After emerging with wins in its last four dual-meet appearances, the Ohio State wrestling team will now face its toughest test yet this season.
No. 7 OSU (9-2, 6-1) will be traveling to State College, Pennsylvania, to take on the No. 1 Penn State Nittany Lions (12-0, 7-0).
The match is expected to contain intense action and immensely important showdowns in terms of rankings, since eight bouts with both competitors ranked nationally within the top 25 are projected to commence.
The Buckeyes earned an impressive 22-15 victory in their meet with Penn State last year, propelling them forward to the program’s first team national championship.
Before last season, however, the Nittany Lions topped OSU three straight times when the two teams faced off. In the all-time series, Penn State leads 17-12.
Even with the tall task ahead for his wrestlers against the nation’s top team, OSU coach Tom Ryan is confident in how OSU will handle its upcoming opponents.
“The focus for us is that we are not the underdog,” Ryan said. “We’ve got enough firepower and committed people to go in there and be successful.”
With a match that features such high-caliber talent, there has been an obvious increase in demand for tickets. Such an increase has resulted in a sold-out Bryce Jordan Center, which seats around 16,000 people.
This sellout will mark the third time all available tickets have been purchased in four home meets at the arena.
A turnout as large as this comes as no surprise to Ryan, who is well aware of the passion for wrestling that is seen in that region of the country.
“The state of Pennsylvania is rabid for the sport,” Ryan said. “The state of Ohio is just crazy for the sport.”
Even with a sizeable supporting cast backing Penn State, there is no lack of confidence from the wrestlers of the Scarlet and Gray.
“My favorite time to wrestle is in front of a big crowd,” sophomore Kyle Snyder said. “I like when the crowd’s against us, so I’m very excited to compete.”
The Buckeyes are no strangers to hostile environments. Six of their matches have occurred away from St. John Arena, with OSU posting a 5-1 record in those events.
Penn State is coming off a big win against Michigan, in which the Nittany Lions crushed the Wolverines 35-7.
On the year, Penn State has outscored its opponents heavily, putting up 426 dual points against just 88 by other teams.
OSU is coming off of a weekend in which the team earned two dual-meet road wins against Indiana and Purdue. The Buckeyes struggled against the Boilermakers, needing a last-match decision by redshirt junior Nick Tavanello to gain an edge.
“In general it looked like we were wrestling tight,” Ryan said. “We just need to be who we are.”
The identity of the Buckeyes has been scoring fast and scoring early. In over 60 percent of their matches, the Scarlet and Gray are the first team to score, while also putting up nearly twice the score of their opponents in the first period.
OSU has also posted stout takedown numbers, more than doubling the number put up by its opponents this season.
Although the team will be anticipating the arrival of the NCAA championships in the coming month, the Buckeyes are still focused on the next challenge they face.
“This dual-meet matters,” Snyder said. “I believe we are going to wrestle well.”
Most of the bouts featured in the upcoming meet will be highly anticipated, but none will grab the attention of spectators more than the potential first matchup of the day at 125 pounds.
Redshirt sophomore Nate Tomasello will be facing senior Nico Megaludis of Penn State.
Tomasello is ranked No. 1 in the country, and Megaludis is ranked fourth.
“The 125-pound match is critical (and) Nate knows it,” Ryan said. “I don’t think it adds any extra stress that that is a critical match.”
Starting off in a hostile environment of over 16,000 people with a good outing by Tomasello could provide OSU with the momentum it needs to challenge a team like Penn State.
Tomasello currently owns the longest win streak among 125-pound wrestlers, with 33 straight victories.
Jordan is Big Ten Wrestler of the Week
Redshirt sophomore Bo Jordan earned Big Ten Wrestler of the Week honors after two major-decision victories over the last week.
Jordan shutout Chad Welch from Purdue, and outscored his opponents 27-5 over the weekend.
Jordan is the third Buckeye to receive the honor, along with Tomasello and his younger brother, redshirt freshman Micah Jordan.
After the trip to the Penn State, the Buckeyes are scheduled to return home to St. John Arena to face Wisconsin.
The Badgers are 1-5 on the year and have yet to win a conference dual-meet this season.
The match is set to take place at 7 p.m. on Feb. 12.