Ohio State wrestling’s path to a national championship still exists, but it will be a much steeper climb than it was for the Buckeyes last season.
Penn State presents a big enough challenge on its own, with five wrestlers carrying a top-three seed at the NCAA Championships set to be held at Madison Square Garden in New York City on March 17-19. However, the Buckeyes’ own struggles with injury and form have also helped shrink their path to a second consecutive national championship.
Ohio State finished third at the Big Ten Championships in Iowa City, well behind the champion Nitanny Lions and one point behind the host Hawkeyes.
The Buckeyes will remain in the national championship conversation, however, because of their ability to plug in two of the best wrestlers in the country. At an event where a top-heavy lineup with a few elite guys is often better than having 10 wrestlers who perform well but don’t make it to the finals, guys like Nathan Tomasello and Kyle Snyder, both of whom are undefeated this season, can put Ohio State in contention.
Tomasello is the No. 1 seed and defending national champion at 125 pounds, while Snyder is the No. 2 seed at heavyweight after a runner-up finish at 197 pounds last season. Furthermore, Bo Jordan is the No. 3 seed at 165 pounds, giving OSU three individual championship contenders.
“To have both those guys and also Bo, you get a sense that if these guys wrestle to their potential we’ve got a chance to win,” Ohio State head coach Tom Ryan said. “The semifinal rounds are huge point rounds, and if they do well there we’re in good shape.”
The Buckeyes will likely also need some top-eight finishes from younger guys like No. 6 Micah Jordan at 141 pounds and No. 11 Myles Martin at 174 pounds. There will be fewer chances than they’d like for such breakthroughs, however, because Buckeyes will be without wrestlers in two of the 10 weight classes at NCAAs thanks to missteps at the Big Ten Championships.
Redshirt freshman Cody Burcher failed to qualify at 149 pounds after replacing senior Hunter Stieber, who suffered a season-ending leg injury in the final dual meet of the regular season. Fellow senior Mark Martin, who also missed much of the year with injuries, finished one spot shy of qualifying at 197 pounds.
As a result, the Buckeyes will compete at NCAAs without two of their four seniors – and the other two haven’t fared much better. Johnni DiJulius is seeded 10th at 133 pounds one year after entering the NCAA Championships with a No. 4 seed, and Kenny Courts is unseeded at 184 pounds for the second year in a row and needed an at-large spot just to qualify after falling short of an auto bid.
“Mark dealt with injuries all year, and Hunter getting injured in the last dual meet of the season was heartbreaking,” Ryan said. “Then you’ve got Johnni and Kenny Courts as the other two seniors who have been in the starting lineup for the last few years. They need to wrestle to their ability if we’re going to have a chance.
“It’s nice when a plan comes to together, and I believe that it can, but I would say not having Hunter and not having Mark has been a struggle to say the least.”
OSU NCAA Seeds
125: No. 1 Nathan Tomasello
133: No. 10 Johnni DiJulius
141: No. 6 Micah Jordan
149: Did Not Qualify
157: Unseeded Jake Ryan
165: No. 3 Bo Jordan
174: No. 11 Myles Martin
184: Unseeded Kenny Courts
197: Did Not Qualify
HWT: No. 2 Kyle Snyder