No. 5 Ohio State led 10th-ranked Minnesota 16-15 going into the final match during the first-ever wrestling meet in the 10-year-old building. No. 1-ranked grappler Reece Humphrey of Ohio State would meet No. 5 Jayson Ness of Minnesota at 133 pounds to determine the meet's winner, a showdown event about which Buckeye fans had to feel comfortable given Humphrey's 19-0 record on the year.
But it wasn't to be for the Buckeyes. Ness dominated Humphrey – who lost a contact halfway through, seemingly causing him to lose his focus – for a 5-0 final to give the Golden Gophers an 18-16 win Sunday afternoon.
Afterward, the truth came out in spades from the Buckeye grapplers.
"We got outworked," head coach Tom Ryan said. "It's pretty blank and white, I think. You saw a Buckeye team that didn't have much fight in it."
Humphrey's upset and a loss by No. 6 J Jaggers at 141 to No. 8 Mike Thorn helped the Golden Gophers turn around a 25-12 Buckeye win on Jan. 11 at the Cliff Keen National Duals. Ohio State had a five-match winning streak snapped and fell to 10-2, 1-1 in Big Ten meets.
While the losses by Jaggers, a defending national champion, and Humphrey hurt, the Buckeyes were victimized yet again by holes in the lineup. Nikko Triggas lost his fifth match out of six at 125, Cody Gardner lost his 10th match in a row at 197 and 17th-ranked heavyweight Corey Morrison fell to 4-9 in his last 13 bouts.
"It's the guys that haven't been winning all year that aren't stepping up for the big matches," said Lance Palmer, one of four Buckeyes to win. "It's really frustrating for the five of us guys that have been carrying the team through every dual meet and every tournament possible through the season. That's basically it."
Ryan threw down the gantlet to those who have had trouble meeting expectations for a team that entered the year hoping to improve on last year's second-place finish at the NCAA championships.
"It's a gut check for sure," he said. "Some of these guys will be challenged. We'll see how bad they want this. That's what it comes down to."
That the meet would come down to Humphrey's eventual loss seemed unlikely when the Buckeyes opened up a 16-6 lead thanks to three straight easy wins.
At 165 pounds, sophomore Colt Sponseller backed up his No. 2 ranking by earning a 12-4 major decision over No. 16 Scott Glasser. Sponseller won five takedowns and rode Glasser for the 1:01 to earn the extra point for the major decision and make the score 7-6 OSU.
174-pounder Dave Rella did the same, earning his second straight win, this one over Matthew Everson. Rella had two takedowns and two near fall points in the third, and the riding-time advantage made the final 13-5 in favor of the Penn State transfer.
Defending national champion Mike Pucillo had little trouble at 184 against Sonny Yohn, taking a 21-4 technical fall in 5:15 to move to 9-0 on the year.
But Ohio State lost four straight matches from there to drop the meet. Gardner lost 5-2 to Gordon Bierschenk and Morrison couldn't keep up with No. 18 Ben Berhow, who took the offensive, kept nabbing Morrison's leg and ended up with a 6-2 win that made it 16-12.
Triggas battled early with No. 5 Zach Sanders, earning a takedown 51 seconds in for an early lead, but Sanders' offense was too much as the Golden Gopher won a 13-7 final that could have been a major decision had Triggas not earned a late escape. Humphrey's loss followed.
Jaggers didn't get the Buckeyes off to a good start as Thorn earned a 6-4 sudden victory in overtime. The defending national champion had a 3-2 lead in the third, but Thorn won a reversal that took away the Buckeye's advantage.
Palmer, ranked No. 4 in the country at 149, got the Buckeyes back on the right track with a 7-0 blanking of Joe Grygelko to move to 17-2 on the year, but freshman Sean Nemec, replacing the sick Jason Johnstone at 157, was ridden throughout the entire third period to lose 8-5 to No. 14 Tyler Safratowich.
"We just have to wrestle a little bit harder," Pucillo said. "That's it. You can see it out on the mat. There's lots of things you can see that just don't make sense."
No. 10 Minnesota 18, No. 5 Ohio State 16
141: No. 8 Mike Thorn (MIN) 6-4SV against No. 6 J Jaggers (OSU), 3-0 MIN
149: No. 4 Lance Palmer (OSU) 7-0D against Joe Grygelko (MIN), 3-3
157: No. 14 Tyler Safratowich (MIN) 8-5D against Sean Nemec (OSU), 6-3 MIN
165: No. 2 Colt Sponseller (OSU) 12-4MD against No. 16 Scott Glasser (MIN), 7-6 OSU
174: Dave Rella (OSU) 13-5MD against Matt Everson (MIN), 11-6 OSU
184: No. 2 Mike Pucillo 21-4TF against Sonny Yohn (MIN), 16-6 OSU
197: Gordon Bierschenk 5-2D against Cody Gardner (OSU), 16-9 OSU
HWT: No. 18 Ben Berhow 6-2D against No. 17 Corey Morrison (OSU), 16-12 OSU
125: No. 5 Zach Sanders 13-7D against Nikko Triggas (OSU), 16-15 OSU
133: No. 5 Jayson Ness 5-0D against No. 1 Reece Humphrey (OSU), 18-16 MIN
Value City Arena