Tom Ryan’s Ohio State wrestling squad earned not one but two dual victories this past weekend, both over Big Ten opponents from that state up north. In a span of fewer than 48 hours, OSU made a business trip to Ann Arbor, traveled back home to host the lesser of two evils, and won 16 out of 20 individual matches along the way. As a result, the Buckeye grapplers remain undefeated in conference duals (5-0) and should find themselves ranked firmly inside the top five of the next NWCA coaches poll.
Ohio State’s big weekend began with a tough matchup against TTUN. Save for a lopsided loss at the hands of No. 1 Penn State, the Wolverines had dominated other Big Ten opponents and were no doubt looking to defend their home mat inside the Crisler Center. But the Buckeyes rolled up on their rival with bad intentions and jumped out to a huge lead — one which they would not surrender.
OSU’s trio of Malik Heinselman (125 pounds), Jesse Mendez (133), and Dylan D’Emilio (141) staked the Buckeyes to an early 9-0 advantage, each earning victories over a ranked Wolverine. Mendez’s win over 12th-ranked Dylan Ragusin was key in establishing early momentum, as the latter is a third-year grappler who took third place in last year’s Big Ten Championships. But Ohio State’s true freshman phenom scored a takedown in sudden victory, continuing to stake his claim as one of the top newcomers in the conference, if not all of college wrestling.
Competing next, Sammy Sasso (149) extended the Scarlet and Gray lead with his 20-5 rout of UM’s Fidel Mayora. The win was Sasso’s 12th of the season by either tech fall or pin, giving OSU a comfortable 14-point lead. Those points provided a nice buffer for when the Wolverines inevitably began to claw back... Which is exactly what they did in the next two matches.
Will Lewan earned UM’s first points of the night at 157 with a come-from-behind win over Ohio State’s Paddy Gallagher. The former was taken down early but rallied to earn a 6-4 decision in sudden victory. It was Gallagher’s third loss of the season, by a total of five points. And the hits kept on coming at 165, where OSU’s Carson Kharchla dropped a heartbreaker to the two-time All-American Cameron Amine.
Mired in a 1-1 stalemate for most of the match – and after Kharchla was robbed of a match-ending takedown in sudden victory – the two 165-pounders eventually found themselves going toe-to-toe in a second extra (fifth total) period. It was there that Kharchla attempted a quick reversal, only to be snatched up and immediately countered by Amine. The Wolverines’ Big Ten runner-up put Kharchla on his back and scored a six-point fall for the home team. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, 14-9 is as close as their bitter rival would get.
Needing to take back momentum, Ohio State enjoyed the luxury of turning to proven vets who were more than ready to take the mat. Ethan Smith (174) and Kaleb Romero (184) were able to stem the Maize and Blue tide, each earning an impressive individual victory while combining for six crucial team points. Smith went on the attack early and often during his match, while Romero did significant damage late. He scored two third-period takedowns against UM’s Matt Finesilver, defeating a top-10 wrestler in the process. It was Romero’s 18th win of the 2022-23 season and 76th as a (non-redshirt) Buckeye!
Gavin Hoffman put a bow on this one for the good guys, earning a 5-3 decision over Rylan Rogers at 191. TTUN then won the last individual match via a Mason Parris (HWT) pin, but only Friday’s outcome had already been determined. In the end, OSU secured a 23-15 result, giving Ryan’s team their first win in Ann Arbor since 2018. It was a heck of a team performance, as well as a prelude to Sunday’s runaway victory back in Columbus.
Roughly 40 hours after securing the rivalry dub against TTUN, Ohio State was quickly back in action, this time inside the friendly confines of Covelli Center. But frankly, folks, there is not much to tell about this match. Because OSU dismantled Michigan State by a score of 36-3. It was the team’s largest margin of victory this season, putting an emphatic end to a very impressive weekend.
The Buckeyes won 9 out of 10 matches against the Spartans, including pins by D’Emilio and Sasso. Mendez also scored a major decision over a top-20 wrestler at 133 (MSU’s Rayvon Foley), while Romero added another tech fall for his team-leading 19th victory. Ohio State’s only loss on Sunday came at 157, where Gallagher dropped yet another one-point decision. The redshirt freshman has been on the wrong end of too many closely-contested matches, so one would think breaks will start to go his way in February and beyond. Hoffman and Isaac Wilcox also impressed, with the latter notching his fifth “pinch hit” victory of the season. There is simply no other way to say it: This was a total ass-kicking by Ryan’s surging squad.
Next on his team’s schedule is a Friday (home) date with none other than Penn State. Cael Sanderson’s Nittany Lions have only won 9 of the last 11 national championships, so they will likely be coming in with just a little bit of swagger and/or confidence. But Ohio State is hot right now, and they will have the sold-out Covelli home crowd behind them. If they get a few wins from the Sassos and Romeros of the world, who knows what might happen? I definitely expect the Buckeyes to go in and fight, during what is sure to be an entertaining match.
This battle of the titans will be televised on BTN, beginning on Friday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. ET. Go Bucks!