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Ohio State wrestling ends regular season with win over No. 4 Cornell, shifts focus to Big Ten Championships

Still missing key contributors due to injury, Tom Ryan’s Buckeyes gutted out a solid top-5 win at the Spartan Combat Duals in Tampa.

Ohio State Wrestling /

Ohio State wrestling ended its regular season in sunny Tampa, Florida this past weekend, defeating Cornell as part of the Spartan Combat Duals. The Big Red presented one final hurdle for Tom Ryan’s Buckeyes, as well as an opportunity for OSU to grab some much-needed momentum heading into the postseason — momentum which was lost or put into question after limping (literally, at times) through the first half of February.

The Scarlet and Gray had dropped two of their previous three duals to Penn State and Nebraska. Both losses occurred at home, with the second also taking place on Senior Night. And to make matters worse, Carson Kharchla, Kaleb Romero, and Gavin Hoffman all missed the Big Ten regular season finale, bringing into question whether or not they will be available for postseason action.

However, Saturday’s dual against Cornell showed that Ohio State can still be a very dangerous team. Despite their seemingly waning momentum and legitimately mounting injury issues, the Buckeyes were able to notch a top-5 win, and do so without four key pieces in the lineup. The Big Red were missing a few guys of their own, but that should not minimize the significance of OSU’s victory.

Here’s hoping it is the catalyst for a memorable March run.

Match results

Dylan D’Emilio was up first for Ohio State, taking on Cornell’s Ethan Fernandez at 141 pounds. Hungry for his first win since Jan. 29, D’Emilio scored a takedown early and led 3-0 going into the third period. Fernandez then opened the third with an escape, but gave that point right back when he was called for stalling. The Buckeyes’ redshirt junior added one more takedown, resulting in a 6-1 decision.

Sammy Sasso continued his dominance at 149, earning six points for OSU via medical forfeit. He controlled his match with Sal Jones of Cornell, scoring three easy takedowns before the end of the second period. After the third and final takedown, Jones was unable to continue due to injury, giving Sasso the win. The Buckeyes’ national title contender has not lost in 2023, and appears to be peaking at the right time.

Paddy Gallagher kept the train rolling for Ryan’s squad, winning Saturday’s 157-pound match in impressive fashion. Similar to D’Emilio, Gallagher had experienced his fair share of tough luck since late January, losing four out of five to ranked opponents. But after surrendering an early takedown, Ohio State’s uber-talented redshirt freshman went on the offensive and scored a handful of his own. Gallagher outscored his opponent 14-6, earning a four-point major decision for the Buckeyes and pushing their early lead to 13-0.

The middle portion of this dual did not go nearly as well for OSU, as Klay Reeves (165), Isaac Wilcox (174), Gavin Bell (184), and Luke Geog (197) filled in for a quartet of banged-up starters. Bell was the only victor among the group, although Wilcox continued to impress when called upon on short notice. Cornell got as close as 16-11, but fortunately for the Scarlet and Gray, they had two proven vets waiting in the wings.

Tate Orndorff (HWT) and Malik Heinselman (125) sealed the deal for Ohio State, each earning a hard-fought decision to put the Buckeyes on top 22-11. Saturday’s victory was Heinselman’s 20th victory of this season, marking the third time in his career that he has accomplished such an impressive feat. Kudos to the lightweight, who now has 94 (!) career wins.

Jesse Mendez took the mat last for OSU, but dropped his 133-pound match to Vito Arujau, Cornell’s Olympic hopeful and two-time NCAA All-American. Arujau is one of the best in the world, not just college wrestling, so Mendez did well to hang in and go the distance. The true freshman from Indiana still finished his regular season with a 13-3 record and just two losses after November 11, to Arujau and top-ranked Roman Bravo-Young of Penn State... Pretty damn impressive for a newcomer.

Ohio State will have roughly two weeks to (hopefully) get healthy and prepare for the Big Ten Championships, being held March 4-5 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Buckeyes finished fourth in the regular season race, but have a collective goal of finishing higher in the upcoming tournament. And if they get Kharchla, Romero, and Hoffman back, they should have a real shot at doing so.

The Big Ten Championships begin Saturday, March 4 at 10:00 a.m. ET. Big Ten Network and B1G+ will have all the action, so tune in and follow the Buckeyes’ pursuit of their first B1G championship since the 2017-18 season.

Go Bucks!