Ohio State took fourth in this past weekend’s Big Ten Wrestling Championships, matching their team result from 2022. But unlike last year, which saw OSU finish 37 points back of third place, Tom Ryan’s squad was at or near its collective best in Ann Arbor.
A handful of grapplers advanced to semifinal and/or final matches held on Sunday, and Sammy Sasso secured his second individual title at 149 pounds.
. . . #GOBUCKS pic.twitter.com/Kyhw2ZeduN— Ohio State Wrestling (@wrestlingbucks) March 5, 2023
Typically, taking 4th in a 14-team conference tournament would not lend itself to bragging rights. And yes, the Buckeyes likely had higher aspirations. But the Big Ten Championships is/are not your average conference tournament.
What makes this event so special, you ask? Only that a team from the Big Ten has won each and every national title since 2006. And all but seven since 1988. Those other seven just so happen to belong the same school: Oklahoma State, who (along with Iowa and Iowa State) dominated the sport of wrestling for roughly 50 years.
So it has been the Big Ten, Oklahoma State, and everybody else for longer than you or I can remember — which means that, yes, the Big Ten Championships are kind of a big deal.
Ohio State was actually in “medal contention” (first, second, or third) with only a few matches to go on Sunday, but dropped to fourth place when Nebraska’s Silas Allred won the 197-pound title. The Buckeyes would go on to finish with 99 team points, just 5.5 behind the third-place Cornhuskers. Penn State and Iowa took first and second respectively, in what turned out to be a two-horse race.
As a result of the Big Ten allotment and their individual finishes, OSU will now send seven wrestlers to the NCAA Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma (March 16-18). All seven Buckeyes performed admirably over the weekend, but perhaps none more so than Dylan D’Emilio.
While no stranger to these B1G Championships, having taken fifth in 2022, D’Emilio entered the weekend in the bottom half of his 141-pound bracket. Then, after losing his opening match to Purdue’s Parker Filius, Ohio State’s redshirt junior was forced to work his way through a consolation bracket, where he met 4-seed Frankie Tal-Shahar of Northwestern in the semis.
It was there that D’Emilio avenged an earlier loss to Tal-Shahar, earning himself a spot in the third-place match. He would ultimately go on to lose to Penn State’s Beau Bartlett, but D’Emilio still deserves praise as one of the stars of the weekend for OSU.
He (D’Emilio) will join Sasso, Romero, Jesse Mendez, Carson Kharchla, Ethan Smith, and Tate Orndorff at the NCAA Championships, where a top-10 team finish should be the goal. Here is a quick look at how they all punched their ticket(s) to Tulsa.
Jesse Mendez, 133 pounds — Sixth place
Star freshman Mendez struggled in his first postseason tournament with the Buckeyes but lives to fight another day in Tulsa. After entering the B1G Championships as a 2-seed, he made light work of Rutgers’ Joe Heilmann with a 4-0 shutout.
However, Mendez would go on to lose his next three matches, including a pair to opponents he had previously defeated in duals. Hopefully this was a learning experience and a small bump in the road for the future face of Ohio State wrestling.
Dylan D’Emilio, 141 pounds — Fourth place
As covered earlier, D’Emilio grinded his way through the consolation bracket. He wrestled a total of five matches in two days, winning three and earning a trip to the NCAAs.
Sammy Sasso, 149 pounds — First place
Sasso won his second Big Ten Championship in Ann Arbor, and has now taken either first or second in each of the last four seasons. He will be looking to capture a national title in Tulsa, but his legendary status is already cemented in Columbus.
Carson Kharchla, 165 pounds — Third place
Kharchla returned from injury with a vengeance. The redshirt junior dominated Rutgers’ Robert Kanniard to the tune of a 20-5 tech fall in his opening match, before taking down Penn State’s Alex Facundo in his second. Kharchla then dropped a surprising major decision to eventual 165-lb champ Dean Hamiti, but bounced back with one more victory before being awarded third place due to a medical forfeit.
Ethan Smith, 174 pounds — Third place
All Smith does is perform well in the B1G Championships. By going 4-1 this past weekend, he matched his result from last year and secured his fourth top-4 placement in a Scarlet and Gray singlet.
Kaleb Romero, 184 pounds — Second place
This sixth-year senior and leader for the Buckeyes continues to impress during what has been a career-best season. Romero only needed two wins to reach the 184-lb final, but both were of the hard-fought variety, over quality opponents. His quest for a B1G title was then ended by Aaron Brooks, the reigning and back-to-back national champion.
But Romero’s second-place finish was still very impressive and the best of his OSU career. Additionally, his two wins in Ann Arbor put him over 20 for the 2022-23 season.
Tate Orndorff, Heavyweight — Fourth place
Now a five-time NCAA qualifier, Orndorff took fourth in a weight class loaded with big, strong, freaky talent. His two losses came against wrestlers ranked No. 2 and No. 3 by InterMat, which is nothing to scoff at. He will be looking for his second top-10 finish at nationals in the Sooner State.