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.

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