Buckeyes Eye National Title After Day One of NCAA Wrestling Championships

The Ohio State Wrestling Team suffered some setbacks but had a strong enough day to lead after the first full day of competition at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis’ Scottrade Arena. The story of the tournament so far is unseeded Kenny Courts who will join four others this morning in the championship bracket quarterfinals. In total, the Buckeyes have a tournament leading eight wrestlers still going, and all are going strong. Here is a repeat of the first session and a summary of the second session.

First Session:

The Ohio State Wrestling team had a very pleasant surprise, a close loss to a seeded wrestler and a genuine heartbreak. Badly injured Hunter Stieber gave it a go. Without a single usable arm he nearly missed a dramatic comeback. He looked pretty good on his feet but probably was not healthy enough to escape from the bottom in the second. That led to him getting put on his back. Although he valiantly held off a pin, the period rideout cost him the point he could have used as he gamely came back. A near takedown at the end fell short, sending the hurt fighter to the long wrestle backs, likely against last year’s NCAA runner-up Josh Kindig, who is also hurt.

On the bright side, the Buckeyes send a tournament leading seven wrestlers to the second round as they picked up bonus points on two pins (Tomasello ad Jordan), one tech fall (Logan Stieber) and one major decision (Snyder). Even better, Kenny Courts nailed an overtime takedown to score an upset over a six seed. Kennny’s would be opponent, the eleven seeded Pfarr from Minnesota was also upset, opening the possibility that the very talented but enigmatic Kenny could end up in the quarters with a win tonight.

The Buckeyes did encounter a tough loss at 174, but Mark Martin can redeem himself in the wrestlebacks. He still stands a decent chance of making the All American brackets.

The Buckeyes finished the first session in first place in the team standings. Even better, their main challengers, Iowa and Missouri had significant setbacks. Iowa, in particular lost five (141) and three (285) seeds and have only five wrestlers into the second round. Mizzou fared a little better. Although they scored two minor upsets, they also suffered one minor and one major upset when four seed Eblen lost at 174. Mizzou also sends seven to the second round but will have at least one tough match when three seed Lavion Mayes goes against Dean Heil of Oklahoma State.

The Buckeyes have particularly critical matches at 133 (Johnni DiJulius vs 17-1 thirteen seed Cody Brewrer of Oklahoma), 157, (Josh Demas v. eleven seed Brian Murphy, Michigan) and 184 (Kenny Courts v. unseeded Scott Patrick, Davidson). This is potentially a big night for the Buckeyes, who historically go on a nice run in the first evening session. Buckle up.

Second Session

The Buckeyes continued their roll by picking up a second win by Kenny Courts who dominated Davidson’s Scott Patrick at 184. Coach Ryan said he never gave up on Kenny despite a disappointing effort for much of this season. “Kenny just kept believing and now he has a huge match that he has to win this morning.” Coach Ryan allowed that a higher force is perhaps at work. Not only did Kenny knock off the sixth seed in the first round, but Patrick managed to bump off the eleven seed as well. Now he takes on 14 seed Mathew McCutcheon who beat third seeded Blake Stauffer of Arizona State. A win would put Kenny, incredibly, in the semis, something very few would have predicted.

The Buckeyes lost at 133 and 157. Johnni DiJulius was mauled for a major decision loss to Cody Brewer of Oklahoma. At 157 Josh Demas toyed agonizingly with the winning takedown over Brian Murphy of Michigan but just could not finish it off, suffering a tough one point loss. The good news is that both DiJulius and Demas have a chance to make a strong push through the wrestlebacks later this morning.

Mark Martin scored a nice win in his first round in the consolation bracket. He also has an opportunity to advance to the medal rounds as he would likely face no higher than a seven seed for several matches.

Kenny Courts will be joined in the quarters by the usual Buckeye suspects, Nathan Tomasello at 125, Logan Stieber at 141, Bo Jordan at 165 and Kyle Snyder at 197. Tomasello won a major decision in his backyard brawl with Ben Willefort of Cleveland State, while Stieber walked away with a pin and Snyder managed a 14-5 demolition of Shane Woods of Wyoming. Bo Jordan ground out a 6-2 win over Dylan Palacio of Cornell and now finds himself against thirteen seed Cooper Moore of Northern Iowa. Moore knocked off four seed Nick Sulzer of Virginia, who some experts (me not included) projected to knock off the fifth seeded Jordan.

The heartbreak continued for Hunter Stieber who made a go of it with no usable elbow. His coach mercifully threw in the towel in the middle of a match with a gracious Clayton Ream of North Dakota State. As the Ohio State partisans rose to their feet in admiration and tribute, Hunter left the mat knowing double elbow surgery awaits him next week. Hunter gave every ounce of effort his pain wracked body could offer.

At heavy, Nick Tavanello once again gave up a last second takedwon to Brooks Black to become the second Buckeye eliminated from contention.

The team scores show Ohio State in the lead at 23. Iowa trails by two points. Although they also have five wrestlers in the quarters, three of them face long odds: Thomas Gilman goes against third seeded Joey Vance of Virginia Tech at 125; Sam Brooks faces number one seed Gabe Dean of Cornell at 184 and Nathan Burak faces third seeded Kyven Gadsen of Iowa State at 197. What is more, Mike Evans may be third seeded at 174 but he goes against sixth seed Logan Storley of Minnesota who beat Evans for third at the Big Ten two weeks ago. Corey Clark faces a pretty tough sixth seed Earl Hall of Iowa State at 133 as well.

Missouri suffered a number of setbacks but still has all three number one seeds going. Assuming Ohio State can win this morning at 125 and 197, that could set up two titanic matches in the semis tonight as Tomasello would go against Missouri’s one seed Alan Waters and Kyle Snyder would go against Missouri’s defending national champ J’Den Cox. Before that though, Snyder will once again need to beat the very tough fifth seed, Scott Schiller of Minnesota.

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