It’s 7:30 a.m. on a Wednesday, less than a week before Logan Stieber and his wrestling teammates board a bus for St. Louis and the NCAA Championships.
The three-time National Champion is waiting in the French Field House for his teammates and coaches to arrive for conditioning. Why someone of his caliber would need to be up this early for a workout is debatable, but that’s what makes Stieber a different breed of athlete.
Sprints of 300 meters ensued after a half-mile warm up run, and Stieber was near the front for every activity. I should know: I partook in this workout.
After being in the lead for maybe 10 seconds of the opening sprint, I felt my legs turn to jelly, my heart beat faster than the OSU drumline as I watched the other wrestlers all pass me by.
Coach Tom Ryan put my underwhelming performance in wrestling terms: “You got the first takedown, then you got tech falled.”
The run was part of a single day I spent as part of the OSU wrestling team. My goal: to see what it takes to compete like Big Ten champion Logan Stieber.
In the humid confines of the indoor track facility, the average person might want to wear less clothing whenever possible. But Stieber, with a 2015 season record of 24-0, makes sure he sweats enough for the entire team with a long-sleeve shirt and sweats tucked into his socks, so not to trip over his red and black Nike running shoes.
“I have goals beyond college wrestling that I want to accomplish, so that keeps me motivated,” the No. 1-seeded 141-pounder said. “Everyone I wrestle wants to be the one who knocks me off, so I always have to be on my game.”
Stieber recently won his fourth Big Ten title and did so in a place he has come very familiar with while at OSU: St. John Arena. His performance might have been one of the most dominant in finals history — a 16-1 technical fall in 187 seconds — and Stieber said he went in hoping to give the crowd something to remember him by.
“Competing one last time in St. John Arena was unbelievable,” he said. “I thought I wrestled smart and a little conservative my first two matches of the tournament, but for my last match, I wanted to go out and score lots of points and put on a show.”
Ryan, who won Big Ten Coach of the Year, put Stieber’s performance in a category by itself, but said he has come to expect that from his senior leader.
“When you master a position and your opponent has no answer to it, that’s what happens,” Ryan said. “Logan’s not good at the position, he’s not great at the position, he’s not extraordinary at the position. He’s a Jedi Master.”
Stieber became the first Buckeye to “four-peat” a championship and was just the 14th wrestler in Big Ten history to achieve four conference titles. Doing it at home made the moment even more perfect, Ryan said.
“It was a fitting ending to the most amazing career in over a 100-year history of Ohio State wrestling,” he said. “That’s the way he should have gone out. It was amazing.”
Winning championships has been the norm for Stieber since he started wrestling, having won the state tournament in Ohio all four years at Monroeville High School. Those experiences, combined with his 114-3 collegiate record, have made some indelible memories for Stieber.
They include winning his fourth high school state title, his first national title, being named 2015 Big Ten Most Outstanding Wrestler of the Year and the 2013-14 Ohio State Male Athlete of the Year.
He has also appreciated the chance to share his success with his younger brother, Hunter, who battled injuries all season, but has long pushed his elder sibling to be the best.
How someone could become so dominant at one individual sport is a question many have asked Logan Stieber, but he deflects all credit to those who have long supported him.
“My coaches and training partners are the reasons why I am as good as I am,” he said.
Stieber, who has managed 49 falls, 26 technical falls and 17 major decisions, has about 10 days left in his college wrestling career, but his legacy in the sport will survive. And after a brief break, he will be back training in freestyle wrestling, with his goal to make the 2015 world team and, ultimately, the 2016 Olympic team.
Before he represents his country, Stieber has one more tournament to try to win for OSU. He hopes to join the likes of Cael Sanderson, Pat Smith and Kyle Dake as a four-time NCAA champion — a goal he set for himself as a freshman, he said.
“It would be amazing to win my fourth,” Stieber said. “It was a goal of mine when I first came to college and it’s cool that I have a chance to do it. It would be an accumulation of my life of work to end my career at Ohio State with my fourth NCAA title and team title.”