The No. 7 Ohio State wrestling team fell short of repeating as Big Ten champions last year after a memorable 2014 national championship run. This time, OSU has the talent to challenge Big Ten juggernauts Iowa and Penn State when the Buckeyes travel to Bloomington, Indiana, for the Big Ten Wrestling Championships on March 3 through 5.
OSU boasts three wrestlers with a No. 1 pre-seed ranking in their weight class for the tournament — 133-pound redshirt junior Nathan Tomasello, 174-pound redshirt junior Bo Jordan and junior heavyweight Kyle Snyder.
Tomasello was undefeated in the regular season, and won the Big Ten championship in the 125-pound division in 2015 and 2016. Tomasello was also the national champion at 125 pounds in 2015, but fell short last season after a loss to Iowa’s then-sophomore Thomas Gilman.
Tomasello said he is hungry for redemption and is ready for everyone gunning for him.
“I’ve been used to having a target on my back ever since high school,” he said. “(I’m) just excited for some wars. The Big Ten tournament is always really tough.”
While Tomasello was on the team when it took home the Big Ten and national titles, some new Buckeyes have begun to make a name for themselves and are looking to cement their status in this tournament.
“I wrestled all the Big Ten guys … I’m always a little nervous to wrestle someone again, but it also gives me a chance to improve on how I wrestled them the last time,” said redshirt freshman and No. 2 pre-seed Kollin Moore. “So hopefully, I wrestle well and get into the finals and see (Minnesota senior Brett) Pfarr again.”
Moore, who wrestles at 197 pounds, suffered only three losses during the regular season as a first-year wrestler. Two of those losses came against Pfarr, who is the top-ranked wrestler at 197 pounds.
Both Moore and Tomasello won their individual matchups against No. 2 Penn State on Feb. 3, but the Nittany Lions figure to be among the Buckeyes’ toughest competition in Bloomington. Penn State won the Feb. 3 tilt 32-12, and that loss lingers on the minds of some Buckeyes.
“I think that Penn State was a good reminder that we still have things to grow on,” Tomasello said. “I think it’s going to be a tighter race than people think with Penn State.”
In addition to the three top-ranked wrestlers and second-ranked Moore, the Buckeyes feature No. 3 redshirt sophomore Micah Jordan at 149 pounds, No. 4 sophomore Myles Martin at 184 pounds, No. 5 freshman Luke Pletcher at 141 pounds and No. 11 redshirt sophomore Jake Ryan at 157 pounds. Martin was the first Buckeye to win a national title as a true freshman in 2016, but has moved up weight classes since then.
The top-ranked wrestler in Martin’s weight class, Penn State’s Bo Nickal, was the opponent Martin took down to seal his national championship in 2016. More recently, Martin lost to Nickal on Feb. 3.
“It helps when you know what to expect going into the match and you can make adjustments beforehand and then during the match,” Tomasello said. “When we wrestle familiar foes, we’ll have a little bit of an edge because we know what’s going to happen.”
Moore also hinted at familiarity with Big Ten wrestlers being an advantage to their game, but Tomasello said his preparation is roughly the same, no matter the opponent.
“(I look at) pretty much everyone the same — having respect for the opponent but also knowing that I’m the guy and it’s my title,” he said.