Shelby Lum / Lantern photographer
With four of the top 10 teams in the nation competing in the 2013 Big Ten Championships this weekend, the road to a conference title will not be an easy one for the Ohio State wrestling team.
The No. 6 Buckeyes posted a 5-3 record in Big Ten play this season, earning victories against Michigan, No. 14 Illinois, No. 23 Wisconsin, Indiana and No. 16 Northwestern while suffering losses to three higher-ranked opponents – No. 1 Penn State, No. 2 Minnesota and No. 4 Iowa. They did not face No. 12 Nebraska, Michigan State or Purdue.
“We have to perform to our best,” said 141-pound sophomore Hunter Stieber. “The Big Ten is stacked with five of the top teams in the nation. It’s a smaller bracket so there’s going to be more of a chance for one team maybe than others. It’s going to be tough.”
OSU is one of only four teams to have a seeded wrestler in each weight class. Six Buckeyes were voted in by the conference’s coaches as top five preliminary seeds for the championships.
Redshirt sophomore Logan Stieber (133) and his younger brother Hunter Stieber earned No. 1 pre-seeds after going undefeated in the regular season.
Logan Stieber, who missed most of January with a leg injury, posted an impressive 19-0 record and will be in search of his second consecutive Big Ten title. Hunter Stieber boasted a 27-0 record and led the team with 10 major decisions.
“I feel pretty good (about the tournament),” Hunter Stieber said. “It’s the end of the year so it’s exciting. This is what we’ve been training for all year. I’m ready for it. I’m excited to wrestle.”
Earning No. 4 pre-seeds were redshirt junior Nick Heflin (174) and sophomore Andrew Campolattano (197). Heflin holds an overall record of 12-3 while Campolattano went 15-8.
Senior Nikko Triggas (125) and sophomore Cam Tessari (149) were awarded No. 5 pre-seeds after finishing the regular season with records of 17-10 and 13-7, respectively.
Rounding out the lineup for OSU are redshirt sophomore Josh Demas (157), redshirt senior C.J. Magrum (184), freshman Mark Martin (165) and freshman heavyweight Nick Tavanello who earned sixth, eighth, ninth and tenth pre-seeds, respectively.
Coach Tom Ryan said that in order to have a shot at a conference championship, the team will have to improve the way it trains.
“Overall, I just think it’s discipline, that’s definitely a problem for us,” Ryan said. “The discipline of rest, the discipline of warming up right, the discipline of being ready to compete at a high level. We have to do all the little things right.”
Redshirt sophomore Matthew O’Hara (174) agreed that the team needs to work on some areas but feels confident that it can come out of the tournament victorious.
“Conditioning has been kind of a problem for some people, so we’ll have to work on that,” O’Hara said. “We’ll have to get that under control. But we definitely have the talent, so it’s definitely in our grasp. We’ll be able to do it.”
The Buckeyes’ first match is set to begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Ill. The Big Ten Championships will conclude on Sunday.