Cody Cousino / Multimedia editor
Ohio State’s wrestling team is picking up where it left off last season.
After finishing fifth as a team at the NCAA Championships in March, the Buckeyes enter this year’s campaign as the No. 5-ranked team in the country in the preseason USA Today’s Coaches poll.
“We’ve got a great history and we want to improve on that history,” said OSU coach Tom Ryan. “We want to hang some banners and see guys live up to their full potential.”
And in some ways, Ryan and the Buckeyes saw some wrestlers do exactly that.
Then a redshirt freshman, 133-pound Logan Stieber captured an individual national title at the NCAA Championships while seven of his teammates – six of whom were freshmen or redshirt freshmen – qualified for the tournament.
Of the eight to qualify, Logan Stieber, his brother, 141-pound sophomore Hunter Stieber, 149-pound sophomore Cam Tessari and 174-pound redshirt junior Nick Heflin were all named 2012 All-Americans after top-eight finishes at the NCAA Tournament.
Logan Stieber, who was named the InterMat Freshman of the Year, wrestled his way to the finals of the U.S. Trials in the offseason but did not qualify for the London Olympics.
In June, he traveled with the U.S. team and won a gold medal at the Ziolkowski International in Siedice, Poland.
“He has not rested for a day since his title, which you are always most concerned about, and Logan Stieber is the example of following simple things that have to be done over and over again and he does them,” Ryan said.
Senior Nikko Triggas, who’s slated to start at 125 pounds, is making an unconventional homecoming after two years away from Columbus to train and compete for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. He was named an All-American after placing eighth at the 2010 NCAA Championships.
“He brings a lot of experience, he’s a sixth-year guy,” Ryan said. “He was a returning All-American that’s back to finish a job; he came here to win a national title.”
C.J. Magrum, the 184-pound redshirt senior, said the level of competition in practice is preparing OSU for the start of the season.
“I’m seeing that we’re wrestling people in our own practice room that are going to be harder than some of our competitors,” Magrum said. “So it’s just getting that experience, just getting ready for tough matches every day, day in and day out, it’s actually going to help us once we start to compete.”
Over the course of this season, the Buckeyes will compete in 14 dual meets, two invitational tournaments, the National Wrestling Coaches Association National Duals and the Big Ten Championships. Wrestlers have to qualify to compete at the NCAA Championships.
In its non-conference dual meets, OSU will face off against Davidson, No. 12 Virginia Tech, No. 18 Pittsburgh, No. 22 Kent State and will finish with No. 15 Maryland and Hofstra in the Grapple at the Garden.
The Big Ten, arguably, is the top conference in wrestling, featuring 10 teams in the USA Today’s Coaches top 25 poll.
OSU will travel to No. 4 Iowa, No. 13 Northwestern, Indiana and No. 16 Michigan and host No. 1 Minnesota, Wisconsin, and No. 2 Penn State. Against No. 6 Illinois, the Buckeyes will wrestle at a neutral site in Oak Harbor, Ohio.
The Buckeyes already competed and won their first invitational of the year at UB Invitational hosted by the University of Buffalo on Nov. 4.
OSU’s next tournament will be Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, where the team will compete against 31 other teams, including nine ranked in the USA Today poll.
“Las Vegas coming up here, it really sets a tone for the rest of the season,” said 141-pound redshirt junior Ian Paddock. “We have some big home dual meets that are exciting and we should get some big crowds with Penn State and Minnesota.”
This week, the Buckeyes have three matches in four days.
OSU is scheduled to travel to North Carolina to wrestle Davidson Thursday at 7 p.m. before a match against Virginia Tech on Friday at 7 p.m. in Blacksburg, Va.
The Buckeyes are set to face Pittsburgh on Sunday at 2 p.m. for their first home dual of the season.