Ho, ho, ho! It was a merry ‘Wrestlemas’ (sorry, not sorry) for the Ohio State wrestling team on Tuesday, as Tom Ryan’s squad competed in not one, not two, but three duals as part of the 2023 Collegiate Wrestling Duals in Nashville, Tennessee.
And while competing in three consecutive duals certainly seems daunting, Ryan’s guys were more than up to the task. Facing a tough trio of No. 21 Northern Iowa, Lock Haven, and No. 2 North Carolina State, the 8th-ranked Buckeyes finished with a perfect 3-0 team record, highlighted by their upset of the previously red-hot Wolfpack.
In addition to handing NC State their first team loss of the season, several Buckeyes enjoyed individual success in Nashville. True freshman Rocco Welsh (174 pounds) and reserve heavyweight Hogan Swenski were among Scarlet and Gray grapplers who finished 2-0, while Jesse Mendez (141) dominated throughout the entire event, notching three victories.
Additionally, Brendan McCrone (125) and Nic Bouzakis (133) pulled off massive upsets – via pin (!) – of top-5 ranked opponents, presumably boosting their confidence and own ranking(s) in the process.
Unfortunately, the Collegiate Duals were not televised or available via any of the major streaming services. Fans were required to either attend in person or have nuclear launch codes in order to watch the action, which is a massive, massive bummer, considering 5 of the top 13-ranked teams in the country were competing. But OSU’s social media team is top-notch, so Buckeye Nation could at least track results in something resembling real-time.
Tuesday’s highlight – arguably of the entire Collegiate Duals event, not just for Ohio State and its fans – was the dual between the Buckeyes and the Wolfpack. NC State was heavily favored and would have been even against a fully loaded (healthy) version of OSU... Which was not available.
Carson Kharchla (174) did not make the trip to Nashville, and Gavin Hoffman (184) was limited to just one match against Lock Haven, while Nick Feldman (HWT) was likely a ‘game time’ decision. In the end, the latter did compete against NC State, dropping a close match in the final seconds.
But by then, the damage had already been done by Ohio State. Feldman just needed to avoid a loss by major decision, tech fall, or pin — which he did. And so the Buckeyes were able to hang on by the skin of their teeth against the Wolfpack, thanks to an incredible and almost unfathomable start to this dual.
In the dual’s first match, OSU’s McCrone faced NC State’s Jakob Camacho, who is/was ranked No. 1 at 125 heading into Tuesday. But before the latter could blink, McCrone had taken him down and locked him in a cradle. The shocking pin came just 37 seconds into the match, giving the Buckeyes a 6-0 lead.
Not to be outdone, Bouzakis nearly matched McCrone, pinning his top-5 NC State opponent in a mere 51 seconds. Two matches, two pins of top-5 nationally ranked members of the Wolfpack... With Mendez on deck.
Brendan McCrone pins Jakob Camacho! pic.twitter.com/3ouG0w9IWD— WrestlersGrind (@_wrestlersgrind) December 20, 2023
Ohio State’s superstar needed a little more time than McCrone and/or Bouzakis, pinning fourth-ranked Ryan Jack (not Jack Ryan) of NC State in the third period of their highly anticipated match. Mendez’s pin and subsequent bonus points gave OSU an 18-0 lead, which turned out to be juuuust enough of a cushion.
After three pins in the first three matches, things got a bit dicey for the Buckeyes. The resilient Wolfpack won six of the seven remaining matches, nearly completing an epic comeback.
Welsh, competing in his first collegiate dual, was the only other Scarlet and Gray grappler to notch a victory, doing so against top-25 opponent Alex Faison. In reality, Welsh’s impressive dub turned out to be the ‘real’ difference for Ohio State.
There would have been no shame in losing to NC State, but coughing up an 18-0 lead? That would have been a tough pill to swallow.
But alas, Tuesday wound up being a rousing success for OSU. Not only did the Buckeyes knock off NC State, but their win over UNI was impressive as well.
While the Panthers might not boast the same depth as most top-10 programs, they still trotted out four nationally-ranked grapplers in Nashville, including top-ranked 184-pounder Parker Keckeisenz. However, Ohio State won 8 out of 10 matches on their way to a 26-7 team result.
The Buckeyes will now enjoy a short break before welcoming a top-10 Cornell squad to Covelli Center on Jan. 5. And fortunately, that one will be available on Big Ten Network at 8 p.m. ET.
Happy holidays and Go Bucks!