Ohio State wrestling began its 2023-24 season in earnest this past weekend, competing in two team duals between Friday night and Sunday afternoon. Despite the tough turnaround and tight travel schedule (to Blacksburg, VA and then back home), Tom Ryan’s grapplers stormed out of the gates by taking both duals in impressive fashion.
The level of competition changed drastically from one dual to the next – as did the final score – but both results should give OSU plenty of confidence as their ’23-24 season kicks into high gear.
To open their dual season, the Buckeyes traveled to Blacksburg on Friday to take on No. 3 Virginia Tech. The Hokies boasted ranked wrestlers at all but one weight class and were likely considered a heavy favorite. However, Ryan and his squad did not get the memo. Ohio State only took two of the first five matches, but were tied at the midway point thanks to bonus points. The Scarlet and Gray then proceeded to take four of the last five, eventually running away with the match by a score of 24-12.
OSU’s young guns (of which they have many) were the stars of the VT dual, starting with 125-pound redshirt freshman Brendan McCrone. Replacing long-time 125 staple Malik Heinselman, McCrone was tasked with taking on Eddie Ventresca of VT, a top-5 wrestler in their shared weight class. After falling behind 0-3 in the first period, McCrone went on to score a near fall and the final 11 points of the match, earning an 11-3 major decision. It was the first and perhaps most impressive upset of the night, but certainly not the last.
The Ohio State bench reacts to Brendan McCrone’s 11-3 major decision over Virginia Tech’s Eddie Ventresca at 125 pounds. pic.twitter.com/cJHnJtkQ4u— FloWrestling (@FloWrestling) November 11, 2023
After redshirt freshman Nic Bouzakis dropped his 133-lb match to VT’s Sam Latona, returning All-American Jesse Mendez put Ohio State back on top with an 18-3 tech fall at 141. But then the tide started to turn against the Buckeyes. Dylan D’Emilio and Paddy Gallagher lost back-to-back matches at 149 and 157, both to top-6 wrestlers. This led to a brief 9-9 tie and appeared to give VT some much-needed momentum... They (VT) also had five ranked wrestlers still due to compete.
Fortunately, this is when OSU’s big men rose to the occasion. In a major way. Isaac Wilcox, Ryan’s ‘super utility player’, defeated VT’s Connor Brady at 165, putting the Scarlet and Gray up 12-9. The Hokies then tied the match again with a win at 174. However, it would prove to be the home team’s last positive result of the evening.
At 184, true freshman Ryder Rogotzke put Ohio State ahead for good with his dominant win and pin of VT’s Sam Fisher. Luke Geog (197) and Nick Feldman (HWT), both redshirt freshmen, then sealed the deal for the Buckeyes, each earning a decision over a top-20 opponent... Notice the theme here?
OSU tallied six individual wins against VT, five of them coming from grapplers in their first or second year with the program. Wilcox was the only junior or senior to notch a dub, and he has long been considered ‘just’ a utility guy. I think he becomes a staple in Ryan’s lineup this season, but that is neither here nor there. The point is, Ohio State looked great kicking off their ’23-24 campaign. And it was youth leading the way.
The Scarlet and Gray then welcomed Edinboro to Covelli Center on Sunday, and... Well, let’s just say things got ugly. OSU destroyed the Fighting Scots by a score of 53-0, earning at least a major decision in every match. Four grapplers won via fall, with three of those taking place in the first 66 seconds of the match. I personally don’t recall seeing such a lopsided result, but Edinboro was simply outclassed here. Each and every Buckeye who donned a singlet impressed during this one.
Paramount to this early November result over an inferior non-con opponent, is/was the fact that Sunday’s dual victory was No. 200 for Coach Ryan at Ohio State. A newly minted member of both the OSU and Hofstra athletics hall of fame(s), Ryan now boasts 309 combined dual victories to go with his numerous conference and NCAA achievements. And with such a young team already showing this much promise, it seems certain that he will notch a few more during this ’23-24 season.
Next up, the Buckeye wrestlers will compete in a unique doubleheader. That’s right, a wrestling doubleheader! Ryan’s squad will head to New York this weekend, to face both Columbia and Hofstra in Sunday duals. Get this: Ohio State will take on the former at 11:00 a.m. ET, before making a short drive to face their coach’s alma mater in the afternoon.
But this young group seems to be up for any challenge. So find the coverage on Sunday and enjoy an entire day of OSU wrestling. Go Bucks!