Stieber easily advanced to the final at 141 pounds with a 12-2 major decision over Kevin Jack of North Carolina State. He’s one of three Buckeye wrestlers who will compete in the finals on Saturday – in addition to two more who can finish as high as third – in the hopes of giving the program its first national title.
The Buckeyes head into the final day with a 13.5-point advantage over Iowa and can complete a wire-to-wire win after leading on day one and day two. That’s in large part because of a dominating performance from Stieber, who has earned one pin, two tech falls and a major decision thus far. With a win on Sunday, he would become the fourth wrestler in NCAA history to finish with four individual titles.
“It's been a fun ride,” Stieber said after dispatching Jack to reach the finals. “And if we could win a team title along the way, that would be cool.”
He’s had help from his teammates along the way, most notably from redshirt freshman Nathan Tomasello (125 pounds) and true freshman Kyle Snyder (197 pounds).
Tomasello got the night started by knocking off previously undefeated No. 1 seed Alan Waters of Missouri with a last-second takedown that allowed him to see his hand raised with a 4-2 decision.
“The last 30 seconds it was tied 2-all, and I could feel him getting tired,” Tomasello said. “I think trusting in the training that I've been through with Coach Rosselli and Jaggers and Coach Ryan, and just the lifestyle I live, I felt like that's where I needed to even amp it up more and get that final takedown and winning on my feet before it goes into overtime.
“I just went all out and knew that I could get in, get elbow pads and it just went great.”
His run to the final impressed but didn’t surprise Stieber, who along with Tomasello was OSU’s only other individual conference champion.
“It's really amazing, but it doesn't surprise me,” Stieber said. “I think it would have been more surprising if he didn't make the finals just from an insider point of view. I see him every day. He gets everybody. So just to see him actually go out there and do it.
“I had a couple close matches where he made one mistake and lost his matches early in the year. He wrestled really well the last couple weeks. So him making it to the finals is as expected. (Saturday) night should be fun.”
Tomasello will face off against unseeded West Virginia freshman Zeke Moisey in the finals. Tomasello got the better of Moisey at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Collegiate Wrestling Invitational in Las Vegas on Dec. 6, 2014, winning 15-10.
Stieber followed with his major decision that put him in his fourth final in as many years. The fifth-year senior is currently riding a 50-match winning streak and won Outstanding Wrestler of the Championships at the recent Big Ten Tournament.
The last opponent of his collegiate career will be second-seeded Mitchell Port of Edinboro. Stieber defeated Port, 6-3, on Feb. 15.
Snyder made up for a disappointing runner-up finish in the Big Ten Championships by taking down undefeated No. 1 seed and defending champion J’Den Cox of Missouri, who had previously held the nation’s longest winning streak at 56 matches.
The true freshman will face No. 3 Kyven Gadson of Iowa State in the finals. Gadson handed Snyder, who was unbeaten in high school, the first loss of his college career in a 3-2 decision at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Collegiate Wrestling Invitational in Las Vegas on Dec. 6, 2014.
Ohio State can also score points from Kenny Courts (184 pounds) and Bo Jordan (165 pounds) on Saturday. Both wrestlers lost in the semifinals and can finish anywhere from third to sixth depending on the outcomes of their final two matches.
NCAA Championship Standings
1. Ohio State 86.5
2. Iowa 73
3. Cornell 66.5
4. Edinboro 64.5
5. Missouri 60
6. Penn State 58
7. Oklahoma State 55.5
8. Michigan 51
9. Nebraska 49
9. Minnesota 49