Though the Buckeyes didn't quite get as much top-end success as last season, they had their best NCAA tournament ever as a team. Ohio State was in the running for the national title until its very last match and picked up a second-place finish for the second year running.
Ohio State finished with 92 points to place behind Iowa, which had 96.5, for the second year in a row, but the Buckeyes placed four wrestlers in the final four and closed the gap between themselves and the Hawkeyes from last year's historic showing.
Three Buckeyes went into the final session on Saturday night at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis with three grapplers in NCAA finals, but only one emerged victorious. That winner was senior J Jaggers, who repeated his title at 141 pounds by scoring early and often on the way to a 10-4 win against eighth-seeded Ryan Williams of Old Dominion.
"‘I'm doing it again,'" Jaggers said when asked about his thoughts before the tournament. "You just don't luck upon this thing. Last year, a lot of people called me a one-hit wonder. They said, ‘Oh, he won't be back.' The day after the national tournament last year people were saying, ‘He won't win it again.' I think this proves you don't just stumble on two national championships."
In other Saturday action, fellow defending national champion Mike Pucillo took second place at 184 pounds, a finish matched by junior 133-pounder Reece Humphrey. At 149 pounds, junior Lance Palmer wrapped up his third straight All-America season with a fourth-place finish.
If one or two of those matches had turned around, the Buckeyes might have been hoisting the team trophy in front of 17,385 fans.
Still, the Buckeyes couldn't be too upset after getting much closer to the heavily favored Hawkeyes than anyone would have expected before the weekend began. The Buckeyes matched the Hawkeye total of top-four finishers and had more finalists by a three-to-one margin.
Jaggers' accomplishment was the crowning jewel of the event. The senior from Northfield, Ohio, became just the third two-time national champion in school history, cementing his status as one of the best Ohio State grapplers ever.
The third-seeded wrestler, who ended the year at 28-7, was the aggressor early and earned a takedown in the opening seconds. Thinking he needed a pin to help Ohio State's national title hopes, Jaggers got Williams into the cradle move that earned him falls in both the quarterfinals and semifinals, but the ODU grappler was able to get out of it.
Still, the early takedowns and back points gave Jaggers a lead he couldn't give up. He led 6-2 after a period and cruised home for the win.
"My plan was to strike quick and as often as possible and build my lead," he said. "I couldn't let it turn into a cat-and-mouse game."
Jaggers didn't look like a favorite for the national championship when he needed overtime to defeat unseeded Tyler Nauman of Pittsburgh in the second round, but he ripped off wins against No. 6 Nick Gallick of Iowa State, No. 7 Chris Drouin of Arizona State and Williams to win the title.
It was fitting because his national tournament – with its slow start and excellent finish – echoed his entire senior campaign. He struggled with cutting weight early in the season and dropped out of the top 10 when he couldn't shake the funk before the holiday break, but his weight held steady in the second half of the year as he started to build up steam.
"It feels unbelievable, especially with how I struggled early in the year and how many people doubted me," he said.
The rest of the finals didn't go Ohio State's way. Humphrey, the No. 2 seed at 133, battled in an up-tempo finale against top-seeded Franklin Gomez of Michigan State, but the Spartan went low and threw Humphrey for second- and third-period takedowns that clinched a 5-4 win. Gomez made it three straight postseason wins against the OSU junior.
At 184, Pucillo was unable to defend his 2008 title against 2007 winner Jake Herbert. The latter, a Northwestern grappler seeded No. 1, scored an early takedown and kept Pucillo away from the offensive for a 6-3 win that capped an undefeated season.
Ohio State actually had a chance going into Pucillo's match to earn the team title after Iowa's Brent Metcalf, who entered as the undisputed best wrestler in the nation, was upset in his 149-pound finale by North Carolina State's Darrion Caldwell.
The matchup between Pucillo and Herbert was the first competition between past NCAA champions at the national tournament since 1997.