OSU Wrestling: Nebraska Preview

wrestlingAfter more than a month, the 10th ranked Buckeye wrestling team returns to campus Friday night, January 24, to face 7th ranked B1G foe Nebraska, a team that matches up very tightly with Ohio State.

The first thing I do for every match is to see what is in store for seniors Ian Paddock at 149 and Nick Heflin at 197. Ian had struggled in certain respects, primarily with match fitness, but that is looking like a thing of the past. He did wrestle very poorly at Penn State in early December, creating doubt he could regain his All American stature from a few years back. Whether it was just a matter of healing his injured body or whether he took the Penn State loss to heart, Ian has come back from the break to wrestle very well. His 2-1 January record belies the fact that he has regained a third period gear. He did lose to Northwestern’s fourth ranked Jason Tsirtis, but he wrestled him tough. This week he goes against 5th ranked Jake Sueflohn. While I give Sueflohn the edge, that is only because they wrestle this week. Based upon what seems to be Ian’s obvious progression, if this were March I think we would see a different result, and we may yet this Friday. I expect Ian to give Sueflohn a tough match, and Jake has his own energy problems in the third period. This could be a Buckeye upset.

At 197, Nick Heflin faces Caleb Kolb, who happens to be the son of four-time Steeler Super Bowl Champ John Kolb. Although unranked, Kolb is a tough kid who is not afraid to mix it up. As I’ve noted, and it is no secret, Nick tends to be defensive on his feet. Kolb may be tough but Nick is the better athlete meaning Kolb’s aggressiveness could get him in trouble with Heflin. However, Nick came out and scored four takedowns against a game Northwestern opponent. So my hope is that Nick continues to pick up his offensive game and take chances—if he shoots and only gets in a scramble, chances are Nick is going to win that scramble. Yes, he risks a little danger, but at this point, Nick has the goods to focus more on what it takes to stand atop the podium in March.

Another power match-up is at 184 pounds where eighth ranked Kenny Courts goes against the Huskers’ 11th ranked TJ Dudley, an impressive red-shirt freshman. These two guys have similar styles, and they are both unafraid to take risks. But I don’t even see this one being close. Kenny is the stronger wrestler from start to finish. Unless he gets in trouble early, by the time the third period rolls around I expect Kenny to be punishing the Nebraska wrestler.

The Buckeyes should not struggle at 133 and 141. That is not to say the Nebraska wrestlers are not strong. At 141 Colton McCrystal is a four time Iowa finalist and two time state champion who gamely fought and lost to a ranked Iowa wrestler. But he is no match for Buckeye Logan Stieber. Much the same could be said at 133 where I expect Buckeye Johnni DiJulius to overpower his Nebraska opponent.

Two Buckeyes face extremely stern tests: Mark Martin who goes against the fourth ranked, grinding Robert Kokesh at 174 and Randy Languis, who has a huge mountain to climb against number 1 ranked James Green. Green (whose training partner is none other than the best wrestler in the world, former Husker, fellow New Jerseyite Olympic gold medalist and internationally undefeated Jordan Burroughs) just took it to defending national champ and previously undefeated Derek St. John. I always think Mark Martin has a chance to win, so don’t assume that one away, but Randy, for all his talent and determination, will do well to make his match competitive.

At this point, on paper at least, the Buckeyes would seem to have a 4-3 match advantage, leaving three pivotal matches. The first could occur right at the start when No. 16 Nick Roberts will tangle with No. 9 Tim Lambert of Nebraska. Nick has his work cut out for him—Lambert is an aggressive fighter who seems to pick up steam as the match progresses. This will be a good test of where young Nick is at this point. If we start with a pivotal match, why not end with one: Buckeye Nick Tavenello? This freshman continues to impress—he is quick on his feet and shows good match stamina. He wrestled fourth ranked Mike McMullan of Northwestern very tough. If the three Nicks can go 3-0, the Buckeyes win this meet going away.

Finally, at 165 Buckeye Joe Grandominico goes against Austin Wilson. This match is just too close to call. Wilson can wrestle with anyone though he lets himself get lulled to sleep on his feet, and gives up takedowns that he seems positioned to defend but just does not seem to see the attack coming in time to respond. Joe is a well-schooled and smart wrestler who should match up well against a determined Wilson.

This will be an exciting fight—go see it on a Friday night. The fun starts at 7 PM at historic St. Johns Arena (you can also watch live on the Big Ten Network). I don’t think you will be disappointed.

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