Bietz. Randy Languis was up next, and he dropped a 12-5 decision to backup James Vollrath at 157.
After intermission, it was David Taylor, arguably the best wrestler in the country, versus Joe Grandominico. Taylor scored a quick takedown and led 9-1 by the end of the first period. In the end it was a 20-5 tech fall victory for the Penn State senior. Next up was Mark Martin who was thoroughly dominated by #3-ranked Matt Brown 16-4. Kenny Courts followed at 184 pounds, taking on 2x national champion Ed Ruth. Courts, the heavy underdog, surprised Ruth with an early takedown but it was all Ruth from there. Courts would score only one more point as Ruth worked his way to a 14-3 decision.
With only two matches left, #5 Nick Heflin was set to take on #3 Morgan McIntosh. However, Wes Phipps replaced the injured McIntosh at the last minute.Heflin, an All-American in 2013, used a late takedown to score a 3-1 victory. The final match of the evening saw Nick Tavanello drop a 12-4 decision to Jimmy Lawson at heavyweight.
The final team score was 31-6. With the loss, the Buckeyes' record now stands at 4-1. Where Stieber goes from here will be a story to watch as the season progresses. He will still be favored in every match that he wrestles, but winning three straight Big Ten and NCAA championships is no longer a foregone conclusions. One thing is for sure: This spring all eyes will be on the Big Ten tournament as Stieber and Retherford are on a collision course for a rematch.
The Buckeyes next take the mat Dec. 19 at Kent State University.