Buckeyes J Jaggers, Reece Humphrey and Colt Sponseller all dropped matches at the 43rd annual National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Star Classic Monday night in St. John Arena.
The event pits two of the best wrestlers in each weight class for a showcase of the top wrestling in the country, but Ohio State's performance fell short of thrilling the 2,070 home fans. Jaggers' loss was part of the main event, while Humphrey and Sponseller dropped exhibition matches for the home crowd.
"You never want to lose, but if you lose this is the time," Ohio State head coach Tom Ryan said of the exhibition. "Learn and then improve."
Ohio State's Mike Pucillo, a 184-pounder who like Jaggers won an individual NCAA championship last year, originally was tabbed to compete before pulling out because of an injury that has kept him off the mat this year.
Jaggers was left to carry the banner for Ohio State, but the senior couldn't mount any offense on the way to a 6-2 loss to No. 2 Nick Gallick of Iowa State.
One major reason for his struggles simply was his issues with cutting down to his wrestling weight of 141 pounds.
"I need to get my weight under control," he said. "It's the third time I've been down to weight and I feel like crap."
"He's not ready right now," Ryan said. "His weight isn't where it needs to be. He'll improve. We'll stay real positive with him."
Even when he got something going in the match, it turned against him. After a scoreless first period, Jaggers started the period with Gallick in a down position. The Cyclone earned a reversal to make it 2-0; Jaggers tried to do the same and thought he had executed a Peterson roll. The referee saw differently and awarded back points for Gallick to give the Iowa State wrestler a 5-0 advantage.
"I thought I had a five-point Peterson," a clearly frustrated Jaggers said. "I'm holding him on his back and then I realize the ref is counting back points for him. I have a reversal, it's 2-0, and I thought I had the Peterson to get it back and make it 5-2 (in my favor) and instead it was 5-0. It was an eight-point swing."
Iowa, which dominated the field on the way to last season's national championship, looked to be well on its way to another possible title as its wrestlers won three of four matches. Not surprisingly, the most dominating performance of the night came from Hawkeye 149-pounder Brent Metcalf, who scored early and often on the way to a 18-3 technical fall over N.C. State's fourth-ranked Darrion Caldwell.
Metcalf, a junior ranked first in the nation, earned the Dan Hodge Trophy last year as the best wrestler in the nation and was also named the Jesse Owens Big Ten Male Athlete of the Year and the Big Ten Wrestler of the Year on the way to Big Ten and national championships.
Iowa also got wins from two third ranked wrestlers in 125-pounder Charlie Falck and 184-pounder Phillip Keddy, while 174-pounder Jay Borschel lost to No. 1 Steve Luke of Michigan, a Massillon, Ohio, native.
Iowa State also showed well with wins from Gallick and No. 1 Jake Varner, a 197-pounder who earned a 13-1 major decision over No. 2 Hudson Taylor of Maryland.
At 133 in the exhibition bouts, Humphrey fell to a similar fate as Jaggers, as Ryan tabbed the two as the wrestlers with the least energy of any on the night.
"I don't think I wrestled to the best of my ability today," Humphrey said. "I did a lot of things wrong this week with cutting weight and staying disciplined."
The Buckeye junior, ranked ninth in the country, lost a listless 5-1 decision to No. 6 Joe Baker of Navy. Baker led 1-0 going to the third period after an escape to start the second, and he pushed the advantage by riding Humphrey for nearly the entire period before finally earning three near-fall points that settled the match.
"He had no pop tonight," Ryan said. "He didn't have it tonight. You could see it early on that he was going to struggle. I could see it on the scale when I looked at his face."
Sponseller's problem wasn't energy so much as it was decision-making during his 13-9 loss to No. 2 Moza Fay of Northern Iowa at 165 pounds. Fay earned a takedown just 19 seconds into the match to make it 2-0 and then rode Sponseller for the rest of the period before finally converting that into three more near-fall points with just 10 seconds left.
Fay earned another takedown with just 10 seconds left in the second to make it 9-3 going to the third, and three takedowns by Sponseller during a 30-second span of the period made the final look much closer at 13-9.
"I'm definitely not happy with what happened," the 16th-ranked sophomore said. "I had a lot of mistakes at the beginning. I shouldn't have been in that position to start with. I didn't wrestle the way I wanted to wrestle."
"Nobody wants to win as much as Colt Sponseller, but you have to be smart about it, too," Ryan said.
Despite his team's struggles, Ryan was happy to have the event staged in the venerable on-campus locale.
"I think it's a great event for the state of Ohio and Columbus to see some high level wrestling," he said. "This is something I think young people hopefully aspire to."