Recap by Curt Heinrichs
After a pair of one-sided victories on Sunday, the Buckeyes faced some stiffer competition on Monday, but still managed a 3rd place finish in the 2014 edition of the NWCA National Duals. After putting the boots to Hofstra and Kent State, the Buckeyes locked horns with eventual champion Minnesota in the semifinals and dropped a tough 25-10 decision.
Starting the match off with the Golden Gophers was 125 lber Nick Roberts, who took on upset-minded Sam Brancale. Roberts came out of the gate fast and utilized a nice tilt in the 1st period, which helped him earn a 9-7 victory. The win over Brancale gave Roberts a nice Big Ten win, which could help with seeding in a few weeks in the Big Ten tournament.
#9 Johnni DiJulius came up short against #8 David Thorn, who is up a weight this year and is looking incredibly strong at 133. Thorn took an 8-5 decision in a match that wasn’t really as close as the score makes it look. In a bright spot, JDJ had a slick fireman’s carry early in the match, but wasn’t able to sustain the momentum throughout the match.
At 141 lbs, old reliable Logan Stieber put the Buckeyes back in the lead with a dominant 11-0 performance over #5 ranked Chris Dardanes. Stieber kept Dardanes off the scoreboard and truly stymied any offense that Dardanes attempted throughout the match. Dardanes was well-schooled in keeping Stieber from getting the arm bar/half, yet still yielded 4 team points to Stieber. The win put the Buckeyes out to a 7-3 lead.
The other Dardanes brother, #3 ranked Nick Dardanes, avenged his brother’s loss with a 6-2 victory of his own over Buckeye Ian Paddock. One thing that the scoreboard doesn’t show is the toughness that Paddock displayed, after it appeared that he hurt his ankle near the middle of the match. With his head wrapped due to a cut and a tweaked ankle, Paddock managed to minimize the damage, only dropping a minor decision to a very tough Dardanes.
Randy Languis had his hands full with #5 Dylan Ness, who is more than capable of ending the match with a pin from nearly all positions on the mat. Though he’s taken his lumps this year at 157 lbs for the Buckeyes, Languis put on a great performance against Ness, scoring a takedown and nearly catching the Gopher on his back. Ness earned an 8-4 decision, but Languis certainly looked good in defeat.
After a short intermission, Joe Grandominico took on Minnesota’s senior Danny Zilverberg. Zilverberg earned an 8-2 decision and took the air out of Grandominico’s attack throughout the match. With the Minnesota win, the Gophers took a 12-7 lead over the Buckeyes.
Filling in for an injured Mark Martin, Jacob Bresciani was outmatched against #6 Logan Storley. Storley earned a 15-0 tech fall with just under 30 seconds remaining in the first period. Storley, who was ranked #1 in the country for a time last season, appears to have his offense firing on all cylinders and is poised for another crack at the top of the podium at the NCAA tournament in a few weeks. The Gophers took a 17-7 lead with the technical fall.
#8 Kevin Steinhaus took out another Buckeye substitute in Josh Fox by the score of 12-2. Steinhaus, who has twice been an All-American, wasted little time in taking Fox down and racking up riding time. Fox was filling in for Kenny Courts, who I am told was nursing a sore knee that he injured in action on Sunday.
Facing the former #1 ranked wrestler in the country, #8 Nick Heflin made the most of one of his final matches in St. John Arena. Heflin wasted little time in securing the double overhooks and put #4 ranked Scott Schiller to his back. Though he was unable to secure the pin, Heflin took the momentum in the match, and added another takedown to earn the 8-4 decision in a match where he was in control from the whistle. The loss was just the 2nd for Schiller in the season and should earn Heflin a great seed at the Big Ten tournament in just a few weeks.
Closing out the action were the heavyweights. Nick Tavanello of the Buckeyes scored an early takedown, but that was about all that he was able to muster, surrendering a 13-3 decision to backup Michael Kroells, who will likely fill in nicely for graduating Tony Nelson next year. Taking 3 out of 5 matches, the Buckeyes lost 25-10, but can hang their hat on nice performances from guys like Languis and Paddock.
In the other semifinal match, Cornell edged Oklahoma by the score of 23-20 to set up a Finals bout between the top 2 seeds. The Big Red and Sooners split the match with each taking 5 bouts apiece, but the Cornell wrestlers earned 2 falls and 2 major decisions to take the match. In the only Cornell win that wasn’t decided by bonus points, #6 Chris Villalonga upset #2 Kendric Maple 3-1 in sudden victory. With Cornell earning a trip to the Championship match against Minnesota, the Sooners found themselves matched up against the host Buckeyes in the 3rd place match.
Again setting the pace for the Buckeyes was Nick Roberts, who earned his 4th win of the weekend. Roberts wrestled tough and earned a pin over Sean Williams of Oklahoma in the 2nd period. Roberts put the Buckeyes into a 6-0 lead with his 3rd fall of the season.
Johnni DiJulius earned his 2nd win over Cody Brewer of the season with 6-3 performance. Though not as explosive as his pin in under a minute in the Las Vegas Invitational final, DiJulius was still able to wrestle his match and put the Buckeyes up 9-0.
In another dominant performance, #3 Logan Stieber smothered Nick Lester and notched yet another tech fall by the score of 18-3. Stieber continues his string of victories by bonus points with all 24 of his victories this season coming by major decision or better.
Ian Paddock was unable to duplicate Stieber’s win at the All-Star Classic over Kendric Maple as he fell by the score of 13-3. Maple’s major decision victory gave the Sooners their first 4 points and they trailed the Buckeyes 14-4 at this point.
Building off of his valiant effort in the semifinals, Randy Languis earned a nice win against Dryden Dennis by the score of 6-1.
Joe Grandominico fell to Clark Glass of Oklahoma by a score identical to the prior match (6-1).
Returning to action for the Buckeyes was #13 Mark Martin, who defeated Derek Geiges of Oklahoma. Martin won by a 3-0 score in a match that featured some gamesmanship on the part of the Oklahoma staff. Feeling that they had a better chance to score bonus points with former NCAA champ and Olympic hopeful Andrew Howe at 184 lbs, Howe was held out of the 174 lb match and Geiges was trotted out to wrestle Martin.
Howe, who is currently the top ranked wrestler at 174 lbs, earned a major decision against Josh Fox. Fox helped the Buckeye cause in not giving up a tech fall or pin and should not hang his head in losing to the excellent Howe.
In his 2nd match against a top 5 wrestler on the day, Nick Heflin again proved that he has his sights firmly set upon another All-American finish at the NCAA tournament in March. Taking on former All-American and 5th ranked Travis Rutt, Heflin again pulled off the upset, this time by a margin of 6-3. Rutt had previously lost by fall in the preliminary round to Bloomsburg’s #6 Richard Perry, and the loss to Heflin was just his 4th of the season. Heflin has just 1 loss on the season, and is making a strong case for a top 2 seed at the Big Ten tournament next month. Heflin’s win sealed the match for the Buckeyes and locked up 3rd place for the Scarlet and Gray.
With the match decided, Kosta Karageorge took the mat in place of Nick Tavanello and lost by technical fall to Oklahoma’s Zach Merrill. It is interesting to note that Karageorge won on Sunday by tech fall and was on the short end of a tech fall on Monday. The 5 points for the Sooners put the match in the books with the Buckeyes taking a 23-16 victory.
In the championship match, Minnesota won their 3rd consecutive NWCA National Duals crown with a 24-15 victory over Cornell. The Golden Gophers won 4 straight matches between 133 and 157 to storm out to a 17-3 advantage. With further wins at 174 lbs and 197 lbs, the Gophers took control of the match and earned the title.
The Buckeyes will not get much downtime as they regroup and play host to fellow NWCA National Duals competitor Virginia Tech at St. John Arena on Sunday. The match with the Hokies will close the books on the dual season and the Buckeyes will then shift their focus to the postseason.
Be sure to check back to Eleven Warriors for my Know Your Enemy and Buckeyes in the Crosshairs previews and for recaps after the match, which will be broadcast on BTDN.com ($).
Thanks for reading and Go Bucks!