Around the Oval is Eleven Warriors' weekly love letter to Ohio State sports that don't get the coverage they should.
It was quite an eventful week in Ohio State athletics, as winter sports remain at the forefront while the spring sports are beginning to get into the swing of things.
The week was highlighted by a thrilling opener for the men's lacrosse team, plenty of exciting hockey action, and several Buckeyes in the Olympics. Meanwhile, the Buckeye men's tennis team had another strong week, the swimming teams closed the regular season and baseball is nearly upon us.
Wrestling Bucks Destroy Sparty
Ohio State wrapped up the Big Ten regular season in convincing fashion, defeating Michigan State by a score of 39-6 in Massillon on Friday night. While nearly all of the Buckeyes were dominant in the victory, the match a bit more special for senior Nick Heflin.
Heflin is from Massillon and had an impressive homecoming, defeating Michigan State's Nick McDiarmid 10-2. The Buckeyes went 9-1 on the night, with the lone defeat coming at the hands of No. 7 Mike McClure, who defeated Ohio State's Nick Tavanello.
The win evens up Ohio State's conference record at 4-4, earning them a seventh-place finish in the Big Ten for the regular season. Despite finishing in the bottom-half of the Big Ten, Ohio State is ranked 13th nationally in the official NCAA wrestling team rankings.
Next up for Ohio State, the Buckeyes will be hosting the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) National Duals tournament, featuring 14 of the top wrestling teams in the country. The tournament takes place this Sunday and Monday at St. John Arena, ticket information can be found here.
Another dominant week for Tennis team
The Buckeyes had a huge week of non-conference action, going 4-0 on the week against multiple quality opponents. Ohio State defeated Youngstown State (4-0), Wright State (4-0), No. 17 Kentucky (4-0) and No. 8 Texas A&M (4-3).
Peter Kobelt had another very strong week, defeating a pair of ranked opponents including an upset win over No. 19 Harrison Adams of Texas A&M. Expect Kobelt to continue to improve upon his No. 31 national ranking as he is playing at a high level right now.
With the wins Ohio State is now 9-0 in 2014, posting shutouts in seven of their nine wins. The wins also extend Ohio State's home winning streak to 181 consecutive matches - three shy of the NCAA Division 1 record of 184, held by Stanford's women's tennis program.
The Buckeyes next travel to Houston this weekend to compete in the National Indoors Team Tournament, where they will likely run into Texas A&M again.
Swimming teams wrap up regular season
The women's swimming team wrapped up their conference regular season with a 181-172 win over Michigan a couple of weeks ago. This week, the No. 4 men's swimming team wrapped up their regular season with an easy 159-106 win over Wright State.
Ohio State swimmers finished first in every event, while Stephen Ettienne swept the diving events.
Both swimming teams are off for two more weeks before traveling to Ann Arbor for the Big Ten Championships.
Buy Me some peanuts and Cracker Jack
While it may not yet look like it, spring is on the way which means it's almost baseball season. The softball team is already getting into the swing of things, with five games already in the books this week. Next week, the baseball team begins their season.
The softball team went 1-4 last week, knocking off Northern Illinois and falling to Tulsa (1-0), St. John's (6-3), No. 18 Louisville (5-4) and Florida Atlantic (3-1). Despite the poor start record-wise, the Lady Buckeyes played well - forcing extra innings against Tulsa and Louisville. They Head out to Las Vegas on Friday to compete in the Easton Desert Classic.
Meanwhile, the Buckeye baseball team heads to Port Charlotte, Florida this weekend to open up play for the season against Connecticut, Auburn and Indiana State.
Ohio State returns 13 players from a team that went 35-23 last year (15-9 in B1G) and finished 2nd in the Big Ten, narrowly missing the NCAA tournament. Offensively, the Buckeyes are expected to be led by junior Pat Porter, who led the team in doubles, triples, home runs, runs scored, RBIs and slugging percentage last year. Porter missed Ohio State's season finale and all of the summer recovering from surgery but appears ready to go this spring. Porter is going to need some help offensively, as the Buckeyes offensive woes were ultimately their undoing.
On the mound, Ohio State lost three of its starting pitchers after last season and will need the new guys to pitch at a high level right away. Greg Greve is starting the opener for the Buckeyes, while Ryan Riga is scheduled for game two. The other starting pitchers have not been yet been named.
The bullpen is led by All-American and Stopper of the Year award candidate Trace Dempsey, who went 3-0 with a 1.02 ERA and 17 saves in 31 appearances last year. Dempsey's 17 saves led the Big Ten and was one less than the Ohio State and Big Ten record of 18, held by former Buckeye Jake Hale. Perhaps most impressively, Dempsey went three months without allowing an earned run last year, holding opponents scoreless from February 17th to May 17th.
The Buckeyes should be right in the thick of things when it's all said and done, but they are going to need some inexperienced players to grow up quickly. Ohio State was voted to finish 3rd by the Big Ten coaches, behind Indiana and Nebraska. The Buckeyes will be on the road for a month before their home opener against Siena on March 14th.