Tonight at 7 EST, Ohio State junior Kyle Snyder makes his first appearance on the Ohio State campus since becoming the youngest American to win Olympic wrestling gold. A few weeks ago Snyder also became the first collegian to even wrestle as an Olympic champion.
Needless to say then, tonight’s match will be another first–as two Olympic medalists wrestle when the Missouri Tigers bring Olympic bronze medalist J’Den Cox to town.
Not that they will face off against each other. Although old rivals, the two last met in the 2015 NCAA semi-finals when Snyder beat Cox, the defending national champ. Since that time, Snyder has moved up from 197 to 285 pounds where he captured an NCAA title in a thrilling finale at Madison Square Garden.
(Perhaps I should not be so hasty. Two years ago, Missouri had Cox wrestle at 285 in an attempt to steal a few precious points, which they did, permitting Missouri to win the meet by tie breakers. If Coach Smith calculates such hi-jinx could make a difference again, it is possible we could see yet another 285 epic rafter raising matchup).
While Snyder is unlikely to be pushed in his match tonight, Cox will face Buckeye freshman Kollin Moore. Moore won a berth on the US Junior World Team this past summer. While it would be a giant upset for the sixth ranked Moore to prevail, the match sets up yet another interesting battle between Cox and a Buckeye. Cox avoided a would be match winning takedown by micro-seconds to win his 2014 NCAA title against Buckeye Nick Heflin.
Although both squads have been beset with injuries, the talent that these fourth (Ohio State) and fifth ranked teams will present is enormous. At 141 pounds the Buckeyes lost freshman sensation Ke-Shawn Hayes to season-ending injury. Once again Coach Tom Ryan goes to his deep well to pull a redshirt for Ke-Shawn’s replacement–Luke Pletcher, a three time Pennsylvania state champ and the sixth ranked overall recruit.
At 125, it is possible fourth ranked Barlow McGhee could make his season debut against a surprise breakout freshman, Buckeye Jose Rodriguez. Boasting a 9-2 record, Rodriguez raced to a runner up finish at the Cliff Keen in Las Vegas, losing on a last second take down to second ranked Joey Dance of Virginia Tech. If McGhee does not go, Rodriguez will face Aaron Assad who returns to the state where he won a high school title and placed all four years.
At 133, Buckeye Nathan Tomasello (a 2014 125 pound national champ) will likely go against ninth ranked Jaydin Eierman in an intriguing match. At 5-0 this year, Eierman is a dangerous volume scorer perfectly capable of giving the Tomasello all he can handle at his new weight.
The match of the night however could be at 149 where fifth ranked Micah Jordan may battle Missouri’s fourth ranked Lavion Mayes. This presumes Mayes can go after being dinged up at Northern Iowa over the Consistent with weekend.
Unfortunately fans won’t be able to see Buckeye national champ (at 174) Myles Martin go against ninth ranked Willie Miklus at 184. Continuing the ominous theme, Miklus suffered a leg injury a few weeks ago that may see him miss extended time.
Two time third place NCAA finisher, Buckeye Bo Jordan moves up a class this year to go at 174. Jake Ryan and Cody Burcher go against tough opposition in sixth ranked Joey Lavallee (157) and fourth ranked Daniel Lewis (who at 165 lost a close match to Bo Jordan last year in the NCAA third place match).
Ryan is off to a slow start while Burcher, the pride of Gnadenhutten, Ohio, has opened many eyes with a 12-3 start. This is especially gratifying given that Burcher wanted to transfer last year for lack of perceived opportunity, a request Ryan wisely–for both parties–quashed. Regardless of records, both Ryan and Burcher are capable of extending matches to the point where anything can happen.
It’s going to be fun, in a meet dripping with National Duals implications, for two teams who very much value their seeding in that event. If you cannot make it live, tune into BTN at 7 sharp.
Oh, and let’s not forget–perennial US Olympic strongman Tervel Dlagnev will be on the sidelines as Ohio State’s newest assistant coach.
In case you didn’t know. The Stieber brothers are on the move. Hunter followed former Buckeye assistant Lou Rosselli to Oklahoma. After becoming head coach for the Sooners, Rosselli named Hunter an assistant. And brother Logan competes for gold this Saturday as the 61kg representative of the US National Team in Budapest, Hungary.