B1G Championship Round Thoughts for Ohio St. Wrestlers

Ohio State heads into this afternoon’s B1G Wrestling Championship Finals with a once commanding lead.

You can find a complete breakdown of the math here.

SCORING UPDATE: HEADING INTO FINALS BUCKEYES LEAD BY 7. Two titles and a Pletcher 3rd means Penn State would need to be almost perfect or score a lot of pins to make a run. A Bo Jordan win is a near OSU clincher.

As for Iowa, I believe the Pletcher win has virtually eliminated them. Any one Ohio State title surely would.

So watch out for Nathan Tomasello at 133 and Bo Jordan at 174. If those two win, the first sole B1G Championship in living memory will return to Ohio State (Ohio State and Iowa tied for the 2015 title).

So let me offer this thought: Kyle Snyder is so insanely talented he is hardly a collegiate story at times, which is painful to say. The conclusion in the previous paragraph just assumes Snyder will win the 285 title. In this, the best conference wrestling championship in the land, Snyder has hardly needed to break a sweat. But get this: he wrestles at his Olympic Gold medal weight of 213.4 pounds in freestyle. So he dominates while being dramatically undersized at 285.

After a bye in the first round Snyder won by a 26-9 tech fall in the quarters against Razohnn Gross of Rutgers. In the semis, he won by a mere 14-7. While that might sound pedestrian, the only way fourth seeded Michael Kroells (Minnesota) scored was by Snyder letting him up after taking him down seven times.

Snyder faces a very worthy Connor Medbery of Wisconsin in the finals. Second seeded Medbery has earned the right not to be taken for granted. But still. I feel like I am going out of my way to put some drama in this. Poor Kyle. All he does is blow away everyone he faces. The spectacular has become common place. An historic champion is taken for granted because there is no apparent drama. At this point, all you can do is sit back and watch a future legend go to work.

That’s not nothing.

OK, so what about the matches?

Nathan Tomasello has not faced third seeded Cory Clark of Iowa since his move up to 133. An anticipated dual meet-up did not happen when Clark was held out of the lineup. Tomasello has seemingly struggled, eking out a two point and a one point win. But on the other hand, especially against talented Stevan Micic of Michigan, when Tomasello needed to bring the juice he did.

Even if struggling, look for Nathan to capture his third B1G title.

At 149, Micah Jordan finds there is no rest for the wicked. After his spirited upset of Iowa’s Brandon Sorenson, he jumps into the flames to face the uber fierce Zain Retherford of Penn State. As a freshman, Retherford was the only wreslter to beat Logan Stieber in his last two years. Last year, after taking off 2015, Retherford jumped up in weight to win the NCAA title at 149.

A driven and punishing wrestler, Retherford has not been seriously touched in two years. Jordan did hang tough with him awhile in their dual. But Retherford eventually got enough back points to pull away for a major win. If Jordan can stay off his back, perhaps he has a chance, but this is one prohibitively in the Penn State column. Ohio wrestling fans will revel in an historic upset if Micah can reverse the script.

At 174, one seed Bo Jordan faces Mark Hall, an unbelievably talented Penn State freshman. The two have not met previously. As noted, a Jordan win would seemingly put the match out of Penn State’s reach.

At 184, Myles Martin, riding the high of another wild win against Bo Nickal, faces off with Sammie Brooks of Iowa. This one goes either way. Brooks pulled away from Myles late in their dual. But as with last year, Myles is charging when it counts.

At 197, Kollin Moore goes against Brett Pfarr of Minnesota. Pfarr won a close one a few weeks ago, but again, this one could go either way.

Finally, Luke Pletcher prevailed in his consolation match, thus setting up a third place bout against Colton McCrystal of Nebraska. This match up of 4 (McCrystal) and 5 seeds is a redo from yesterday which Pletcher won in a close one.

So there are several matches that can go either way. If OSU just holds its own, the title should be finally their’s–all to themselves.

But Coach Ryan has been there before. In 2009, he stood under the stands in St. Louis with a firm grasp on an NCAA title. He watched Iowa creep up and eventually claim a miraculous win. So he is not counting on anything.

Allowing himself to feel a little better after Pletcher’s consolation semi win an hour ago, that sinking feeling set in again. Penn State’s Vincenzo Joseph turned in a late consolation semi pin at 165 to bring Penn State back by 5-1/2 points. That was followed by a Nickal win, a McCutcheon win and a Nevills pin at heavy. A 23 point lead had dwindled to four.

Fortunately a thunderous pin by Jose Rodriguez in the seventh place match started to level out the bonus points. Now with seven Ohio State wrestlers going for a potential 25 placement points in the final matches (to 16 for Penn State), the feeling is, just “win our share.” If the Buckeyes can just break even on the close ones, that seven point cushion should be a mountain for Penn State to climb. We will know soon.

Ohio State Wrestling: Championship Math

As my wife might say, let’s get a little math-y.

Ohio State has a stunning 18-1/2 lead heading into day 2 of the 2017 Big Ten Wrestling Championships on the Indiana University campus. They have a gaudy six wrestlers in the finals compared to three for pre/tournament prohibitive favorite Penn State. The Lions have four wrestlers who could also finish as high as third.

Before a brief look at the math, how did this reversal of fortune occur? The biggest shocker was at 141 where Penn State’s two seed, Jimmy Gulibon was pinned twice. The first upset was to seventh seeded Javier Gasca III from Michigan State and the next to thirteenth seed Ryan Diehl of Maryland. Gulibon now wrestles for seventh.

Not nearly as titanic but still a surprise was Ohio State’s upset at 184. Just like last year’s national title bout at 174, Lion Bo Nickal went in a big favorite against Buckeye Myles Martin. Just like last year Martin pulled the upset on the strength of a dramatic throw at the edge of the mat. That match resulted in at least an eight team point swing.

The other big event was Micah Jordan’s mildish yet validating upset of two seed Brandon Sorensen of Iowa at 149.

If those three had gone more the way it seemed on paper, Penn State would be nursing the small lead it took into semifinal action.

Now for the more math-y part. In an eight place NCAA tournament, the placement points are as follows:

First: 16
Second: 12
Third: 10
Fourth: 9
Fifth: 7
Sixth: 6
Seventh: 4
Eighth: 3

Ohio State has six guys in the finals, one (Luke Pletcher at 141) in the consolation semis and two wrestling for seventh. Ohio State’s six finalists can finish no lower than second. Thus, in Ohio State’s 117 current points are the 72 second place points those guys have already earned. Going forward, they have the potential to add four points each by jumping from second to first.

Luke Pletcher can finish no lower than sixth. So Ohio State’s 117 points include six points for sixth. But he can finish as high as third so Luke has the potential to add four more placement points. Plus, by advancing from the consolation semis to the finals he could get an additional one-half advancement point. So by winning two more matches Luke can actually add 4-1/2 points, compared to the four that the finalists can win in one match.

Got it so far? Buckeyes Jose Rodriguez and Cody Burcher can add one point each by going from the eighth place points they have earned so far to seventh.

(But more than points are at stake for Rodriguez and Burcher at 125 and 165 respectively. The NCAA automatic B1G bids for each of those classes are seven. So each needs a win for a ticket to St. Louis in two weeks.)

So adding it up, in placement and advancement points the Buckeyes can earn 30-1/2 more points. Anyone check my math?

As for Penn State, they have three finalists and four more in the consolation semis. When they add in one seventh place hopeful, the Nitany Lions have 31 potential placement and advancement points.

Teams also get bonus points for pins, technical falls and major decisions–bonus points.

What does it all mean? Let’s say half of the Buckeye finalists add twelve team points by winning. That alone would swell the gap between Ohio State and Penn State to 30-1/2 points.

[Read more…]

Buckeyes Storm Into B1G Wrestling Championship Lead

Just like old times: Martin Drops Nickal

Tonight, Ohio State placed six wrestlers into the B1G Finals. In the process, the Buckeyes jumped out to a 117-98 lead over prohibitive favorite Penn State.

When 141 pound Micah Jordan pulled off a signature win against Iowa’s Brandon Sorenson, thoughts turned to bigger things. A half hour later the big night was stamped in near complete in scarlet text when Myles Martin did it again.

As Martin did in the NCAA finals last year, he put Penn State’s Bo Nickal on his back after a dramatic takedown at the edge of the mat. And like last year, the upset, this time at 184 pounds, was dramatic and sweet. Martin was not awarded back points despite the vociferous challenge of Buckeye coach Tom Ryan, but the lead was taken and it would not be relinquished.

Later, wrestling side by side, Kollin Moore and Kyle Snyder conducted takedown-a-thons to put Buckeyes in the finals at 197 and 285. Kollin made his a little “moore” dramatic, scoring two seemingly effortless and early takedowns, only to fall behind and then get two late takedowns that required even less effort. On one, Moore’s Nebraska opponent shot in too far to Moore’s side. All Kollin had to do was turn and wrap arms around the failed aggressor.

While Bo Jordan had a seemingly close bout in the afternoon, he fairly easily handled Myles Amine of Michigan to claim a 165 pound final berth. That happened just as his cousin Isaac (Wisconsin’s 165 pounder) was denied a chance at overtime by a very, very dubious failure to advance from the top penalty point.

At 133, Nathan Tomasello was pushed to the max by Michigan’s Stevan Micic, but in the end had enough to advance.

Nathan Tomasello got the takedowns when he needed them

Jose Rodriguez and Cody Burcher will each wrestle for seventh after going one for two in their consolation bouts. Each needs to win–seven is the number of automatic NCAA bids for the B1G in their respective weight classes (125 and 165).

Jake Ryan lost his consolation bout in overtime, but came back to win the first bout in a little mini-tournament to determine ninth place. This bonus wrestling is necessary because of the nine automatic NCAA bids the B1G receives at 157. So, the plan to simply get the injured Ryan to qualify remains in place–win tomorrow and wrestle in the NCAA tournament in St. Louis in two weeks.

We will be back with more tomorrow, including photos. You can find some photos on twitter @motsag and @twuckeye. Go Bucks!

Buckeyes Start Strong in B1G Wrestling Tourney

A hidden Jose Rodriguez got the Buckeyes off to a good start in the B1G Championships today in Bloomington, Ind.

After the completion of the quarter final round of the Big Ten Wrestling Tournament, the Ohio State Buckeye results show good news and bad news. The bad is they find themselves in second place. The good news is they lead fifth place Michigan by 21.

Oh, and they only trail Penn State’s 70 points by 2.

You could say the Buckeyes did only as expected, in that everyone who was supposed to win won and everyone who was targeted to lose lost. And the pessimist could note that a few heavy favorites eked out narrow wins.

But a win means moving on. At this point, every Buckeye is still in the tournament. Seven are headed for the semi-finals. In a world where upsets are common, doing as expected with a big number like seven wrestlers is a pretty good result.

First, the Buckeye one seeds. Two of them had those tight matches. At 133 Nathan Tomasello seemed pretty much in control despite the 6-4 score. Still, with riding time well in hand, he was only a takedown from being dragged into overtime. Tonight he faces five seed Stevan Micic. The two went to the wire in their only meeting this season.

Bo Jordan also walked away with a mere two point win over eighth seed Devin Skatzka of the hometown Hoosiers. And just as with Tomasello he faces a Michigan wrestler, four seed Myles Amine.

Trendsetter that he is, Kyle Snyder wracked up 26 points in a tech fall win against Rutgers’ Razohnn Gross of Rutgers at 285. Snyder will face Michael Kroells of Minnesota in the semifinals.

Luke Pletcher came into the tournament as a five seed at 141. It is widely understood now that Pletcher pulled off a freshman redshirt to fill in for injured Ke-Shawn Hayes, UP A WEIGHT CLASS. After picking up an opening default win he faced four seed Colton McCrystal of Nebraska. Although Luke trailed by one late in the match, he really seemed in control. After he hit the winner to the chants of “Luuuke” he coolly held off a heated flurry by McCrystal. Pletcher will face one seed, junior Anthony Ashnault of Rutgers in the semis.

Luke Pletcher hits the bullseye in landing his Nebraska opponent in their Quarterfinal B1G match.

Perhaps the second Buckeye match of the night will be at 149. Three seed Micah Jordan pits his 27-2 record against the 24-3 offering of two seed, Iowan Brandon Sorenson. The two battled to the end in January. Sorenson walked away a 2-0 winner.

After dominating Carson Brolsma of Minnesota in the opener, Jordan was pushed in a 3-1 win by six seed Andrew Crone of Wisconsin.

Although firmly in control, Micah Jordan wins narrowly over Andrew Crone of Wisconsin

Myles Martin returns up a weight class at 184 after winning a national title in 2016. A third period takedown and back points paved the way for a comfortable 12-7 win over talented TJ Dudley of Nebraska. Earlier four seed Martin dominated Shwan Shadaia of Michigan State.

The potentially great Jordan/Sorenson match is the second most anticipated Buckeye match up for tonight only because Martin now goes against Bo Nickal of Penn State. Last year at 174, the punishing Nickal stunned Martin the B1G semis with a dramatic pin.

Two weeks later it was Martin who did the stunning. With a brilliant roll to counter a throw by Nickal, Martin won a thrilling 174 pound NCAA championship bout two weeks later in Madison Square Garden.

Earlier this year, Martin and Nickal wrestled entertainingly until Nickal pulled away later in the match. Last year Martin decided to meet Nickal’s fire with his own in the NCAA. Look for more of the same tonight.

Opponents are learning Buckeye freshman Kollin Moore isn’t caught until he is–which is rare. Just ask Olympic bronze medalist J’Den Cox of Missouri. After Moore escaped several sure takedowns in the match in December, Cox escaped St. John arena with a two point win.

Seventh seed Cash Wilcke of Iowa was the latest to learn that after being frustrated and then battered by the two seed Moore in the quarterfinals. Moore had earlier won by tech fall over Hoosier Jacob Hinz. Tonight Moore once again ties up with third seed Aaron Studebaker of Nebraska. Moore won 3-2 in February.

The fun does not stop with Ohio State’s semifinalists. In a bizarre looking, but perfectly understandable scene, 157 pound Jake Ryan went to the center of the mat to face six seed Brian Murphy of Michigan. The two shook hands and the whistle blew to commence. Ryan then stepped back and directed the referee to talk to the Ohio State coaches. The ref was informed Ryan would injury default.

Ryan has been hurt. His coaches want him to qualify for the NCAA simply want but to also limit his exposure to more injury. He can wrestle, but with a whopping nine NCAA spots for the B1G at 157, the necessary winning could take place on the back end. So far Ryan has obliged by winning his first wrestleback with a fall over Ben Sullivan of Northwestern.

If Ryan wins is next match, he is in. If he loses, he will have to win an additional, off the books so to speak mini-tournament between the four losing wrestlers of the next consolation round. The purposes would be two–fold, a) claim that ninth spot or b) improve their standing for an at large berth to the NCAA.

Interestingly, Ryan faces fifth seed Kyle Langenderfer of Illinois. Without casting judgment whatsoever on the young man, Ohio State fans might recall their somewhat annoyed reaction at the 2015 B1G Championships at Ohio State. Langenderfer held his arms aloft in celebration after narrowly beating Hunter Stieber at 149.

Stieber had won the admiration of the wrestling world that weekend as he wrestled with no functioning arm. With both elbows damaged beyond stabilization, Stieber could not grab and had to curl and roll to the mat without arms for support. The crowd was a little put off by Langenderfer’s show of celebration, understandable as it must have been from his point of view.

Jose Rodriguez started with a 5-3 win over Logan Griffin of MSU. However, he was dominated by one seed Thomas Gilman, and was eventually pinned. Rodriguez will face 10-15 Michael Beck of Maryland in is first consolation bout.

Finally, the always game Cody Burcher, the pride of Gnadenhutten, Ohio (a point I always announce with pride–my dad was a successful basketball coach at Gnadenhutten) eventually gave way to six seed Nick Wanzek of Minnesota. Cody then went on to crush Dyla Lydy of Purdue in his first consolation match.

Ohio State has a history of dramatic movement in the night time sessions of the B1G. Given the success of the day, another such run could make for a surprisingly fun final day.

If Micah Jordan can pull out a dramatic win tonight, this likely awaits him–Zain Retherford of Penn State

Buckeye Wrestlers Bring the Heat at B1G Championships


The 2017 Big Ten Wrestling Tournament gets under way at Assembly Hall in Bloomington in less than an hour.

Although Ohio State could have a number of champions and finalists, Penn State is the prohibitive favorite. Oddly enough, the Buckeyes will have a much better chance catching the Lions at the NCAA finals in 2 weeks in St. Louis.

Ohio State number 1 seeds include Nathan Tomasello at 133 (Nathan was a 125 pound National Champion in 2015), Bo Jordan at 174 (Bo has finished 3rd in the NCAA tournament each of the last 2 years), and Olympic gold medalist Kyle Snyder at 285.

Other Buckeyes with a reasonable shot at making the finals are 3rd seed Micah Jordan at 149, 4th seed and last year’s NCAA champion (at 174) Myles Martin at 184 and 2nd seeded freshman Kollin Moore at 197.

One of the eagerly awaited matches is a rematch of overpowering Bo Nickal of Penn State and Martin at 184. While Nickal pulled away from Martin in their only meeting this year, he lost to Martin in an explosively exciting match in last year’s NCAA title match at Madison Square Garden.

Look for us on twitter for instant updates!

Ohio State Missouri Wrestling Delivers in Surprising Ways

Kyle Snyder just turned 21. He also just cashed a $250,000 check for winning an Olympic gold medal. So it was kind of hysterical when the Buckeye sophomore recently tweeted: “Mark my words. The first year I have my own house I will have the world’s greatest Christmas lights show. People will travel miles to see.”

The symbolism is not lost on wrestling fans who travel miles to see Kyle light up opponents. As he usually does, and as he did Thursday night with a thunderous pin to end a big Ohio State 30-9 win over fifth ranked Missouri. Often, in a match like this, the fun is over long before the heavyweight match and only a few stragglers would remain. But, now, everyone stays to see the Snyder light display, and leave well pleased with themselves for having done so.
Despite the hype of the match-up involving two Olympians—a college wrestling first—and the fourth and fifth ranked teams, the story that could have prevailed might have been simply injuries. Ohio State has lost its new star, Ke-Shawn Hayes for the year. And Missouri rolled into town looking more like wards of a mobile army hospital. Ranked starters at 125, 149 and 184 did not take the mat.

But out of nowhere, the story really became one, not so much about the winning, but the lessons in the failing to win.

Before Snyder hit the mat, Missouri’s J’Den Cox, he of two NCAA championships and an Olympic bronze went into his 197 lb match against Buckeye freshman Kollin Moore. The two had never met before. While Cox respected Moore’s rapid rise following a summer in which Moore represented the US at the Junior World Championship, he had no reason to think Moore would pose more than a speed bump.

On the other hand, when Moore hit a deep double leg within the first 10 seconds, only to see Cox fight to athletically spin out of grasp, Moore must have wondered how far in over his head he had waded. A Cox takedown, a dominant ride and a later escape had him with a 4-0 virtual lead. With the domination total and the lead safe, the match was coming to a non-climactic end when Cox hit what looked like a sure takedown of his beleaguered younger opponent. But suddenly there was Moore, holding the magic, avoiding the takedown and sitting out to a neutral position. And there was Moore again, instantly seizing a single leg on Cox who was staving off a takedown only because of a gymnast quality front and back leg split.

Giving up on reeling the front leg in, Moore came over the top and got just behind a rising Cox to score a takedown on the mat’s end. Moore then threw a thunderbolt of an extended inside trip to take the great Cox down a second time. But for riding time, the score would have been tied. While there was still time for an escape and a takedown—that is to say, a third in 80 seconds—that was just too much to ask against one of the best wrestlers on the planet.

For the first time in Ohio State history, the meet ending “Russ Hellickson Award” for toughest OSU wrestler at a home meet went to one who failed to win.

But on a night when winning seemed as if it would be destined to be the theme, this was only the last time a non-winner would stand tall. Bo Jordan is a two time third place NCAA finisher. Wrestling for the first time in a varsity match this year, Bo was doing at 174 what he did at 165 last —overpowering and exhausting opponents to the point where they just want the match to end, no matter how.

As Bo had done repeatedly in the match, he stalked freshman Dylan Wisman knowing that when Wisman could back up no further, Jordan would snatch a leg and start inflicting punishment. Except Wisman, unlike so many before him, wasn’t playing along. He snatched a single of his own to score a third period takedown and then had the impudence to turn right around and nearly do it again. We get so used to wrestlers giving up under such dominance—it was a beautiful thing to watch the fearless respect for the sport disrupt what seemed to be the destiny of the match.

And that was not the first time. Buckeye sophomore Cody Burcher had no right, on paper, to be competitive with Daniel Lewis at 165 pounds. Unflappable and methodic, it was Lewis who had extended Bo Jordan in the 2016 NCAA third place match at Madison Square Garden, losing 9-7.

But it is clear that Burcher, up two weight classes from 2016 is a greatly improved wrestler, as his 12-4 record might attest. Although he trailed 5-1 late in the match, the difference had not been great, and in the final thirty seconds he pushed with determination, nearly pulling off a dramatic takedown. Again, it is the pride and respect for the sport that showed up beautifully in an effort that did not result in a win.

What else did we learn? That even a weight up, Ohio State 133 pound Nathan Tomasello is one of the most relentless, forward charging wrestlers in college wrestling. He faced freshman Jaydin Eierman, a 5-0 lanky, volume scorer with a fierce reputation preceding him. Off the mat, Tomassello is as kind and thoughtful as anyone you’d meet. But somewhere he learned to summon what he calls anger when he wrestles. Which has been known to cost him and could have cost him against Eierman.

Before Nathan converted a couple of his beautiful spinning left handed high crotch takedowns, he had a moment off the mat that caused the arena to erupt. Extending to lift his opponent, Tomasello left the circle. Before he could hear the whistle he had lifted his opponent shoulder high. Upon realizing action had been stopped, he simply dropped Eierman, whereupon coaches lost their minds, grown adults raced across mats and partisans of both sides weighed in to the loudest extent their well-fed voices would permit them. The refs shrugged it off as a drop—and not an unsafe return to the mat. But Eierman ceased to be competitive from that moment on as Tomasello coasted to back points and a major win.

While we did not get the delicious match-up at 149 between Micah Jordan and Mizzou’s Lavion Mayes, we were treated to Jordan’s impressive repertoire and skills. We saw multiple shucks, duck unders, cradles, body control and athleticism. The increase in weight class seems to bode well for Jordan.

We also did not get to see Willie Miklus and Myles Martin go at 184. Miklus looked to have suffered a serious leg injury a few weeks back, and thus was unable to go against Martin, Ohio State’s NCAA champ at 174 last year (Martin won by second period technical fall). Jose Rodriguez continued his hot start with a close decision over Brecksville Ohio native, Missouri’s Aaron Asaad.

We also saw a game Luke Pletcher pull a redshirt and dive into his baptism a year early as Buckeye Hayes’ replacement. A highly ranked recruit Pletcher is very compact, and as such he will be vulnerable to cradles from lankier wrestlers such as the very talented Zach Synon. Synon’s strategy to use his leverage was visibly obvious. Yet young Pletcher narrowly won by keeping his head to fight off Synon’s determined spyderly attempts to wrap his prey.

We also got to see a very talented Joey Lavallee easily dispatch with Buckeye Jake Ryan at 157. Lavallee is undefeated in this year. Slick and quick, he started as a bit of a surprise, hidden behind a decent enough redshirt the previous season. So far the lesson seems to be he is not a guy overlooked any longer.

When you talk to the very best wrestlers, they routinely express no fear of losing. To them, “train your hardest, give your best, let the chips fall where they may. Don’t worry about the stress you put on another, learn from the stress you can put yourself under. Learn from failure. Advance from it.” So while the night was not all it could have promised, for the fan, it was a night full of revelations and was a testament to the sport and those who respect it.

Missouri Visits Ohio State Wrestling Tonight in Historic Meet

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.

Buckeye Kyle Snyder Wrestles for Gold

Accomplishing what no other American male has done at these 2016 Rio Olympics Games 20 year old Ohio State Junior Kyle Snyder will wrestle for gold.

Kyle Snyder.  Photo by Josephine Gartrell

Kyle Snyder. Photo by Josephine Gartrell

Snyder overcame an early four point throw by sixth ranked Elizbar Okidaze of Georgia to earn the right to face Azerbaijani Khetag Gazyumov, ranked third in the world. Gazyumov, himself a world champ, narrowly beat Snyder in July in the German Grand Prix semifinals.

Snyder started his day with convincing wins, first 10-3 over 19th ranked Javier Cortina of Cuba, then 7 zip over Albert Saritov, the 15th ranked 2011 Silver medalist from Romania.

Those wins set up a semi encounter with Okidaze. Snyder needed a last second takedown in June to beat Okidaze by tiebreaks at the World Cup in Los Angeles.

Snyder has had to fend off upper body throw attempts all day. Finally Okidaze connected, barely exposing Snyder’s back to the mat. Snyder trailed by four at the break. But then the 20 year old motor of the Ohio Regional Training Center prodigy took over. After three successive push out points it was obvious Snyder was taking control. Before I could tweet that observtion, Snyder had accomplished the go ahead takedown. Fighting off a dangerous scramble, Snyder nearly put Okidaze on his back, walking away with nine straight points to win 9-4 in a three minute Shermanesque pillaging of the defenseless Georgian.

As was true in the 2015 World Championships, Snyder truthfully has not had to contend with the toughest of brackets, though Okidaze is obviously a serious contender. But unlike the World Championships, there is some minimal seeding in 2016, and Snyder obviously earned his top seed. In Gazyumov he faces one of only two wrestlers to beat Snyder since the 2015 World Championships. It was widely thought Anzor Boltukaev, the other victor over Snyder would advance to face Snyder in the gold medal match. However, 30 year old Boltukaev of the doping plagued Russian Federation, was upset 8-5 in the round of 16 by eighth ranked Valeri Andriitsev of Ukraine.

Imposing Khetag Gazyumov of Azerbaijan awaits Kyle Snyder in the Olympic Gold medal match.  Courtesy, Gettyimages

Imposing Khetag Gazyumov of Azerbaijan awaits Kyle Snyder in the Olympic Gold medal match. Courtesy, Gettyimages

In Saturday’s action, Ohio Regional Training Center’s other medal contender Tervel Dlagnev gave a heroic effort but his chronically bad back stood in his way. After toying with his first two opponents and looking sharp, it was obvious he had been badly hurt in his semi-final match, giving up a quick takedown and four match ending gut wrenches. Really unable to go in the bronze match, he settled for an honorable fifth when the same fate awaited him in that bronze match.

On Deck for Olympic Wrestling: Ohio

From a big picture perspective, American wrestling got a huge boost from an unlikely source. Helen Maroulis of Maryland not only became the first American woman to win a gold in Olympic wrestling, she did so by beating 13 consecutive world champion and Japanese flag bearer in the 2012 London games, Saori Yoshida. Although Yoshida is 33 years old, few thought she was susceptible of not winning gold in Rio.

Women’s success in wrestling is certainly a shot in the arm at so many levels including the new found publicity, advancing the perception and continuing to give growth to women’s collegiate wrestling, which in the end can only help the men’s game.

But in the moment, the Rio games so far have been a vast disappointment. Not much was expected from the American Greco team, and indeed, not much was delivered. The team was shut out from a medal perspective.

But freestyle was a different story. While Daniel Dennis was not perceived as a threat to win gold, his story is compelling and he certainly had a shot at a medal. Dennis is a man with a winning gut wrench–just ask Tony Ramos. However, in not much more more than a minute into his opening match with Dubov of Bulgaria, he was taken down and quickly turned four times for the loss on technical superiority. When Dubov squandered a four point lead in the semis, it appears 28 year old Dennis’ Olympic career is done.

More shocking however was the failure to medal for defending Olympic and world champion Jordan Burroughs. Burroughs perhaps spent more time getting blood cleaned from his head than wrestling, but whatever the cause, he started slowly. A first period shot clock point was the difference in a 3-2 loss to Aniuar Geduev of Russia.

The crazy random seeding of the Olympics (it is my understanding a computer generated random bracket number is given to each wrestler as they weigh in) had No. 1 Burroughs going against No. 2 Geduev. When Geduev overcame his own 4-0 deficit to win 5-4 in his semi match, medal hopes were high for Burroughs. However, he was completely dominated in his repechage match, losing by technical superiority.

Hope is not lost. Missouri senior J’Den Cox has done extremely well on the international circuit since his surprise win at the Olympic Trials–he went out and qualified the class by himself. Where the blind draw may have hurt Burroughs, on paper it lines up very favorably for Cox. I would not be surprised to see him standing on a podium tomorrow night.

But now is time for the Ohio Regional Training Center to flex. Also up tomorrow is long-time American heavy strong man, Tervel Dlagnev. Dlagnev, who will become an Ohio State assistant coach once the Olympics end, has sat out of international competition much of the last two years so as to not reinjure a troublesome back.

Indeed, in the most recent eight nation World Cup in Los Angeles, the US placed second to Iran by tie-breakers. While Jake Varner did a valiant job wrestling up at heavyweight, the US certainly could have benefited from a healthy Tervel.

Dlagnev’s absence has him ranked a mere 14th in the latest UWW rankings, but that is likely very misleading. A two time world bronze medalist, Dlagnev is fully capable of medaling in Rio.

That being said, Dlagnev’s draw is brutal. He likely will open with the reigning world silver medalist. If he could forge his way to a win, he would face the survivor of a bracket of death which contains the No. 1 and 2 ranked wrestlers in the world and a 2014 silver medalist.

The task ahead is brutally difficult for Dlagnev but he is fully capable of the surprise.

Saturday will be an interesting day. My calendar says Sunday is the following day, and that is when the second half of the Ohio Regional Training Center dynamic duo, Kyle Snyder, takes the stage.

How Heavy Lies the Crown?

If Kyle Snyder’s collegiate wrestling career to date could be summed up as dramatic, his international career has been astounding. For the five or six years preceding 2015, the 96/97kg weight class had been dominated by former Buckeye JD Bergman and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jake Varner from Bakersfield, CA.

Kyle Snyder vs. Jake Varner, 2016 US Trials.  Photo by Josephine Gartrell

Kyle Snyder vs. Jake Varner, 2016 US Trials. Photo by Josephine Gartrell

Ohio State fans were spared the agonizing choice of having to witness a Snyder/Bergman match. In more recent bouts it has been Varner reversing most past results to best Bergman, and then Snyder taking it to Varner, as he did in the 2015 US Open, 2015 US Team Trials and 2016 Olympic Trials.

Of course, sandwiched between the 2015 and 2016 Trials was Snyder’s epic win at the 2015 World Championships in Las Vegas. Snyder was a bit lucky in the sense that his trip to the finals included matches against challenging opponents who nonetheless paled in comparison to the resumes of the wrestlers in the opposite bracket.

Still, in the semifinals Snyder opposed veteran Abbas Tahan of Iran. With a narrow lead at the end of the match, the American teenager stood at the center and aggressively motioned to a complaining Tahan to stop stalling and return to the mat. Weak bracket or not, the win propelled Snyder to an incomparable trip to the finals against perennial strong man Abdusalam Gadisov of Russia.

Kyle Snyder, currently ranked 4th in the world by United World Wrestling, has several things going for him, including confidence, a constant devotion to the mental aspects of his craft and an unmatched work ethic. But, when combined with those attributes, the thing that makes him a world force is his 20 year old motor, something that was in clear evidence against Varner in their many matches, and against Tahan and Gadisov in that remarkable day in Las Vegas in 2015.

Patented ankle picks staked Snyder to a late lead against Gadisov. Not wishing to get caught in a tragic mistake (as happened to him in the 2015 NCAA finals) and owning the tie break, Snyder simply played it tough from a defensive standpoint to avoid a takedown which would reverse the desired result. When a late, perhaps phantom, pushout brought the score to even at 5, Snyder’s corner wanted to contest the call. Showing poise and mental strength in the heat of battle, Snyder declined to challenge. Knowing he had the older Gadisov on the ropes, Snyder did not want to offer a vital rest recovery despite the fact he might gain a point back.

Courtesy, bloodyelbow.com

Courtesy, bloodyelbow.com

Few scenes in sport can match what was about to happen when Snyder victoriously blanketed himself with the American flag, circled the mat and fell to his knees in thankful praise.

Does menacing top ranked Boltukayev of Russia await Kyle Snyder? Courtesy, UnitedWorldWrestling

Does menacing top ranked Boltukayev of Russia await Kyle Snyder? Courtesy, UnitedWorldWrestling

By ranking, No. 4 Kyle Snyder is not a favorite to win gold this Sunday on the final day of the Rio Olympics. He was beaten somewhat convincingly at a Russian tournament in January by No. 1 Anzor Boltukayev of the doping plagued Russian Federation. He was also beaten narrowly by No. 3 Khetag Gazyumov of Azerbaijan.

But we have seen this before. Snyder has proven to be a student of the game, unafraid to experiment, grow and get stronger. Any one of a dozen wrestlers are capable of winning gold but it really is hard to bet against Snyder.

In the 2016 Olympic Trials Jake Varner came out and won a tightly contested first of three matches with Snyder. Snyder reset his focus for match two and Varner never had a chance from that point on. Snyder has been preparing and focusing on Sunday for enough time now that a new historic chapter seems well within his grasp.