The 2014-2015 version of the Ohio State wrestling team is already one of the most hyped squads in recent program history and we're still four months away from its first dual meet. This year's Buckeyes will feature Hodge Trophy frontrunner Logan Stieber, All-American Hunter Stieber (returning from a redshirt year), a trio of super-talented freshmen, and a deep collection of talented wrestlers with NCAA tournament potential. Combine that talent level with a wide-open national field and this may be Ohio State's best shot at a wrestling championship.
Here at Land-Grant Holy Land, we could (and will) break the team and its schedule down in detail, but first we wanted to see what some of the biggest names in wrestling media have to say. To start things off, we have asked Mike Riordan (@coachmjr) from SB Nation's Bloody Elbow to answer a few questions. For the uninitiated, Riordan is BE's resident wrestling expert. In addition to doing a great job of covering the sport at the amateur level, he does fantastic breakdowns of wrestling in MMA.
So without further ado, let's talk Buckeye wrestling.
Much of the hype surrounding Ohio State wrestling this offseason surrounds three freshmen with legitimate shots at earning All-American status (Bo Jordan, Nathan Tomasello, Kyle Snyder). Is it reasonable to expect all three to live up to that billing in their first season at the college level?
Mike Riordan: I would have liked to see Tomasello and Jordan at Midlands last year, but I don't think that will matter in the long term. The two went a combined 42-0 last year, and both has crushing wins over ranked opponents. Furthermore, the departure of a very solid Nick Roberts speaks volumes about what Tomasello has done in the room. I don't have any reservations about penciling in Tomasello as anywhere from fourth to eighth in the nation. I also think Jordan is as sure fire an All American as there comes, and at 165 he has the potential to make the national finals.
As for Snyder, his true freshman season will end up anywhere between Adam Coon's and J'Den Cox's, and after the 'Beat the Streets' match against Khajimurad Gatsalov, I'm leaning very heavily to the latter
Which teams do you think will pose the biggest challenge to Ohio State in the Big Ten and national championship races?
MR: This will be the most unpredictable, open team race maybe ever. People really like Minnesota to win it with the Dardanes brothers moving down in weight again. Also, Iowa's lineup is tough top to bottom, and Cornell has major firepower with a highly regarded Alex Cisneros filling in at 141 pounds. All three of those teams have issues, and graduation/redshirts will probably take Oklahoma State and Pen State out of the title picture, so Ohio State has a pretty good chance to take the whole thing.
There are huge expectations surrounding this year's Ohio State team. Do you think that this puts any additional pressure on the coaching staff?
MR: Pressure from whom? As long as he finishes in the top four nationally, which barring catastrophic injury or illness seems inevitable, I'm pretty sure there won't be any major push for him to lose his job, nor should there be.
On the other hand, knowing what I do about Tom Ryan, I'm sure he's personally putting a ton of pressure on his shoulders. A chance to win an NCAA team title is his dream; what he has been working towards for decades now. These sorts of opportunities only come once in a while, and now after the seven-year long era reign of double recruiting classes, the increasing parity in college wrestling will make these chances even more infrequent.
Logan Stieber has a shot at becoming only the fourth four-time national champion in NCAA history. Who or what do you see as a potential stumbling block along the way?
MR: Stieber's only potential stumbling block is an injury.
As someone who spends a lot of time breaking down the finer points of wrestling technique for Bloody Elbow, what do you think that it is about Stieber's style that has allowed him to be successful?
MR: Really great wrestlers develop a sense on what tiny adjustments once they are in on a shot; they read their opponent's defense and act accordingly. Stieber is as good as anyone I've ever seen at making these adjustments, and making them while staying in perfect position.
Also, I've heard stories that his functional strength is just absurd, almost ape-like. This kind of strength just makes well-executed technique that much more irresistible.
Kyle Snyder has spent the better part of the last two years wrestling freestyle. What sort of issues might he encounter as he transitions back to folkstyle?
MR: The only, ONLY stumbling block that Snyder might face is the common bane of many wrestlers new to the Division I scene: getting out from bottom. However, I think this is terribly unlikely. He never had any issues with this throughout high school, and I think he's too diligent a student of the sport and too good an athlete to let this hold him down (get it?).
If I realize this, the Ohio State coaching staff certainly does as well, and no doubt they will prepare accordingly
From an entertainment perspective, which non-Buckeye wrestlers should fans be keeping an eye on in 2014/2015?
MR: It's funny you ask this, because for the first time ever Ohio State might be the team I most look forward to watching. I also really love the way Cornell wrestles, especially Nahshon Garrett and Dylan Palacios.
Outside those two teams, individually the most exciting wrestler in the nation is Minnesota's Dylan Ness by a wide margin. I also try to never miss a match featuring NC State's Nick Gwiazdowski, who despite being a heavyweight, lives and dies by his offense. Finally, I love watching Edinboro's Mitchell Port; he's not stylistically flashy or anything, but he just oozes toughness and whoops on people like a pissed-off redneck.
Finally, even though we're eight months out, I have to put you on the spot and ask: What's your way-too-early prediction for the 2014/2015 Ohio State wrestling team?
MR: Ohio State will come close to winning it all next year, but won't. As much talent as they possess (a metric ton), they are relying on a lineup where 80% of the starters have never stood on an NCAA podium, and I just can't pick a team with only two returning All-Americans to do something as difficult as winning a Division I team title in wrestling. (For the record, Iowa had three returning All-Americans in 2008 when they started their most recent run, Penn State had three as well in 2011).