Fresh off of a close loss to #1 Iowa, there is no rest for the Ohio State wrestling team as #4 Penn State is on its way. The dual, which will take place this Sunday at 2:00 p.m. at St. John Arena, pits the Buckeyes against the four-time defending national champions. It will include a series of top-10 matches at weights like 125, 133, and 197, and should be an absolute thriller.
A dual of this magnitude was way too much for me to handle alone, so LGHL has joined forces with Penn State blog Black Shoe Diaries and their wrestling guru BScaff to preview Sunday's action. I don't usually like to give space on LGHL to someone such obviously lacking judgement, but he knows his Lions about as well as anybody on the web, so I figured we could give him a shot. As for format, we took turns asking one another about each weight class. You can read our discussion for the 125-157-pound weight classes over at BSD. We'll be tackling 165-285 here.
BScaff: I watched Bo Jordan against Iowa's Nick Moore last week, and the first thing that jumped out at me (other than his size) was his snatch single in the first period. He and Moore are tied up, and Bo just reaches down and casually picks up Moore's right leg like it's a sheet of paper, and not a 75-lb muscled appendage attached to a top-10 ranked division one wrestler. No leverage, no angle, practically no set up - nothing but a strong back. Kinda freaked me out. I'm guessing you're at least a bit more used to it now, after his redshirt year?
Dan: See, now this is my wheelhouse right here. There is nobody on the Ohio State team that I'd rather talk about than Bo Jordan. Outside of Logan Stieber, there hasn't been a wrestler on the team has been better than Jordan has this season (albeit in very limited action). That single that you saw against Moore is a go-to move for Jordan, I've seen him use it several times this season to great success. It's such a low-risk attack too which makes it even more effective.
To give you some added context to the Moore match, that was Jordan's first match since the Michigan State open way back in early November. It wasn't even a sure thing that Jordan would wrestle against Moore. The decision was made based on where the team score was when 165 came up. Jordan had been practicing for a few weeks, but according to Coach Ryan he had only wrestled live once in the seven weeks since his last match.That's probably a big reason why his pace slowed in the later periods, keeping him from earning bonus points.
I don't want to get too hyperbolic here (ok, I really do. I just don't want the BSDers to call me on it), but of the three Buckeye freshman, I have Jordan as the surest bet to make the podium come March. This season he has wrestled two top-10 guys: Taylor Massa and Moore. In those two matches he has given up a combined three points (all escapes). Those are also the only two matches where he hasn't earned bonus points. Jordan will be tested, and the sailing won't be this smooth all year long, but he is going to be an incredibly fun one to follow the next four years.
St. Paris Graham can sure produce some 165-pounders, can't it?
Ben: Jordan by MAJ (6-16 Ohio State)
Dan: Jordan by MAJ (3-18 Ohio State)
Dan: If the team score goes as we have predicted, this will be an incredibly important match for Penn State. Brown will almost have to get bonus points here. Fortunately for Penn State, Brown has earned bonus in eight of his nine matches this season and last year he earned bonus 24 times. What is it about his style that makes him such an effective point scorer? Do you think he will keep it up against Martin?
BScaff: ESPN3 covered the student run web broadcast of the Penn State at Pitt dual earlier this year. PJ Tasser, who finished his eligibility last year as Pitt's heavyweight, was a guest commentator while Matt Brown squared off with Pitt's backup Troy Reaghard. The play-by-play man starts the match off by noting what a great treat it must be for Reaghard, a lightly used senior reserve, to get the start for an injured Tyler Wilps in front of close to 10,000 fans. Tasser agrees with the sentiment, but adds (paraphrasing), 'except Matt Brown's not very fun to wrestle'.
Tasser, having wrestled Brown in a prior season, knew too well that Hulk Hands, as we call him at BSD, will be pulling down on the back of your neck with a heavy, heavy right hand for the entire time that you're neutral. Matt's not cat quick like Nebraska's Kokesh, and he's not blessed with a weird gyro for winning scrambles like Minnesota's Storley. But, he will beat on your neck and head without a hint of remorse until your brain cries 'no mas', at which point he'll power through a leg attack. Once he takes you down, one hand will go back on your neck, smashing your face into the mat, while the other grabs something and bends it in painful directions. Lather, rinse, repeat. It probably gets old quickly.
Mark Martin's wrestled Hulk Hands before, and he knows the drill. Last year at Rec Hall, his strategy involved backing away while neutral, and flattening out while on bottom. Hulk Hands picked up the major, 16-4, but two of those points were from stalling. If the ref has swallowed his whistle, Martin could keep it to a regular decision.
Ben: Brown by MAJ (10-16 Ohio State)
BScaff: Kenny Courts hails from my own beloved Pennsylvania District III, which, under normal circumstances, would mean I'm pulling for him. However, he's from Central Dauphin, an infamous den of villainy, and now wrestles for the hated Buckeyes. That puts him one step up from chlamydia and gonorrhea in my book. Unfortunately for Kenny, my sense from 500 miles away is that Tom Ryan isn't the redshirt junior's biggest fan, either. I'm guessing that Coach Ryan's (paraphrased) 'some guys fight through, others lose by a point' post-Iowa dual comment might have been pointed in Kenny's direction?
Dan: As I read this question, my mind wandered back to a video that I watched in the offseason. It was "The Program" a documentary on the Buckeyes that Flowrestling put together during the 12/13 season. Most of the action took place in the weeks leading up to the Big Ten tournament and one of the main storylines revolved around Courts' best two-of-three wrestle-off with C.J. Magrum. I remember after Courts lost the first round, Coach Ryan talking to him about desire and making the sacrifices to get where he wants to be. It sounded almost identical to some of the post-match quotes that we have heard in the wake of the Missouri and Iowa losses.
Now Coach Ryan didn't single Courts out after those losses, and i'm not willing to call into question the heart or want-to of someone as accomplished as Courts, but his losses often seem to have the same feeling: They easily could have been wins if he had been just wrestled a little bit better or had a little more gas in the tank during the third period.
I don't want to be too negative here, though, Courts has had a very good career. He was one match away from All-American status last season and led the team with 32 victories. He's definitely someone who the coaches are counting on to make that next step this season. Ohio State's path to the national championship gets a lot easier if Kenny Courts is an All-American. Maybe that's why there is so much frustration when he backslides. This week, though, I think he gets it done against the Freshman.
Ben: McCutcheon by DEC (13-16 Ohio State)
Dan: Courts by DEC (7-21)
Dan: Don't let the Burak match fool you, in Kyle Snyder you will be seeing a very different wrestler thanlast year's Buckeyes 197-pounder Nick Heflin. Snyder has a much more forward, attacking style than the defensive-minded Heflin. Style-wise what kind of wrestler is he facing in McIntosh? What kind of performance will it take for the true freshman to come out on top against Morgan?
BScaff: Morgan and Snyder are very similar. They're both smaller 197-lbers - I doubt either has to cut a ton of weight. They're both incredible athletes, amazingly quick and nimble, with the feet of a lightweight. And both, typically, pressure forward the entire match looking for their offense. So, I'm excited for this one - we could see the fur really start to fly.
Where Morgan's improved most from his true freshman year to now has been on top. He's been racking up bonus by tilting and burying opponents this year. Nine of his 14 victories this season are the bonus variety, and six of those are pins. His favorite move this season has been the bow-and-arrow, which he used to deck Cornell's #18 Bennett and Pitt's #10 Bonaccorsi. Instead of just controlling you for the back points, Morgan adds a foot lift so that you think he might snap your spine in half, and you go over flat.
So, for Kyle to come out on top here against Morgan, he needs to exit the first period with a lead - ideally, he'd finish the first on top. And then he needs to get out from bottom quickly when it's his turn underneath. If Kyle's choice is deferred to the 3rd period, and he holds the lead starting the 3rd, he might want to just go neutral, and forget about trying to get the escape. I think Kyle is more or less even with Morgan on his feet. It's on the mat where he's at a disadvantage.
Dan: Mcintosh by DEC (10-21)
Ben: McIntosh by DEC (16-16)
BScaff: I remember admiring Nick Tavenello's effort in State College last year. He took some good shots and caught Jimmy Lawson flat-footed a couple of times, but he just didn't have enough to finish the takedown. The match ended as a 15-4 major for Jimmy. That dual was in December. In March, Tavenello dropped his pigtail match at NCAAs before winning 4 straight matches in the consolation bracket, 2 by fall, and coming up just one win short of All-American. Huh? Where did that run come from, and which Tavenello are you expecting to see Sunday?
Dan: Heavyweight is always an unpredictable weight class, but I don't think anyone saw that performance coming from Tavanello. Heading into nationals he was barely over .500 and had just gone 1-3 at the Big Ten tournament.
This year he's been winning at a higher clip than last season, but he still has some dumbfounding losses (like losing to Garrett Grey of Tiffen, which is apparently a school somewhere). Against the top guys, it's the same story; lots of hard-fought losses. That's what I expect to see on Sunday. Tavanello will attack and wrestle to win, but I don't think he'll have enough to snatch the win.
I'll also add this, if it's a close dual where Tavanello needs to keep it to a decision for the team to win/tie, I'm very confident in his ability to do just that. He was in a similar position against J'Den cox and dropped a 4-2 decision.
Ben: Lawson (or Gingrich) by DEC (19-16 Penn State)
Dan: Lawson (or Gingrich) by DEC (13-21 Ohio State)
So there you have it, much to everyone's surprise I have Ohio State pulling out the win and BScaff has Penn State. The biggest difference between our predictions: I have Hunter Stieber and Kenny Courts winning and he has them losing. Switch those two results around and the score in my prediction is 19-15 Penn State. That means that every match is going to matter on Sunday, which usually makes for a fascinating dual meet. If you haven't been to St. John for a match yet, now is the time. Penn State is the one of the best opponents left on the schedule and you are running out of opportunities to see Logan Stieber wrestle in person.
Thanks again to Bscaff for helping us out. Penn State is a villain that needs to be bludgeoned, but you're an ok dude!