In the eighth grade, the middle school wrestling coach approached me about joining the wrestling team for the upcoming season. I declined, and for the next six years, never gave it another thought.
On Nov. 20, I was assigned to cover Ohio State’s first home wrestling match of the season. In fact, it was the first wrestling meet I’ve ever watched. I didn’t know what to expect; I didn’t even know how wrestling meets were scored until I looked it up.
Then the first match started. OSU 174-pounder redshirt sophomore Nick Heflin slammed Virginia Tech’s wrestler down in just more than a minute-and-a-half of action. “Takedown Heflin, for two,” reverberated around St. John Arena. The crowd roared.
This looked like fun.
After Heflin and 184-pound redshirt junior C.J. Magrum earned decision victories for the Buckeyes, freshman 197-pounder Andrew Campolattano entered the ring and took his opponent down hard within the first minute, bringing more energy from the crowd.
Leading 3-2 in the final period, Campolattano avoided a takedown attempt by backpedaling out of bounds with just a few seconds left. The Virginia Tech wrestler appeared to have hurt his ankle on the attempt.
I jotted “3-2 victory OSU” in my notes. I wrote too soon.
With the remaining five seconds, the slightly hobbling VT wrestler launched a takedown attempt that overpowered Campolattano for a last-second 4-3 victory. The home crowd fell into a stunned silence as the Virginia Tech bench went crazy.
The next match wasn’t any less intense as OSU’s unranked heavyweight sophomore Peter Capone took on Virginia Tech’s nationally-ranked redshirt senior David Marone. After taking an early lead, Capone went to buckle Marone’s legs, and Marone fell to the mat crying out in obvious pain from his knee.
The crowd collectively held its breath as the Hokie was evaluated. The promising senior had torn his ACL, ending his season.
Victory by injury default, OSU.
The meet was brutal, strategic and exciting; OSU head coach Tom Ryan ran around his players doing a mid-air 360 and pumping his fist as two of his freshmen won on last-second victories to a roaring St. John Arena.
I started to regret my decision in eighth grade. I suddenly wanted to take someone on, mano-a-mano.
As the meet wound down, it never lost intensity. As an OSU wrestler was being nearly pinned, he cried out in pain from his knee as well and had to stop the action.
Four points Virginia Tech.
Then, someone in the crowd yelled, “Hey ref, you know you can take players out of those ‘potentially dangerous’ situations! If you protected these kids, there wouldn’t be a Hokie in the locker room right now with a busted knee!”
But the Hokie, David Marone, was not in the locker room. He was sitting on the side with his team, holding crutches and an ice pack on his knee. He heard the spectator.
“What the hell did you say about me?” He stood up on his crutches and yelled into the crowd.
A Virginia Tech coach sat the senior down and said something to him as Marone cried silently.
For the 2,474 in attendance to see OSU’s victory that day, they were given a show. For someone looking for an exciting sport, look no further.
My first meet was about as exciting as they come.