The Ohio State wrestling team is every bit as talented as its counterpart from Ann Arbor, but Friday at St. Johns Arena, it didn't matter. Though the team had chance after chance to seize control of the dual meet, it couldn't capitalize. The result: a 21-12 loss to that school up north. The Buckeyes hung in there until the very last match, but couldn't find that one big victory to push them over the edge. Really, coming close but not finishing was the story of the match. Wrestler after wrestler was one takedown or one reversal away from victory, but aside from blowouts at 141 and 197, only Mark Martin was able to make it happen.
The meet began at 157 pounds, which wasn't great for the Buckeyes as 157 and 165 have been problem weights this season. Randy Languis (15-14) fought hard against #14 Brian Murphy, but ultimately it wasn't enough as he fell 5-2. Up next was Joe Grandominico (8-16) against #6 Dan Yates of Michigan. Yates was a big favorite in this match and you have to feel that the coaching staff would've been happy with Grandominico keeping it to a decision. That's exactly what he did, hanging tough and ultimately losing 8-4.
After the first two matches, Ohio State was down 6-0 in the team battle with #14 Mark Martin (20-9) set to face the Wolverines' Colin Zeerip. This was a match that the Buckeyes had to have, and they got it. Behind the strength of two takedowns, Martin won 4-3. Up next was a pivotal match for the team race. Trailing 6-3, Ohio State's #10 Kenny Courts (21-5) took on #20 Domenic Abounader. Courts shot in early for a takedown, and split the middle in an effort to finish. Abounader didn't give up, he continued to scramble and Courts ended up on his back with his opponent's legs scissored around him. The hold would eventually be broken, but Courts was in a 5-0 hole less than a minute into the match. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, Courts was never able to dig himself out, eventually losing by that same five-point margin 9-4.
With one match left to go before Intermission, the Buckeyes were down 9-3 and 2x All-American, #8 Nick Heflin (14-1) was up against unheralded Chris Heald. This was a position where the Buckeyes needed some bonus points from their senior who, while very talented, is known as a defensive wrestler who doesn't score that many points. It was obvious from the beginning that Heflin was opening up his arsenal for this match. He started with a tight body lock that led to a takedown and three points for near-fall. Heflin continued to pour it on, scoring takedown after takedown and earning a 16-3 major decision and four team points for the Buckeyes. Ohio State trailed 9-7 at the intermission.
The first three matches after the break were almost exactly the same. Nick Tavanello (HWT), Nick Roberts (125), and Johnni DiJulius (133) all lost overtime decisions in which they failed to secure a single takedown. Roberts (20-9) fell to unranked Freshman Conor Youtsey. Dijulius(18-2) also fell to an unranked wrestler in Rossi Bruno, who admittedly was a very difficult style match up. Of the three, Tavanello (17-11) had by far the best performance against #2 Adam Coon. Coon, a true-freshman sensation has lost only once this season while picking up wins against the biggest names in the weight class like defending national champion Tony Nelson of Minnesota. Tavanello, a heavy underdog, gave Coon everything that he could handle. Eventually it came down to the two 30-second ride-outs in overtime. Coon got out and Tavanello couldn't.
Any of those three, Tavanello, Roberts, and Dijulius, could've won their match if they had hit one more move. If two of the three win in overtime, it's an 18-15 Buckeye win. That was the most frustrating aspect of the match for Buckeye fans. The match was right there for the taking, but Ohio State couldn't close the deal.
Heading into the last two matches the Buckeyes trailed 18-7, meaning they would need a pin and a tech fall in the last two matches to tie the score, or two pins to win it. Logan Stieber (15-1) did what he does, absolutely dismantling #13 Steve Dutton by way of a 16-1 technical fall. The win gave Ohio State five points, meaning it would need a pin from Senior Ian Paddock (19-9, #18) to tie the meet up. It wouldn't happen as Paddock dropped a 7-2 decision to #7 Eric Grajales. It was another disappointment in a night full of them.
The Buckeyes don't have much time to dwell on the loss, as they're in action again next Monday. The match, in West Lafeyette against Purdue, will be aired live on the Big Ten Network starting at 7pm. The Buckeyes should be heavy favorites in this one, so be sure to tune in.