The Ohio State wrestling team ventured into the belly of the beast last Friday night – AKA Happy Valley – to take on top-ranked Penn State in a battle of Big Ten behemoths. But in this case, one is not quite like the other.
The Nittany Lions have won 10 of the last 12 NCAA Championships, and it has been suggested that this year’s PSU roster is one of, if not the, most talented single-season rosters ever assembled in college wrestling. So Cael Sanderson’s squad was a heavy favorite against OSU, as they are against literally every other team at the collegiate level.
That being said, Tom Ryan’s Buckeyes had just put the finishing touches on an impressive January, and they were very much looking forward to the challenge of facing Penn State at their place. The former’s last win inside Rec Hall came all the way back in 2009, during Ryan’s third season as coach of the Scarlet and Gray.
To further emphasize just how long ago that was, he (Ryan) is now a member of the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame, with a greater list of accomplishments than any other wrestling coach in program history.
But on this night, Penn State’s depth and experience was once again too much for Ryan’s squad. Even after Ohio State nearly won the first two matches, the Nittany Lions had the Buckeyes right where they wanted them. Because with four top-ranked individuals wrestling in the final six weight classes, the home team had an answer for everything (and everyone) thrown at them.
Except for at 184 pounds, where OSU’s Ryder Rogotzke pulled off a stunner by pinning fifth-ranked Bernie Truax of PSU.
Rogotzke’s win by fall counted for six of Ohio State’s nine team points, with Nic Bouzakis (133) earning the other three via decision — also over a fifth-ranked Nittany Lion. However, the two upsets were not nearly enough, as the Buckeyes dropped their second dual of the season, 28-9. No shame in that, but it certainly was not the result they were looking for.
Fortunately, the opportunity to bounce back presented itself rather quickly. Just over 40 hours later, on Sunday afternoon, Ohio State was in action again, this time taking on No. 14 Rutgers in Piscataway (NJ). And this time, the road warriors prevailed.
Ohio State won Sunday’s dual 22-12, but that score is not really indicative of how the 10 individual matches played out. OSU took 7 out of 10 (matches), with Luke Geog (197), Nick Feldman (HWT), and Brendan McCrone (125) all notching upsets of higher-ranked Scarlet Knights.
Even the Buckeyes’ losses could have gone either way. Rogotzke held a lead at the time he was pinned, while Bouzakis dropped a one-point decision, and Dylan D’Emilio (149) went to a sudden victory period.
Joining Geog, Feldman, and McCrone among those who notched particularly impressive wins against Rutgers was fast-rising true freshman Rocco Welsh (174). A backup to Carson Kharchla when the season began, Welsh has stepped up in place of his injured teammate and wrestled to a 15-4 overall record. One “loss” was a medical forfeit, while the other three have come to wrestlers ranked inside the top 4 nationally at 174. And all of those losses were either one or two-point decisions. The point being, Welsh is a stud.
Now 13-2 in duals, Ohio State has just two remaining in the regular season. First up is the team’s home finale, this Sunday at noon, when they host Indiana inside Covelli Center. The Scarlet and Gray will then travel to East Lansing next Friday, to take on Michigan State for their last true team competition of the season.
Both duals will be available on the B1G Network platform (BIG+ included), so make sure to check out the Buckeyes before they take an extended break to prepare for both the Big Ten and NCAA Championships in mid-March.