Freshman captains aren't unheard of in college wrestling. It happens from time to time. Having three freshman captains on a team loaded with accomplished veterans, on the other hand, is incredibly rare. That's exactly the situation the 2014/2015 Ohio State wrestling team finds itself heading into this season.
Some might think that a team with three freshman captains signifies a team lacking in veteran leadership, but that isn't the case at all. What it really signifies is the caliber of person that each of the "freshmen three" have shown themselves to be. So without further ado, lets take at the three first-year starters that the Buckeyes will be counting on to score big points come NCAA tournament time.
2014 Results: 19-0 (open tournament competition)
Accolades: 4x Ohio HS state champion, 141-0 from soph-senior year, 2x HS All American
125-pounder Nathan Tomasello came to Ohio State in 2013 as one of the most accomplished wrestlers in the history of Ohio High School wrestling. He went 178-5 in his four years at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy with all five losses coming during his freshman season. In high school Tomasello was a four-time Ohio state champion, a three-time Iron Man champion, an Iron Man MVP, a two-time high school first team All-American, and a Fila cadet national champion.
As a college wrestler, all he has done is win the first five open tournaments that he has entered while running up a 23-0 record. In his only competition so far this season, Tomasello went 4-0 with three major decisions and a tech fall to win the Michigan State Open.
Tomasello is relentlessly offensive on his feet and capable of racking up points in a hurry. While a top-heavy weight class might prevent him from topping the podium at the NCAA tournament as a Freshmen, he's still expected to be a big-time point scorer.
Tomasello currently sits at 12 in the Flowrestling rankings, which is mostly due to his limited opportunities against elite college competition. The top two at 125 are set in stone: Jesse Delgado of Illinois and Nashon Garrett of Cornell. Even though Tomasello has beaten Garrett in freestyle, I can't predict him to finish above the defending national runner-up. For now, I'd probably rank Gilman of Iowa ahead of Tomasello too because of several freestyle victories over the Buckeye freshman. I fully expect Tomasello to be an all-American this season, though, and could see him settling in anywhere between 3rd and 6th place.
Weight: 165 pounds
2014 results: 23-0 (open tournament competition)
Accolades: 4x Ohio HS state champion, 182-1 with 122 pins
As you read this it might seem cliché that I continue to call these athletes some of the best in the history of High School wrestling, but it's an objective fact. Jordan is part of the famed Jordan wrestling family (22 state titles between the originals Jim and Jeff and their children Isaac, Ben, Bo, and Micah). He wrestled 183 matches as a high school wrestler for St. Paris Graham and won 182 of them. Of those 182 wins, around two-thirds (122) were by pinfall. Jordan won the 2013 Junior Dan Hodge Trophy, given to the most dominant high school wrestler in the country. He was twice named the Outstanding Wrestler of the OHSAA state wrestling tournament and twice won the notoriously difficult Ironman tournament.
As a freshman at Ohio State wrestling in open competition, Jordan was just as dominant. He entered five open tournaments and won all of them, racking up a 23-0 record along the way. Of those 23 wins, 20 earned bonus points (11 pins, four tech falls, and five major decisions). The only knock on Jordan his freshman year was that he wasn't facing the toughest of opposition. Those rumblings were put to rest at this year's Michigan State Open where Jordan faced a top-10 opponent in Taylor Massa of Michigan. Jordan completely controlled Massa the entire match on the way to one of the most dominant 4-1 decisions that you will ever see.
The sky is the limit for Jordan, but he also finds himself in a very tough weight class. 165 pounds is loaded this year with names like defending 157-pound national champion Alex Dieringer, All-american Nick Sulzer, and Bo's cousin Isaac Jordan. Still, Jordan is a special talent and I expect him to perform like it. He is certainly capable of winning a national title this year, but I'm not ready to predict it just yet. For now I'm slotting Jordan anywhere between 2 and 4 at the NCAA tournament, with plenty of bonus points scored along the way.
Weight: 197 pounds
2014 results: Freestyle national champion (3rd in Worlds)
Accolades: 3 MD state championships, 179-0 with 1 takedown allowed (in three years of HS wrestling), Junior world champion (FS), 2x Junior national champion (FS)
Over the summer LGHL wrote extensively about Snyder.
Since that article was written, Snyder has gone 4-0 in his first four college wrestling matches including an 11-4 decision over top-10 opponent Phil Wellington of Ohio University.
My prediction for Snyder remains the same as it was this summer:
When I interviewed Bloody Elbow's Mike Riordan earlier this summer, he made what I think was a very fair prediction for Snyder. He said, "As for Snyder, his true freshman season will end up anywhere between Adam Coon's and J'Den Cox's."
So what does that mean? Coon started off the season dominating the field, including beating 2x defending national champion Tony Nelson, he wore down as the season progressed, though. Ultimately he fell one match short of placing. That's Snyder's floor. It's would be an incredible Freshman season, and it's the absolute worst I can see Snyder doing.
To see his ceiling, let's look at Missouri's J'Den Cox, the current king of Snyder's 197-pound weight class. Cox lost two matches early in the season, then hit his stride, winning 24 straight matches to end the season. Buckeye fans will remember that in the NCAA Tournament, Cox beat Ohio State's Nick Heflin in a close and highly controversial match to win the national championship. Snyder and Cox have wrestled before, with Cox winning once and Snyder winning the other. They'll meet again during the regular season. Missouri is coming Columbus December 14. That match will go a long way toward letting us know how Snyder is readjusting to folkstyle after a year of focusing on freestyle.
But to get back to the prediction, Cox showed us that a true freshman can win a national title, and Snyder showed us in the past that he's at least as good as Cox. There's a long way to go, and Snyder has yet to set foot on an Ohio State mat, but he has dominated every level of wrestling that he's been a part of, and I feel confident that he will keep it up in college. There are eight spots on the NCAA tournament podium, and I will be shocked if Snyder isn't standing on the top half come March.