Recap by Curt Heinrichs
In the final dual action of the 2013-14 season, the Buckeyes played host to the #16 ranked (in Intermat’s team dual rankings) Virginia Tech Hokies. The Buckeyes honored 6 seniors who have contributed to the wrestling program in a variety of ways. Notables included #4 ranked 2 time All-American Nick Heflin, 3 time NCAA qualifier Ian Paddock, and Joe Grandominico. Also honored were Josh Whitt, Alex Gordon, and student manager Cassandra Prezzia. The Buckeyes wrestled in gray camouflage singlets as a tribute to the late Major Ray Mendoza, who was a 2 time letterman for the Buckeyes in the 90’s. Mendoza joined the Marines, where he ascended to Major. Mendoza fell in combat in 2005, and since has been honored by the Buckeyes on a yearly basis.
Starting off the match were 125 lbers #17 Nick Roberts and #20 Joey Dance of Virginia Tech. Dance struck first with a slick duck under takedown, but Roberts quickly escaped. Dance reversed the Buckeye shortly into the 2nd period and nearly earned a pin with a headlock in the 3rd period, but Roberts was able to roll through. Eventually, Dance earned a takedown and caught Roberts as he tried to shoulder roll through. With Roberts on his back, Dance tallied 3 nearfall points and took the match by a score of 10-3.
At 133 lbs, Buckeye Johnni DiJulius, ranked #8 in the latest Intermat rankings, started slowly, but earned the Buckeyes 6 team points with a fall in the 2nd period. JDJ caught Gustafson flat on his back from the neutral position and stuck the Hokie at 1:18 in the 2nd period.
Next up for the Buckeyes was 2 time NCAA champ Logan Stieber, who scored a quick takedown and set of 3 nearfall points just seconds into the match. Stieber rattled off 3 sets of 5 count nearfalls in the 1st period and led the match 13-1 after the first period, where he also accumulated 2:29 of riding time in the first 3 minutes. Stieber utilized a quick tilt and earned the tech fall with :24 seconds left in the 2nd period. Stieber pushed the Buckeyes to an 11-3 lead in the dual.
Stepping in for injured senior Ian Paddock, Kyle Visconti faced a tough challenge in former 2 time Ohio State Champion Zach Neibert. If he knew he was the underdog, Visconti didn’t show it as he wrestled tough throughout the match. Visconti very nearly scored a takedown in the 2nd period. Eventually the offense of Neibert was too much for Visconti and Neibert earned an 11-2 major decision.
Wrestling in the 157 lb spot, Buckeye Randy Languis used a counter to draw first blood with a 2 point takedown against VT’s Sal Mastriani. Mastriani was the aggressor in the neutral position, but nearly found himself on his back to start the 2nd. Languis appeared content to counter Mastriani’s offense until late in the 3rd period. Mastriani took the 4-3 decision and the Buckeye lead shrank to 11-10 at the intermission.
Wrestling at 165 lbs for the Buckeyes was Joe Grandominico, who was making his final appearance at St. John Arena. Grandominico has been wrestling with more confidence of late, but looked unable to pull the trigger early on against Chris Moon of VT. Moon defended several deep shots nicely and Grandominico was unable to capitalize on a couple advantageous positions. Moon took the decidion by a score of 8-2. The Hokies took a lead of 13-11 over the Buckeyes heading into the 174 lb match.
A St. Edward grad and an NCAA qualifier last year, Mark Martin took on a tough Austin Gabel, who had been laid up by a knee injury for some time. Neither wrestler committed to much offense in the 1st period, which ended scoreless. Martin opened up a bit late in the 2nd with a couple of slide-by attempts, garnering a stalling warning on Gabel. Martin took neutral and earned a tough takedown to take the lead. After goin out of bounds, Martin refused to let Gabel get out and finished the match on top, earning a 2-1 victory. The 3 points earned by Martin gave the buckeyes a 14-13 lead with 3 matches left.
Filling in for an injured Kenny Courts, Josh Fox took on #20 ranked Nick Vetterlein of Virginia Tech. Vetterlein took a finger to the eye, which delayed action for a time. Fox showed some toughness in defending takedowns and earned a stalemate in the 1st when Vetterlein was in deep on the legs. Vetterlein was relentless in earning a takedown in the 2nd and again in the 3rd. Fox dropped the bout 5-3 and the Buckeyes again trailed by the score of 16-14.
Making the most of his final appearance at home, senior Nick Heflin used a quick takedown to set up a crossface cradle. While he often finds himself in tight matches, Heflin knows how to finish a cradle and pinned Brooks Morrison in just 1:17 to give the Buckeyes a 20-16 lead.
As has often been the case, the dual came down to the heavyweights as the biggest Buckeye Nick Tavanello took on Ty Walz. Tav previously defeated Walz in the state finals in high school. Tavanello fired up the home crowd with an early takedown on the edge of the mat in the 1st. Though he is not one of the bigger heavyweights in the country, Tavanello has impressive athleticism which he used for a pair of takedowns to take the match and the dual for the Buckeyes.
With the win, the Buckeyes improve to 13-5 overall and 7-3 at St. John Arena this season. Now that the regular season is complete, the Buckeyes will next be in action on March 8th, when they compete in the Big Ten Championships in Madison, Wisconsin. With several starters missing from the lineup, the 13 days between competitions should give the Buckeyes time to heal and continue to improve as they get set to take on the best wrestling conference in the country.
For a blow-by-blow recap of the action, check out my Twitter account @CurtHeinrichs and give me a follow while you're at it.
Thank you as always for your support of Buckeye wrestling. I’ll be adding more content in the next few weeks as I spoke with several key contributors to today’s victory and will be posting the interviews in the next few days. Be sure to check back for those interviews and more as the Buckeyes get set for the post-season.
Thanks as well to Ohio State wrestling's media maven Danielle Warner, for her outstanding access and cooperation throughout the season. I really appreciated it, Danielle!