Tom Ryan’s Buckeye grapplers will begin competing on the national stage Thursday, in pursuit of a high finish at the 2023 NCAA Championships. This year’s tournament is being held March 16-18 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a city and state which should be considered holy ground when it comes to college wrestling. That is because Oklahoma (the university of) and Oklahoma State have combined to win 41 national titles, with the latter claiming 34 of them.
Neither the Sooners nor Cowboys have won it all since 2006, though, due to the Big Ten’s recent domination. The B1G’s unprecedented success and insanely high level of competition should serve Ohio State wrestlers well in Tulsa, seeing as though they have faced (most of) the best of the best all season.
Nine Buckeyes will compete in all but one weight class, with four of Ryan’s guys entering the tournament as top-10 seeds. Scarlet and Gray superstar Sammy Sasso is widely expected to compete for an individual title, while veterans Ethan Smith and Kaleb Romero are among those hoping to finish high and rack up valuable team points. OSU finished outside the top 10 last year for the first time since 2010-11 but has more than enough talent to make noise in 2023.
These are your NCAA competitors:
' . #GoBucks pic.twitter.com/Dv1WTxa5yS— Ohio State Wrestling (@wrestlingbucks) March 9, 2023
Jesse Mendez — 133 pounds, 14-seed
Mendez entered the Big Ten Championships as a 2-seed but lost his last three matches, which is the same number he had lost during the entire regular season. This true freshman and former top overall recruit is wildly talented and could easily get back on track in Tulsa.
Dylan D’Emilio — 141 pounds, 17-seed
D’Emilio wrestled to a solid fourth-place finish at the Big Tens and will be making his third NCAA Championships appearance.
Sammy Sasso — 149 pounds, 2-seed
Sasso has been a national contender for the entirety of his Ohio State career. He is coming off his second Big Ten title and is among the favorites at 149. But his NCAA path could be made more difficult by the presence of Wisconsin’s Austin Gomez. Gomez is 3-0 against Sasso, took fourth nationally last year, and owns a 63-12 career record. But he has been banged up since January and enters this tournament as a 15-seed. If healthy, Gomez very well could have received the 2-seed instead of Sasso. As is, they are slated to meet in the second round should both win their opening match.
Paddy Gallagher — 157 pounds, 28-seed
Gallagher wrestled a number of close matches against top-tier competition this season but failed to win a match at the Big Ten Championships. He received an at-large bid and has the talent to pull off an upset or two.
Carson Kharchla — 165 pounds, 10-seed
When healthy, Kharchla is as dangerous as they come, as evidenced by his 25-5 record last season. But he has consistently battled injuries, affecting his general rhythm and mat fatigue. He took seventh at the 2022 National Championships and could make a dark horse run this year.
Ethan Smith — 174 pounds, 6-seed
Smith is a five-time(!) NCAA qualifier who placed fifth in 2021. He will be looking to end his illustrious OSU career on a high note but gets a challenging 6v7 matchup in the first round. Smith’s bracket is a gauntlet, but he has never finished with a losing record in four previous NCAA appearances.
Kaleb Romero — 184 pounds, 6-seed
Romero also gets a challenging 6v7 draw in the first round, as he will open with Hunter Bolden of Virginia Tech, with whom he has split two matches this season. But the sixth-year Buckeye has lost just three matches since December 3, en route to a 21-win season. I predict a strong finish for one of Coach Ryan’s most respected leaders.
Gavin Hoffman — 197 pounds, 26-seed
Hoffman snuck into the 2022 National Championships as a 21-seed. He then proceeded to win three matches, upset the No. 5 seed, and take sixth place, earning All-American status. Will history repeat itself?
Tate Orndorff — Heavyweight, 16-seed
Another five-time NCAA qualifier, Orndorff is the only (current) Ohio State wrestler to have done so at two schools. He has not matched his Utah Valley winning percentage in Columbus, but performed well at the Big Ten Championships and possesses more experience than most.