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.

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