Steve Muza / For the Lantern
Ohio State wrestling coach Tom Ryan said he gets the sense that this season, his team is doing big things.
“Despite the fact that we’ve got so many young people on the team, I think there’s great leadership and a great sense of this group leaving a legacy here,” Ryan said.
Having started seven freshmen for most of the year, the No. 6 Buckeyes’ resume suggests the team has gone above and beyond the expectations of many.
After storming out of the gate at 7-0, the Buckeyes dropped back-to-back road contests against Nebraska and then Minnesota.
About two weeks later, the Buckeyes toppled then-No. 2 Iowa, 21-9, in their first win against the Hawkeyes since 1966.
Some even called it their biggest dual win in school history.
Just nine days after the Iowa match, defending national champion, Penn State, hammered OSU, 34-9, in State College, Pa. OSU then responded with wins against then-No. 12 Michigan and Michigan State to close the Big Ten regular season.
While the mission of winning a Big Ten regular season championship was unsuccessful for OSU (11-3, 5-3 Big Ten), Ryan said there’s still a lot of wrestling left.
“Men in this sport that have left a legacy shine in March,” he said. “And we’re still three weeks away from March.”
What Ryan is referring to are the Big Ten and NCAA Championships, which begin in early March and last through much of the month.
Before that, the Buckeyes’ attention is solely focused on this weekend when they will travel to Stillwater, Okla., for the Stillwater Regional of the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals.
OSU, which drew the No. 3 seed in the region, is set to wrestle No. 6 seed Boise State on Feb. 12.
“I think the big thing that Boise State presents for us is that they have a couple of really good individuals,” he said.
Perhaps most importantly against Boise State, Ryan stressed how critical it was for 165-pound freshman Derek Garcia to wrestle his best heading into the postseason in order to hopefully qualify for the NCAA Tournament which is selective in what wrestlers it takes.
“Every single match for Derek Garcia’s critical to make sure we bring ten (wrestlers) to the national tournament. Because I do believe he can do something there,” he said.
OSU is at full strength with all of their starters rested and ready to go. At least, Ryan said, as much as they can be in mid-February of the season.
The winner of OSU’s dual against Boise State wrestles No. 2 seed Nebraska, who handed the Buckeyes their first loss back on Jan. 6.
One-hundred-eighty-four-pound redshirt junior C.J. Magrum said that while there will be no looking past Boise State, he’s excited at the prospect of a rematch.
“We’re kind of upset we didn’t get the second seed (in the Stillwater region) but at the same time, we’ll never wrestle Nebraska as worse we did the first time we wrestled them,” he said.
OSU lost, 18-16, as a result of bonus points in the first match up.
“Lightning’s not going to strike twice,” Magrum said. “We’re pretty confident going into the match that we should take care of them.”
One-hundred-thirty-three-pound redshirt freshman Logan Stieber agreed.
“Last time we didn’t wrestle well, and they kind of kicked our butts,” he said.
Ryan said he understands the challenge at hand.
“We’re going to see two teams that, based on their season, you might say, should beat us,” he said.
But that doesn’t stop him from liking the matchups each team presents.
He still gets the sense this is a team that’s doing big things, he said.
“This group wants to win it,” Ryan said. “We’ll see how bad they want to win it on Sunday.”