Cody Cousino / Multimedia editor
The Ohio State wrestling team eagerly anticipates the return of redshirt sophomore and team captain Logan Stieber as he works his way back from a leg muscle strain he suffered in early January.
Stieber, who is undefeated with a 15-0 record, has been out for the past three matches, and his absence has been felt. The Buckeyes are 1-2 without him in the lineup.
OSU coach Tom Ryan said Stieber’s presence has a great impact on how the team performs.
“I think when you have a guy like Logan, I mean you have a great leader in there,” Ryan said. After all, Stieber is the defending 133-pound NCAA Champion.
“You don’t know how guys are going to react without him in there until you see it, and I think he’s a spark. He’s a spark for the team and we need him back.”
As important as Stieber is to the team, his fellow wrestlers aren’t using his absence as an excuse for their losing record during that time.
Freshman Mark Martin, who wrestles at 165 pounds,said the team needs to increase its effort without, arguably, its top wrestler.
“It basically forces us to step up. Everybody has to step up and make up for him being out, I guess. We all have to do our jobs and pick up our mentality,” Martin said.
Because of the injury, which is being evaluated on a week-to-week basis, Stieber has had to tweak the way he leads the team with just his words instead of by example.
“(It’s difficult) just being at practice and not being able to wrestle at matches,” he said.
“I can always help by talking and getting everyone pumped up, but it’s very different if you’re out there wrestling. That’s the thing that sucks the most.”
But the Buckeyes shouldn’t have to wait much longer to see the 2012 All-American and Big Ten Champion back on the mats.
Stieber has been pleased with his progress since the injury and said he is set to return against Illinois on Feb. 1.
“It’s going good, but we don’t want to rush back into anything,” he said. “I just have to take my time and have a great rehab.”
In the meantime, several Buckeyes have the opportunity to fill the hole left by Stieber’s absence.
Redshirt freshman Kyle Visconti, who typically wrestles at 125 pounds, has been wrestling in place of Stieber in the 133-pound weight class, going 1-2 in that time span.
However, the Buckeyes could be going with a different 133-pounder this Friday away against Indiana, with redshirt sophomore Drew Stone, who also is listed at 125 pounds.
“There will be a wrestle-off this week between Visconti and Stone,” Ryan said. “Stone was out with an injury so we couldn’t have a wrestle-off before, and plus it was really last minute who we were going to put in there. So they’ll wrestle off if we don’t figure it out.”
After Indiana, the Buckeyes are set to host Wisconsin on Jan. 20 at St. John Arena.