Archives for March 2014

Steven Gonzalez recruiting update

So as many of you know The top OLman on OSUs board was visiting Penn State today and did suprisingly commit to the Nittany Lions and new Head Coach James Franklin. This news caught most including myself off guard as Gonzalez has long been a big OSU lean and seemed like a lock to end up at OSU. As you know though anything can happen in recruiting but this was truly shocking.

I had a very brief conversation with Steven Gonzalez a few moments ago and asked him if he was planning on taking any other visits or shutting down his recruiting and his answer was short and not so sweet for other teams fans…

Steven said “Yes, I’m shutting down my recruiting.”

He did want Buckeye Nation to know one thing though…

Steven said- Just thank you for all the support and the opportunities you guys have given me, I really appreciate it!

Needless to say this is not good news for OSU fans who have grown to like him a lot and looked forward to rooting for him in the future and now they are tasked with hoping he does well but that his team PSU fails miserably.

It is a lot to handle for some fans and some don’t handle it well at all. Some fans were so vitriolic that Gonzalez had to take to Twitter to try and calm them down…

From Stevens private Twitter account he said the following- Instead of congratulating fans hate, like seriously guys, be mature same just be happy for a recruit. Don’t wish hate upon others its wrong

Time will tell how much Steven really means he is shutting down his recruiting but for today right now he is solely committed to PSU and like we said earlier in recruiting ANYTHING can happen. So keep calm and be kind you never know when he may be back on OSUs radar in the future.

Thad Matta adds an experienced player for 2014

With everything that OSU is losing from this years basketball team and the let down from how the team performed this year Coach Matta had to make a big push to transform the 2014-15 team and do so quickly. The inclong Freshman Class is STACKED it includes two 5 star players and 3 guys who are big time scorers and a project big man. What Coach Matta needs though is a big man he can use right away and that is ready to play big time CBB.

Enter the Graduate Transfer he landed today according to reporter Jeff Borzello…

Anthony Lee

Temple transfer Anthony Lee is headed to Ohio State, Lee confirmed to

Lee, a 6-foot-9 power forward, was one of the most sought-after transfers on the market. His final five schools included Iowa State, Indiana, Louisville and Notre Dame, although dozens of schools came calling when he announced his transfer from Temple. Lee visited Ohio State this week, and was expected to take a trip to Iowa State and Indiana in April.

He averaged 13.6 points and 8.6 rebounds this past season for Temple, and is eligible to play immediately for Ohio State due to the graduate transfer rule. Lee will immediately provide a boost down low, at both ends of the floor. The Buckeyes are bringing in some impressive freshman reinforcements, but Lee has experience, and should be productive right off the bat.

This news is great for OSU and will likely help ease some of the pressure off of Amir Williams who needs a quality Power Forward to help him with his weaknesses down low.

Thad Matta loses another player? ***Updated***

One thing is for sure the 2014-2015 OSU basketball team will look nearly completely different. Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr are graduating. Amedeo Della Valle is leaving to play in Europe as we reported over the weekend. Now news has come out that LaQuinton Ross has decided to forego his Sr. season and enter the NBA draft as first reported by CBS Basketball analyst Jeff Goodman…

LaQuinton Ross will most likely end up overseas playing in Europe and developing his game. Some NBA draft gurus still have him listed as a mid to late 2nd round pick. I hope he has a successful career and life.


LaQuinton Ross took to twitter to say not so fast my friends…

I imagine he will eventually make this decision that is being reported. He most likely wants to do it in his own way. But this could mean good news for OSU fans if he doesn’t go Pro.

Crowning Champions: Buckeyes Logan Stieber and Nick Heflin

Logan Stieber, courtesy of

Logan Stieber, courtesy of

The 2014 NCAA Wrestling Championships concluded with all the drama one can stand last night in Oklahoma City. But in the calm before the storm, the adjoining Oklahoma City Convention Center hosted a skills and drills clinic conducted by national level coaches and wrestlers. There, hundreds of miles from Columbus, essential members of the Ohio State wrestling family, past, present and future, assembled.

There was Jim Humphrey, a Buckeye great from the early 70s—B1G champion, world silver medalist, former national team coach (assisted by a young up and coming coach Dan Gable) and father of current national team member and Buckeye NCAA runner-up Reece Humphrey, also in attendance. There were people like Andy DiSabato—one of the founders of the great DiSabato Columbus wrestling family. And there was current Junior World champion and soon to be Buckeye Kyle Snyder. Various members of the family talked, reminisced and reveled in the rich heritage of Ohio wrestling.

By the end of the night, Buckeye wrestling would embrace the newest chapter in the family album which now enjoys its long overdue collective view from the top of collegiate wrestling.

Both Logan Stieber and Nick Heflin took the walk of champions through the smoke of the red corner, along the red carpet of Chesapeake Energy Arena and up to the raised platform to wrestle for a national championship in front of a national audience.

As expected, Stieber won his third national championship in his march to becoming only the fourth person in history to win four NCAA titles. His first championship was won on a contested no takedown ruling to Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State and his second was won against feisty Tony Ramos of Iowa after a contested back point no call on Stieber. Both those wins occurred at 133 pounds.

In his first championship attempt at 141 pounds there would be no controversy or mystery. Facing a game Devin Carter of Virginia Tech who came back early from what seemed to be a season ending injury, Stieber was able to take Carter down at will, breezing to a 10-1 major victory. The win put the Buckeyes in sixth place to stay and provided a tonic to soothe the heartbreaking disappointment left over from Nick Heflin’s match.

The finals started at 174 pounds, which was pretty clever. That meant that not only would the finals conclude with the final collegiate bout for David Taylor of Penn State (via Ohio’s St. Paris Graham) at 167, but the night would start in Oklahoma City in a wild bedlam matchup between two former champions, Chris Perry of Oklahoma State and Andrew Howe of Oklahoma. That also meant 197 pound Nick Heflin would go before teammate Stieber.

Nick lost that match but years from now he can take comfort in a few things. True, his picture won’t be hung in Buckeye facilities as a national champion and true, he won’t be asked to stand at NCAA finals as a champion, but anyone familiar with the sport knows that anyone who has taken that champion’s walk to compete in the finals gets the same admiration as the winner, if not even a little more, for having reached that point to come up just short.

Nick Heflin, courtesy of

Nick Heflin, courtesy of

Nick will also take great pride at some point that he went down his way—executing the same template that had gotten him to that point. Surely Nick knew his strategy was as high with risk as it was with reward. His strategy of waiting for a mistake and angling for a close finish had only failed him once before in 2013-14. One could say it did not fail him this time either. Nick lost 2-1 with the difference being a stall point awarded after a warning that seemed to come way too early by an impatient referee, perhaps injecting his subjective judgment into a title fight. One could say Nick should have hit the urgency button sooner after the warning, but Nick in fact was able to manufacture the winning takedown throw. Unfortunately it was earned a micro-second after time expired, meaning Nick had thunderously thrown Missouri freshman J’Den Cox to the mat as a newly minted national champion.

And here is the joy and pain of wrestling. Viewed from a team perspective, Nick’s result would not have mattered—the Buckeyes would have finished sixth regardless of the outcome. But the disappointment of seeing Nick fall so painfully short is felt by every member of the Buckeye wrestling family.

This family is now enjoying its status as a national power. This status is overdue given Ohio’s preeminent status in the wrestling world. The world has been set right in this regard because of a coach who, like a corporate CEO embraces all aspects of his job, setting up a structure and enterprise that keeps Ohio talent in state and attracts the greatest talent out of state—such as incoming freshmen Snyder and Thomas Haines of Pennsylvania. He delegates coaching responsibilities to people like Lou Rosselli who insiders regard as one of the best wrestling minds in the nation.

Lou Rosselli, courtesy of

Lou Rosselli, courtesy of

CEO/Coach Ryan also made the same walk as Stieber and Heflin made last night only to come up as short as Nick did.

For the rest of his life, Nick Heflin will be revered and embraced by the wrestling world, but nowhere so fondly and respectfully as in heart of Ohio.

OSU Wrestling: Buckeyes Logan Stieber and Nick Heflin Go for Titles

The Ohio State Wrestling Team advanced its two leaders to the NCAA Championship Finals tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City (8 EDT, televised on ESPN). The Championship matches will start at 174 pounds, meaning Buckeye senior Nick Heflin will be the third match of the night at 197 and junior Logan Stieber will go for his third national title in the 141 pound class—which will be the seventh match of the night.

In a day with mixed team results, the duo capped off the night with strong personal performances propelling the team to fifth in the team standings. Unfortunately, no other Buckeye will place which has caused the Buckeyes to drift to seventh in today’s “medal round matches.” However, success in tonight’s finals will permit the Buckeyes to climb a little higher. Given how young the Buckeyes are this year and how much strength they sat out in red shirt years, a sixth place national finish is a phenomenal result—no check that—it is a fabulous success under any circumstances. Coach Ryan, after encouraging his Buckeyes to dig deep, expressed deep pride in the growth of the entire team and especially for guys like Johnni DiJulus and Nick Tavanello who fought hard, coming up just short in bids to become All Americans.

Stieber started the Buckeyes night off with another convincing win over Zain Retherford of Penn State who had upset Stieber in December in State College, dealing Stieber his only loss in over two years. As predicted, Stieber increased his performance over Retherford two weeks ago in the B1G championships. The score was the same 7-3 and the formula was much the same, but Stieber offered no opportunity to Retherford who looked helpless to make anything happen against Stieber.

As in the B1G, Stieber got an opening takedown (and a second) to go to the second period with a lead. With the choice of how to start, Stieber once again chose neutral, no doubt in deference to Retherford’s punishing leg ride. After Stieber’s third takedown of the night increased his lead to an effective 7-1 lead, the outcome was never in doubt. Retherford managed an escape but had to choose the down position in an effort to score points. Although Stieber did not put Retherford to his back as he did in the B1G, he did return the favor of a punishing ride, holding on until late in the third period. Retherford never got a chance for a ride. Perhaps deflated from the Stieber loss, Retherford lost in the wrestle backs, settling for fifth place this afternoon.

Tonight Stieber will face vaunted Devin Carter of Virginia Tech. Carter has beaten some very good wrestlers but injury had appeared to end his season. Healing quickly, he was cleared a few weeks ago to wrestle and responded by earning a fourth seed. His path to the final was made easier when No. 1 seed Mitchell Port of Edinboro was upset in the quarterfinals.

Nick Heflin had a tougher go at it, in certain respects, and the issue was in doubt until the end, but the match went Nick’s way all throughout and he avoided a mistake that would have cost him a title shot. Facing the eventual third place winner Scott Schiller of Minnesota for the third time, Nick parried all Schiller attempts, taking a 1-1 tie into overtime. Neither wrestler was cautious in the sudden death first minute from the neutral position. The shots were fast and furious and both wrestlers fought off serious shots. Nick appeared on the verge of a winning takedown a few times but Schiller fought his way out. But then Schiller had Heflin in an awkward catch that often leads to a capitulating crumple but Heflin’s incredible strength permitted him to straighten his back and resist the force being exerted by Schiller.

In the next two 30 second periods (which are not sudden death—I know it is called sudden victory but I like being a traditionalist in this instance), Nick kept ride out control resorting to a leg ride over the last few seconds. With Nick’s mid-period escape in the final stanza, he had earned the ticket all NCAA competitors in all sports covet.

Nick now faces national expert favorite J’Den Cox of Missouri—a freshman. Not only have most national experts picked Cox to be a national champion, but most had picked Iowa State’s Kyven Gadson to beat Heflin in the semis—a prediction that went awry when Schiller beat Gadson (a feat he repeated in the third place match). The under-appreciation of Heflin is not new—few predicted he would win the B1G, few predicted him to make the finals, and few think he will win. So all is well—Nick has the world right where he wants it.

As you might expect for two wrestlers in such different weight classes, the styles of the two are very different. Logan is a total takedown master who can use any variety of upper body moves or leg attacks to get his takedown. Nick is far more content to grind out his time on top looking for clear opportunities or mistakes. Logan also typically earns lots of back points even if he did not against Retherford last night. Nick can certainly lock up a mean cradle or other pin, but he tends to win his matches in a low point, methodical way.

But the similarities between the two speak to their success. Both are really at the very top of the strength pyramid for their classes. If on guard, their strength makes them unassailable, essentially negating the weapons their opponents might have from their feet. Indeed, both Retherford and Schiller made very successful leg attempts last night that Stieber and Heflin just “whizzered” themselves out of with little effort.

On a related point, their dominant physical strength lets each take calculated risks that would mean disaster for other wrestlers in the event of failure. But these two typically can just muscle their way out of trouble. Both seem to shoot extraordinary fear type adrenaline through their systems when put in trouble that also has helped in those rare times they have been put in danger.

But the thing that separates them so clearly is, and I am borrowing from Coach Ryan here—they own their stuff the way men do. They know their strengths and weaknesses and game plan the match in enforcement mode to ensure the match plays into their advantages. Physical strength is a big part of it, but a guy has to know what works well and what does not, must have a plan and work it, and must enforce the flow of events. That is probably the single biggest thing that separates them from others who have not reached this pinnacle.

So this is the great thing about wrestling—the team sport aspect is great fun and watching these young guys participating and growing in such an intense effort has been rewarding. Now that much of the team has retired, the excitement only really begins as two young men, born and bred in Ohio, go for their glory and the glory of anyone who roots for the team, who roots for the sport, or who roots for people who survive in the toughest of environments.

Buckeye basketball player annouces he is going pro

I imagine if you aren’t on Twitter right now or ever your first thought is LaQuinton Ross has announced himself for the NBA draft. You would be wrong though at least for now. Amadeo Della Valle announced just a little while ago that he was leaving OSU to play professionally in Europe. Most likely his home country of Italy.

On a personal note I think most of Buckeye Nation will miss ADV a lot. He was a good kid and enjoyed his college life to the fullest. He will most be remembered for his hair than his play on the court. He was dealt a bad hand having to try and come in and replace Jon Diebler as the air apparent to our go to guy for deep shooting. He never found his touch though hitting 35% of his shots and 32% from 3 point range in his career. He has had a lot of success in Italy and will make a lot of money playing in his home country.

From all of us here at MotSaG we wish to send the floppy haired Side Show Bob look a like in fashion. Ciao! Arrivederci! and Buongiorno!

OSU Wrestling: Drama at the NCAA Finals

Heading into the semi-finals of the 2014 NCAA Championships in Oklahoma City, from a team perspective we are still asking whether the glass is half full. For most of the upset filled tourney the Buckeyes have merely been doing about what their regular season results would have suggested–that is to say, somewhat disappointing. Yet they have two wrestlers, Logan Stieber and Nick Heflin in serious competition for National Titles and two wrestlers, Kenny Courts and Nick Tavanello fighting for All American status and places on the podium.

Stieber breezed along in ho-hum fashion pinning Preston from The Harvard University in a minute and a half. Heflin saw his first complete match action (after two medical forfeits) in breezing to his own 8-1 quarterfinal win. Both wrestle on ESPN at 8 Eastern tonight for the right to go into the National Championship tomorrow night. Both battles are intriguing.

Stieber will face Zain Retherford of Penn Sate who is the only person to beat him in over two years. Stieber convincingly took his revenge two weeks ago in the B1G Tourney, but inexplicably Stieber was seeded No. 2 and Retherford No. 3. After No. 1 seed Mitchell Port’s loss today, there is certainly a temptation to think that tonight’s semi-final match is the most difficult task awaiting Stieber as he marches into history, gunning for a third national title en route to being one of only four wrestlers to win four national titles.

Most national writers predicted a 197 championship match that presumed a Nick Heflin semi-final loss to fifth seed Gadson of Iowa State. However, after Scott Schiller of Minnesota upset Gadson in today’s quarters, Coach Tom Ryan would only offer, “oops indeed.” Now Heflin goes up against Schiller, as expected in this column, for a third match. People can say it is hard to beat someone three times, but I just don’t see Schiller solving the impenetrable Heflin.

I could hardly contain my joy watching freshman Nick Tavanello win four consecutive wrestle back matches. Two have been by pin, two have come with last second takedowns. Today’s went into overtime but there was no way I could see MadTav losing to his Edinboro opponent and I was promptly rewarded for a tweet to that effect with an OT takedown. Coach Ryan says big Nick is hungry. One win from All American status and a place on the podium, I say let the big man eat.

I owe Kenny Courts a big apology. As I mentioned he struggled against Michigan’s Abounader at 184 in the B1G Tourney and I questioned whether he could overcome Abounader. Well, he shut me up with a dramatic late scrambling takedown and then hung on to ride out the period for a big win. He followed that up with a sweet last second sit-up he needed in his next match to overcome a 5-4 riding time deficit. Coach Ryan only marvels at the scales Kenny could climb if he would stay focused so that his remarkable talent can carry him. Hopefully a chance on the podium as a freshman will sharpen that focus and be a turning point for a very gifted athlete.

Follow mw live on twitter at @twuckeye. Coach Tom Ryan is at @Buckeye158 and the wrestling account is at @WrestlingBucks. And watch what should be a great night for Buckeye Nation tonight.

OSU Wrestling: NCAA Championships Day 1 Recap

The bad news is the Buckeyes finished the day about where you would have predicted. Logan Stieber and Nick Heflin are alive in the championship bracket and all but one of their other wrestlers are still alive for placement in the consolation bracket. In a day that saw a number of jaw popping upsets, the Buckeyes are still looking for their own. The good news is that while currently sitting in sixth, if the two guys at the top can complete their mission and if a couple of the other guys could go on breath-taking tears through the consolation bracket, this could yet be a tourney full of individual and team glory.

Logan Stieber is so good we get spoiled. He makes it look so easy, you say, hey why can’t everyone just do what he does? And he has been doing it from the day he got to Ohio State, so you wonder why can’t all the young guys do the same? And he learns from each match and gets better and you expect everyone else to get better at the same rate.

But any of that fails to recognize how truly advanced he is. After a pin and a tech fall Stieber advances to face Todd Preston, a Harvard 10 seed at 141. Assuming that goes well he would come up against Zain Retherford of Penn State Friday night. Retherford has struggled a tad in his first two matches. Stieber avenged his earlier loss to Retherford in the B1G finals but Stieber is certainly not taking Retherford lightly.

At 197, Nick Heflin got his second straight medical default as his would be Stanford opponent was not able to go at all. Nick will face unseeded Cody Reed of Binghamton who scored a few minor upsets over the 8 and 9 seeds. A win would propel Nick into a night match against the winner of fifth seed Kyen Gadsen of Iowa State and fourth seed Scott Schiller. Many experts have called for Gadsen to upset both Schiller and Heflin. Whatever—I will believe it when I see it—Nick has had a hard time convincing people—but the only thing that keeps Nick off the top of the podium is just bad luck—which can always happen (the shocker was in the lower bracket where three seed and B1G runner-up Morgan McIntosh was beaten by 14 seed Chris Penny of VaTech, clearing the path for two seed J’Den Cox of Missouri).

Johnni DiJulius battled gamely at 133 but David Thorn of Minnesota was too tough, taking a 2-0 decision. Every time DiJulius would work his hands free and try to stand for the second period escape, Thorn was ready to put a tough leg ride in. I don’t see Johnni losing his next two matches, setting up a possible showdown with six seed Mason Beckman of Lehigh—a win there could set him up against Jonathan Morrison, a four seed who was bitten by the upset bug.

Kenny Courts came out and went on a take down tear en route to a 6-3 first period lead over Kevin Steinhaus of Minnsota, but the Gopher came back strong to win going away. Courts faces a tough wrestle back from Domenic Abounader of Michigan. Abounader ate Courts alive at the B1G, so there is no sense talking about Kenny after that—if he can turn it around, we can talk about who he would face (that would be a winnable match—as would the following match—but he has to turn around his effort against Abounader first).

Nick Roberts came back at 125 to handle David White of Binghamton. His next two matches would be with seeds ranging from 11 to 14 so just a little pick up for Nick could land him just one more match from at least an eight finish.

Mark Martin gave it his all in his wrestle back and was rewarded with a close win over a WVU opponent. Mark is very capable of winning the next three matches, so he now turns into a target of hope. He has been bothered with a bad knee all year, but if he can muster the strength, the path to All American is there for him to take.

Nick Tavanello was the only wrestler with two wrestlebacks—both wins and both pins, the second over a B1G foe from Nebraska. If Tavanello keeps winning it would be against 12 and 13 seeds, so the path for Big Tav to run awhile is also there.

It seems to me the Buckeyes got the message that Coach Ryan was disappointed in the urgency. The losses were very hard fought against tough opponents and the Nicks came out with hustle and energy. If that carries over to tomorrow the end of the year could be very satisfying.

Another ending that was anything but satisfying was the elimination of Ian Paddock at 149. It can now be said that Ian struggled with neck and back injuries that will likely end his wrestling career. A strong, hard fighting wrestler, the injuries just took a toll on Ian’s development and fitness. What started out as a loud and promising career ended quietly in a corner of a gym in Oklahoma against a wrestler from the University of North Carolina. Knowing how Ian suffered and what he went through, that ending is heart breaking, but what he went through and what he gave to others will reward him the rest of his life.

OSU Wrestling: NCAA a First Round Recap by IPhone

“Not the round we wanted,” was how Buckeye Coach Tom Ryan summed up his wrestlers’ performance after around 1 of the NCAA Championships in Oklahoma City. The Buckeyes picked up maximum points from Logan Stieber with a pin at 141. Also, despite starting tentatively, No. 1 seed Nick Heflin eventually picked up maximum points for a medical default after leading his Naval Academy opponent 5-0.

All Buckeyes will be in action tonight including the four losing wrestlers who head into their first consolation bracket action. “I just didn’t feel there was much energy today and the guys who lost didn’t assert themselves or express any urgency.”

Nick Roberts was probably the biggest disappointment. “He’s a very, very good wrestler for sure but I think he just doesn’t take care of his stuff. He dominates the early parts of a match dictating the terms then stops doing that. He finds himself reacting and getting caught rather than taking care of his stuff. Men take care of their stuff. He is young and learning.” After controlling his No. 5 opponent from Northern Iowa, Nick surrendered a late takedown and gave up back points to lose a match he had been controlling.

It didn’t help Coach Ryan’s disposition that Roberts’ post-match comments to the referee cost the Buckeyes a one point team deduction. The Ryan coached Buckeyes typically are free of such behavior.

Coach Ryan was also disappointed by Mark Martin’s loss at 167. “You get put on your back, ok, you come back. He was in on a single leg takedown attempt on his opponent down 5-3 but Mark has lost more takedowns than I can count this year. But he can come back. It’s been a tough year–he’s been hurt. We need him to come back.”

The Buckeyes did pick up another nice win from Johnni DiJulius who fought for points late in the match, winning 14-5 and earning an extra team point. “Johnni has our toughest match tonight against [David] Thorn [Minn]. He’s lost 2 close battles. We need him to close the gap.”

Kenny Courts wrestled well for the Buckeyes’ other win. “Kenny has grown a lot. He is tough now. The challenge is big but he can do it.”

The Buckeyes, after the deduction are hanging at about 10 place with 8 points. They will also have Nick Tavanello and Ian Paddock going tonight after tough losses at 285 and 149 respectively. They need their two superstars Heflin and Stieber to stay on track for the finals, and get a few Cinderella marches. “All our matches are winnable tonight. We’ll meet at 4:30 and the message is ‘let’s go Buckeyes. Let’s go!'”

Welcome to March Matness: OSU Wrestling

wrestlingThat’s right. Ten years ago, a Buckeye crazed sports fan really only had football and basketball to occupy the rooting attention. Since then hockey and lacrosse have picked up a piece of the action and now, in the decade since Coach Tom Ryan’s arrival, Buckeye wrestling has assumed a prominent role among collegiate powers to produce excitement in the winter months culminating in the NCAA championships in mid-March.

Ryan. Tom Ryan.  Can his young Buckeyes stir things up?

Ryan. Tom Ryan

Wrestling is part alchemy for a coach because of the different weight classes and wrestlers of varying abilities and spectrums of development–and that is not even taking into account how a coach must stack a great team with an NCAA full funding limit of ten full scholarships. Trying to strategically place wrestlers by class and by year to maximize the potential of the team and individual is more art than science, but the various factors ended up in this being a “stretch” year for the Buckeyes as super talented wrestlers sat on the side line red-shirting while others filled in to get the team to stretch their potential as far as they can.

In those terms, this team, rather than packing it in, has kept the Buckeyes at their now customary top of the national pecking order. After some stunning early success, these young wrestlers settled in for the demanding test of the B1G dual meet season. The hopes certainly were to see growth of a cadre a key wrestlers with the goal of peaking into the B1G Tourney and the NCAA Championships. Now, on the eve of the NCAA Championships March 20-22 in Oklahoma City, we find ourselves with the suggestion the glass is either half full or half empty, but perhaps trending toward a pleasant surprise. You could break down the Buckeyes in several groups—those that have busted through to clear success, those who have seen strong positive progression with mixed results and those who can add points for team results but are likely not to bust through quite yet in their early careers. Let’s look at this week’s brackets in those terms.

Have Arrived

141: Two-time NCAA Champion redshirt junior Logan Stieber remains clearly on track to achieve the iconic status of being only the fourth wrestler in history to win four NCAA titles, despite moving up a weight class to 141. Stieber avenged his only loss in two years in the B1G Championship last week in Madison, WI with a pretty convincing 7-3 win over freshman sensation Zain Retherford of Penn State.

It seems a little odd that the seeding committee would then go on to seed Stieber second. The first seed went to Mitchell Port, a 2013 runner-up presumably because of his undefeated record, though he has yet to face Stieber or Retherford. It seems unfair to ask Stieber to face Retherford in the semi-finals and then get to Port in the finals.

But I’m not crying for Stieber. The guy I really feel sorry for is Retherford. He has wrestled at such an intensely high level it just seems unfair to have him go against Stieber in the semis. After watching the B1G finals and knowing Stieber has probably learned from that, as he always seems to do, and will likely open the gap even more, I don’t think there is much chance Retherford reaches the finals. The battle between him and Port would have been intense had Port been seeded second rather than Stieber. Either way, Logan officially becomes the most decorated wrestler in Buckeye history after he wins his third NCAA title this Saturday night.

U197: Senior Nick Heflin finished fifth last year at 174 with a dramatic cross face cradle pin of colorful Mike Evans of Iowa. This year Heflin has moved up to 197 and has achieved the perfect trajectory. After a confounding overtime loss to Wiscy freshman Timothy McCall, Heflin went on a tear, perfecting his offensive takedown skills and winning the B1G title. His 24-1 record earned him the only Ohio State one seed this year. Nick presumably would face former No. 1 ranked Scott Schiller of Minnesota in the semis, but Nick seems to have Schiller’s number. As I have said before, Nick seems to have the perfect blend of offense and defense now, and he looks simply unassailable on his feet. Heflin still lets matches stay too close, opening himself to a last minute mistake that could cost him a title, but I expect Nick to become OSU’s second title winner of the night.

Those Who Could Arrive

I lump four Buckeyes into the same category—guys who to my eye (admittedly–for what that is worth) are almost there. Their results in the months leading up to the NCAAs were mixed, but a closer looks suggests they are closing a gap and nothing would surprise me from any one of them. I would not bet on a national title this year from any of the four but I would not be shocked if a Cinderella emerged from this group.

125: Redshirt freshman Nick Roberts has been the hard luck kid. He shows brilliance from match to match and often within matches that bely his sixth place B1G finish. He wrestled B1G runner-up and 2103 NCAA runner-up Nico Megaludis extremely gamely in the B1G, letting the match drift away from him toward the end. Nick seems to be able to wrestle with anyone. Unseeded in the NCAA Roberts will be tested right away by fifth seed Dylan Peters of Northern Iowa. I would not be surprised to see Roberts pick off Peters, likely pitting Roberts against Tim Lambert of Nebraska. Lambert has pinned Roberts twice this year, but both were attributable to Roberts’ carelessness. Roberts started off dominating Lambert in their first match only to be caught off guard. In the B1G, the match was close until Roberts actually pinned himself in a rare defensive pin—clearly Roberts could have avoided that result with a little more care. This is not a case of Lambert owning Roberts—Nick just has to exercise more prudence. If Nick can bust through in those two he would face four seed Josh Martiniez of Air Force—another match I could see Nick winning.

That kind of success would be a cumulative surprise, but if Roberts can take the next big step and turn around close matches, he could find himself in the semis facing defending champ Jesse Delgado of Illinois.

133: Redshirt sophomore Johhni DiJulius is a guy who really showed early season brilliance only to stall a bit in the B1G dual season. To be fair, he was hampered a little by injury. Nonetheless he wrestled well in the B1G including a very close 5-3 loss to Minnesota’s David Thorn (see my earlier thoughts on DiJulius here). If DiJulius can also pick his game up a notch and overcome Thorn in a likely second NCAA match, he would then face No. 1 seed Joe Colon of Northern Iowa, a guy DiJulius beat handily at the Cliff Keen at the beginning of the year. Colon is likely not the same guy now, but perhaps this is a case of DiJulius simply matching up well with Colon. A win would put JD in a tough semi-final match against Tony Ramos of Iowa, but again the path is there for Johnni.

149: Redshirt senior Ian Paddock has suffered through agonizing injury almost the entire second half of what started as a very promising Buckeye career. This year has been no different. Paddock looks strong and he is in the best match condition he has enjoyed in a long time. But he still doesn’t look like himself—he has always been a forceful upper body wrestler, almost in a Greco Roman style, but he also had the ability to shoot for the legs—a trait noticeably missing at the B1G.

Still Ian wrestled well at the B1G losing 3-2 to Champion Jason Tsirtsis of Northwestern. He qualified for the NCAA as an at-large and is unseeded. Ian faces No. 11 seed Josh Kindig of Oklahoma State, a winnable match, and if he prevails he would likely face Jake Sueflohn of Nebraska. Sueflohn beat Ian handily a lifetime ago in mid-January but Ian has progressed markedly since then. Sueflohn has not let up either—earning the No. 1 B1G seed although he too was beaten by Tsirtsis in a close match.

This is Ian’s last go around. A true warrior every Buckeye can be proud of, if Ian is healthy and can conjure up his old magic, nothing is out of range for him. The beauty of sport is the chance to root for a guy like Ian Paddock. An even greater beauty would be seeing him bust through–he can wrestle with anyone in this stacked weight class.

184: Redshirt sophomore Kenny Courts is an amazingly gifted wrestler—you don’t see guys with quickness like his from his feet at any weight but especially up in the big boy weights. He can snatch an opponent’s ankle like no one’s business. Kenny probably needs another year to get stronger to compete in a very tough weight class but he is a guy who is capable of going a long way.

As a ten seed he should be able to advance to a second round match against a very tough seven seed Kevin Steinhaus of Minnesota. I think this is a very, very big hill to climb, but with Kenny’s talent I never rule anything out. The problem is if he does win he would run right into defending champion Ed Ruth. Somehow Ruth has actually lost this year, but he is just too dominant. If Kenny is to really be productive he will have to do it through the wrestle backs. While I thought Kenny sleep-walked through his B1G wrestle backs, in the NCAA All American status is on the line so I expect the motivation would be strong for a sophomore to continue wrestling hard. If Kenny’s heart is in his task he is a tough out for anyone.

The Cavalry—Those Who Can Add Valuable Team Points

If the Buckeyes do pick up two individual champions and get one or two strong runs from the Cinderella candidates, they could be in a surprisingly strong team position that could have them needing valuable team points from their remaining two wrestlers.

174: Redshirt sophomore Mark Martin is smart and talented but has been inexplicably inconsistent. As a 14 seed, I can see him winning a first match but running into three seed Robert Kokesh is just too tall an order. Mark will thus have to do his damage from early on in the wrestle backs—a task he is totally up to, and there is a big opportunity for him to do so. It might not be apparent to him in the early matches, but his ability to win from thereon could help the Buckeyes immensely. In a few years there is no ceiling on Martin—this year would be a fine time to get a jump on his future.

285: I just love heavy freshman Nick Tavanello. If you were disappointed by the Buckeye basketball team getting edged by Michigan, you can hold in your mind’s eye Nick’s thundering upset of B1G No. 1 seed Adam Coon of Michigan. Big Nick caught a last second double leg and then lifted and slammed the towering Coon to the mat for the winning margin. Nick has wrestled with hustle and skill all year.

Nick starts off with a pigtail match (kind of like a play-in for basketball fans) against a wrestler from Va. Tech whom he has already beaten. A win would pit him against the ten seed from Boise State. I can see Nick getting that far. Unfortunately he would likely face Connor Medbury from Wisconsin. Medbury seems to have Tavanello’s number so I do not expect much progression in the winner’s bracket, but there is no reason this steam engine cannot speed along in the wrestle backs.

Conclusion: This week will tell, but there is a lot of reason to be optimistic about where Coach Ryan’s team sits. A national championship expectation is realistically still a year away, but this could be a fun stepping stone. ESPN can let you see virtually all of the tournament. Stay tuned. I will be tweeting from OKC so follow me at @twuckeye and also check in with Coach Ryan, @buckeye158 and the OSU account, @wrestlingBucks. It should be fun.