Kelly Roderick / Lantern photographer
No one storyline can precisely describe what it will be like when the No. 7 Ohio State wrestling team welcomes the No. 2 Iowa Hawkeyes Friday night at St. John Arena.
With both teams ranked in the top 10 nationally, it’ll be a chance for an OSU team, with seven freshmen or redshirt freshmen starters, to evaluate itself against an Iowa team that has only dropped one contest this year, a one-point loss to undefeated No. 1 Oklahoma State.
It will also be a chance for OSU coach Tom Ryan’s team to wrestle his alma mater where he was a two-time All-American and two-time Big Ten Champion.
And, it will be a chance for him to compete against old friends.
“The staff at the University of Iowa (are) teammates and roommates of mine,” Ryan said. “The head wrestling coach (Tom Brands) lived across the hall from me, and the associate head coach, his twin brother Terry, were both in my wedding and Terry was a roommate of mine.”
But Ryan is quick to point out that it’s still all about the kids wrestling Friday night.
“Ultimately it’s, what an opportunity for 18- to 21-year-olds to challenge themselves,” Ryan said. “It has all the competitive fire that a rivalry could have, besides two great institutions and coaches that were friends and roommates and teammates. All involved believe that their program, ultimately, is going to be the dominant program in the sport.”
OSU is coming off a 27-10 win against Purdue in which they improved to 8-2 overall and 2-2 in the Big Ten.
Redshirt freshman Logan Stieber won the Big Ten Co-Wrestler of the Week after pinning Purdue’s No. 8 Cashé Quiroga in 1:12 seconds on Jan. 12.
Stieber, the No. 4 133-pound wrestler in the country, will be tested again against Iowa’s No. 2 Tony Ramos.
Starters 125-pound freshman Johnni Dijulius, 149-pound freshman Cam Tessari and 157-pound redshirt freshman Josh Demas are all projected to start Friday after having not wrestled last week against the Boilermakers.
The status of 184-pound redshirt junior C.J. Magrum is still being taken day-by-day because of an injury.
Magrum, who hasn’t wrestled since Dec. 18 against Indiana, is the oldest starter for OSU.
“As important as it is for Ohio State to beat Iowa in a dual meet, it’s obviously more important that we make the right decisions for our student athletes,” Ryan said.
Freshman Craig Thomas, who has started the last three duals at 184, will wrestle if Magrum is unable to go.
“As far as the pressure I feel stepping in goes, it has gotten better with each match. Being told you are wrestling up two weight classes against two top-eight ranked opponents is a bit nerve racking, but as soon as that whistle blows it’s just me and him, the nerves have gotten better with every match and it doesn’t affect my performance a whole lot, if at all,” Thomas said in an email. “It’s an honor to be chosen to wrestle and represent OSU, so I look at this situation as an opportunity and am looking forward to competing.”
Ryan is confident that, either way, OSU is ready for the challenge.
“They (Iowa) come here like once every three of four years based on the Big Ten scheduling system,” Ryan said. “We’ve got them here. … This is going to be one heck of a dual meet.
This is a winnable duel meet for Ohio State.”
For Iowa, it would be their first Big Ten loss of the year.
“What more can you ask for than to be put in a situation in the Big Ten, two great institutions?” Ryan said. “I can’t wait for Friday night, I can’t wait”.