Recap by Curt Heinrichs
Last night, the #5 ranked Ohio State Buckeye wrestling team (ranking according to January 29th NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll) took their youthful show on the road to Oak Harbor High School to lock horns with #6 Illinois. While it was a home match on the schedule, Oak Harbor HS was not the familiar confines of St. John arena to most of the Buckeyes. This wasn’t the case for all of the Buckeyes as redshirt senior CJ Magrum and redshirt sophomore Drew Stone wrestled their high school matches on the same mat that last night’s dual took place. It has been a recent tradition that Ohio State has wrestled one home match outside of Columbus, often at the high school of one of the upperclassmen on the team.
The match was announced as a sell-out and the gym was packed with enthusiastic Buckeye wrestling fans young and old. An estimated 2,200 fans were in attendance, and though the match took place over 2 hours away from Columbus, the crowd looked and sounded like a crowd from the (614) area code, complete with Buckeye superfan and fixture Big Nut in the front row.
As a hat tip to the hometown wrestlers, the action kicked off with an exhibition match between a pair of Buckeyes with hometown favorite Drew Stone took on Josh Whitt, a graduate of nearby Oregon Clay High School (outside of Toledo). Stone scored first with a takedown, but ultimately fell by a score of 6-4.
The match officially started at 125 lbs with a pair of previous All Americans butting heads. Nikko Triggas (ranked #12 in the most recent Intermat rankings) of the Buckeyes matched up against Jesse Delgado (#5 Intermat). Triggas, a pinning machine with experience on a international level in Greco Roman wrestling, wasn’t able to overcome a rough first period and fell to the higher-ranked Delgado. Delgado utilized a pair of 1st period takedowns and a set of 3 backpoints to storm out to a 7-1 lead after the first 3 minutes. With Triggas unable to turn Delgado in the 3rd period, Delgado was awarded an additional point at the conclusion of the bout thanks to having over a minute of riding time advantage and he won by a score of 8-1, giving the Illini a 3-0 lead to start the dual.
Magrum and Stone weren’t the only locals to be making a homecoming to the northwest corner of Ohio. Defending NCAA champion Logan Stieber (along with brother Hunter Stieber and teammate Cam Tessari) hails from nearby Monroeville, Ohio, which is only about a 30 minute drive from Oak Harbor, so a large contingency of Monroeville fans made the short trip to Oak Harbor to watch the Logan’s return to the lineup. The elder Stieber had been out of the Buckeyes lineup for a number of weeks due to a minor injury, but was back at full-strength, putting his undefeated season record and #1 ranking on the line against Illinois #8 ranked (Intermat) Daryl Thomas. Stieber scored a quick takedown and wasted little time in locking up an armbar and half nelson and was able to pin Thomas in just 2:04 of the first period. The quick pin gave the Buckeyes a 6-3 advantage, a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish for the rest of the evening.
Following up older brother Logan, Hunter Stieber took the mat boasting an undefeated record and #2 ranking against unranked Stephen Rodrigues. Rodrigues is filling in for returning All-American BJ Futrell, who’s out nursing an injury. Futrell is ranked #3 in the Intermat rankings, so a potential matchup between him and #2 ranked Stieber and would have been the signature match of the duel and a possible preview for the Big Ten Championships. Stieber took charge of the match from the opening whistle and outscored his opponent 7-1 in the opening frame. When the final horn sounded, Stieber had amassed a grand total of 3:05 of riding time en route to a 10-2 major decision, extending the OSU lead to 10-3.
The 3rd consecutive Monroeville graduate took the mat next when returning All-American Cam Tessari (#19 Intermat) took on Caleb Ervin. The 1st period saw the best scramble of the evening, but it ended with a potentially dangerous call from the referee when Tessari torqued the knee of Ervin just a bit too far for the referee’s liking. In the 2nd period, Tessari exploded up from the bottom and scored a reversal and 3 nearfall points while amassing 1:35 of riding time. Ervin chose to go down in the 3rd, but was unable to get out from the bottom as Tessari imposed his will on the Illini wrestler with some tough riding on top. Tessari earned the decision by a score of 6-1 and improved his record to 12-6 on the season. The additional 3 team points made the score 13-3 in favor of the Buckeyes.
At 157 lbs, Westerville native Josh Demas put his quickness on display as the 18th ranked wrestler (Intermat) took on Matt Nora. Demas changed levels at will throughout the match and was able to score 4 takedowns throughout the match with a variety of duckunders and double-legs. With an escape and an additional point for riding time, Demas moved the team score to 16-3 with a 10-3 decision of his own.
After a short halftime intermission which saw members of the Oak Harbor youth wrestling program wrestling on the mat, St. Edward graduate Mark Martin took on #8 ranked Conrad Polz of Illinois. The 1st period was scoreless and Polz was able to escape from the bottom in the 2nd. In the 3rd period, OSU’s Martin was unable to escape and Polz earned a 2-0 decision with a 1 point bonus for riding time. The Illini victory cut the team deficit to 16-6.
With the #2 H. Stieber vs #3 Futrell match not happening, the bout at 174 became the marquee matchup as #7 Nick Heflin of the Buckeyes took on #8 Jordan Blanton of the Fighting Illini. Last year, both Heflin and Blanton were All-Americans, placing at the NCAA tournament 5th and 4th respectively. At the time of publication, 8 of the top 10 ranked wrestlers (according to Intermat) in this weight class were from Big Ten schools, making each conference match-up vital for potential seeding at the Big Ten Tournament in a few weeks. After trading escapes in the 2nd and 3rd periods from referee’s position, the match (as so many of Heflin’s tend to do) went to a 1 minute overtime period. Heflin capitalized on the opportunity and scored a takedown in the overtime period, sealing the deal. The usually even-keeled Heflin was fired up with the 3-1 victory and implored to crowd to make some noise. Heflin’s decision victory extended the Buckeyes’ lead to 19-6.
At 184 lbs, 3 time NCAA tournament qualifier and Oak Harbor graduate CJ Magrum took the mat to face Illinois’ #20 ranked Tony Dallago. The Oak Harbor community gave Magrum a warm welcome in the form of a standing ovation as he took the mat. Magrum hasn’t competed much this year for the Buckeyes as he’d had some difficulty beating out teammate Kenny Courts for the 184 lb slot, but Magrum was able to recapture the position in time for this homecoming match. Magrum was nearly able to score a takedown in the first period, but was unable to finish before the end of the period. Dallago escaped from the bottom in the 2nd and was able to control Magrum for the duration of the 3rd period. The pro-Magrum crowd wanted a number of stalling calls on Dallago throughout the course of the 3rd period as Dallago was unable to return Magrum to the mat a number of times when he stood up off of the whistle. Eventually, Magrum was awarded 1 point for 2 stalling calls against Dallago, but Dallago had amassed nearly 2 minutes of riding time and earned a 2-1 decision to cut the Buckeye lead to 19-9 in the team score.
At 197 lbs, Kenny Courts (who was recently ranked #15 at 184 lbs by Intermat) filled in for teammate Andrew Campolattano against defending Big Ten Tournament Champion and #13 ranked Mario Gonzalez. If watching Courts in action has taught fans anything, it’s to make sure you are in your seat and paying attention when Kenny wrestles, or you might miss a flurry of scoring. Courts didn’t disappoint with a quick takedown and a pair of 3 point nearfalls utilizing tilts. Just 60 seconds into the match, Courts had gotten out to a lead of 8-0 on his larger opponent. At the end of the 1st period, Courts led 10-4, but was unable to tack on any more takedowns to achieve a major decision. It appeared that Courts was struggling to move the bigger Gonzalez, but was able to cling to a 13-9 decision, clinching the dual match for the Buckeyes with a score of 22-9.
At Heavyweight, scrappy #12 ranked Peter Capone locked horns with Chris Lopez. After a scoreless 1st period, Capone was able to score an escape with a nice Granby roll seconds into the 2nd period. The Buckeye was able to ride out his opponent in the 3rd period and defeated Lopez by the score of 2-0 with the riding time bonus point added on. With the victory, Capone put a cap on the dual with a final score of 25-9.
The youthful Buckeyes, who only trotted out 4 upperclassmen in the dual, were able to win 7 of the 10 matches and were lead by bonus points from each of the Stieber brothers. The Buckeyes will conclude their regular season next weekend when they hit the road to take on Michigan on Friday night (televised at 6:00 ET on Big Ten Network). The Buckeyes will then return to the friendly confines of St. John Arena to take on formerly #1 ranked Penn State (formerly because they were knocked off by #3 Iowa around the same time the Buckeyes were dispensing of Illinois) on Sunday at 4 PM.