Recap/Preview by Curt Heinrichs
With big wins over Hofstra and Kent State, the wrestling Buckeyes have earned a trip to the NWCA National Duals semifinals against #1 seed Minnesota. While the Buckeyes are wrestling at home in St. John Arena, they’ve been less than welcoming to the Pride and the Golden Flashes with the Buckeyes winning 17 of their first 20 matches.
Leading off the action, the Buckeyes took on the Hofstra Pride and wasted no time jumping out to a 17-3 lead after the first 5 matches. Kicking off the match was Nick Roberts, who beat #17 Jamie Franco in a minor upset by the score of 5-2. #9 Johnni DiJulius took the rare collegiate forfeit and Logan Stieber took it to #11 Luke Vaith with a 16-1 tech fall. Veteran and #20 ranked Ian Paddock edged Cody Ruggirello 5-3 and gave the Buckeyes a 17-0 lead. Randy Languis lost a heartbreaker in sudden victory to Jahlani Callender by the score of 7-5. The Pride got on a bit of a roll after Callender’s win, taking the next 2 matches as well. #15 Joe Booth beat Buckeye Joe Grandominico 10-4 while Frank Affronti beat Jacob Bresciani (filling in for Mark Martin at 174 lbs) by the score of 13-2. Kenny Courts, ranked #11 in the country, got the Buckeyes back on track with a 10-3 decision over Victor Pozsoni. #8 Nick Heflin wrestled like he was double parked and pinned Zeal McGrew in just under 1 minute. Closing out the action was heavyweight Nick Tavanello, who edged Hofstra’s Michael Hughes 3-1 to seal the deal for the Buckeyes with the final score of 29-10.
Also winning in the preliminary round were the teams of Kent State, North Dakota State, Virginia Tech, Central Michigan, and Oklahoma. Earning automatic byes to the 2nd round were the top 2 seeds, Minnesota and Cornell.
In a minor upset (at least in my mind), Kent State took 5 matches from Iowa State, including 2 wins by bonus points to win 19-16.
North Dakota State put the hammer down on Chattanooga 28-10, including an upset at 133 lbs.
Virginia Tech edged Oregon State 18-16, including an upset from Ohio’s Zach Neibert over #10 ranked Scott Sakaguchi at 149 lbs.
Illinois fell to Central Michigan in a bit of a surprise. The Chippewas rattled off 4 straight wins between 133 and 157 lbs and won the match 19-13.
#3 seed Oklahoma beat Bloomsburg (although closer than I would have expected) 21-15. The match that sticks out most is #6 Richard Perry of Bloomsburg pinning #5 Travis Rutt in the 2nd period.
With the opening round completed, the 2nd round saw matchups between Cornell and Virginia Tech, Oklahoma and Central Michigan, Minnesota and North Dakota State, and of course the Buckeyes vs Kent State.
The Buckeyes improved upon their 27-6 win from earlier in the season against Kent State with a 32-4 win on Sunday. Nine Buckeyes had their hands raised against the Golden Flashes, including 3 Buckeyes earning wins by bonus points. Nick Roberts smothered Alfredo Gray and earned a 15-0 tech fall, putting the Buckeyes ahead 5-0 right off the bat. Johnni DiJulius earned his 2nd win of the season over a tough Mack McGuire, which led into a Logan Stieber major decision over Tyler Small. #20 Ian Paddock earned his 2nd win of the afternoon, turning on the heat late to earn a 9-3 win over Michael Depalma. Not to be left out of the win column, Randy Languis and Joe Grandominico each took hard-fought wins over their Kent State counterparts. The only Kent wrestler to earn a win was Caleb Marsh, who knocked off Jacob Bresciani (again, filling in for usual starter Mark Martin at 174 lbs) by major decision. Kenny Courts picked the Bucks up with a 5-3 win, while Nick Heflin must have found a better parking spot because he decided to wrestle the entire match, taking a 4-1 nod over Cole Baxter. Filling in for Nick Tavanello, fan-favorite and local Kosta Karageorge scored a rare heavyweight tech fall over Mimmo Lytle by the impressive score of 18-0.
The Buckeyes win set up a Monday afternoon date against Minnesota, who dominated North Dakota State, taking 9 of 10 matches. The only Bison to defeat a Gopher was #3 ranked Steven Monk at 165, who is one of the funkier wrestlers in the country at any weight. The Golden Gophers won by the score of 35-3.
Also winning their quarterfinal bouts were Oklahoma and Cornell. Oklahoma overcame a minor upset at 133 lbs to win 6 of 10 matches. Notable winners were #1 Andrew Howe beating #9 Mike Ottinger 4-2 and #5 Travis Rutt shaking off the previous pin to dominate Jackson Lewis 13-3.
Cornell opened some eyes with a shutout win over Virginia Tech by the score of 34-0. In the first 5 matches, 4 of them were decided by 2 points or fewer (obviously all were won by Cornell wrestlers). With the dominating performance, the Big Red let the Sooners of Oklahoma know that they’re in for a tough match tomorrow afternoon in the semifinals.
In the opening consolation round, Iowa State stayed alive with a 36-9 victory over Hofstra and Illinois bounced back with a 23-8 win over Bloomsburg.
In taking a quick look at the match with the Golden Gophers, the Buckeyes should be the underdog on paper. Let’s take a look at the probable matches.
125- Sam Brancale vs Nick Roberts
133- #8 David Thorne vs #9 Johnni DiJulius
141- #5 Chris Dardanes vs #3 Logan Stieber
149 - #3 Nick Dardanes vs #20 Ian Paddock
157- #5 Dylan Ness (whose win over Derek St. John of Iowa was one of my favorite matches of 2013-14 so far) vs Randy Languis
165- Danny Zilverberg vs Joe Grandominico
174- #6 Logan Storley vs Mark Martin/ Jacob Bresciani
184- #8 Kevin Steinhaus vs #11 Kenny Courts
197 - #4 Scott Schiller vs #8 Nick Heflin
HVY- #5 Tony Nelson vs Nick Tavanello/ Kosta Karageorge
As I said previously, the Buckeyes will be the major ‘dogs compared to the Gophers. A few matches really stick out to me as being crucial for the Buckeyes. I think the 184 lb and 197 lb matches will be huge for the Buckeyes moving forward. Kevin Steinhaus has proven to be a quality wrestler, twice earning All-American laurels. Schiller was an All-American a year ago and recently had his undefeated season ended with a loss to Penn State’s Morgan McIntosh. If Courts and Heflin can perform well against the Gophers, it could give them quite a boost as the regular season draws to a close. Additionally, Johnni DiJulius has slipped a bit of late and is going to need to bring his A game against Thorn.
For those interested, you can watch the action live on Big Ten Network (on TV this time, not on BTN Online) at 1 PM (semifinals) and 4 PM (finals). Pro tip: if you’re not going to be watching live, set your DVR to record extra time so you don’t miss the end of what should be some excellent wrestling matches.
Thanks for reading and Go Bucks!