Buckeye Wrestler Joey McKenna Earns Spot on the U23 World Team With Win at Team Trials in Minnesota

By Andy Vance on October 8, 2017 at 7:39 pm
Buckeye Joey McKenna Earns World Team Spot.

Joey McKenna made his Buckeye debut count in a big way, earning a spot on the U23 World Team with two straight victories over Oklahoma State redshirt sophomore Boo Lewallen.

In the best-of-three finals round at the World Team Trials in Rochester, Minnesota, McKenna showed both offensive chops and stiff defense with a 5-1 decision in the first match and a dominant 8-4 decision to clinch the win.

McKenna's day started with a bye in the preliminary round, having been seeded as the No. 1 wrestler in the 65kg bracket. He notched a 10-0 first period tech fall over Illinois freshman Dylan Thurston in the quarterfinals.

His semifinal match was a different affair entirely, as he earned a 3-2 decision over Brock Zacherl. Zacherl mounted a late flurry of shots but was only able to register a single takedown and McKenna maintained the one-point edge as time expired.

Lewallen upended the tournament's No. 2 seed, Jaydin Eierman of Mizzou, prior to running into McKenna in the evening session. McKenna will now represent Ohio State and Team USA in the United World Wrestling Under-23 Championships in Poland, Nov. 21-26.

Things did not go nearly so smoothly in the 57kg finals for Nathan Tomasello. The man they call NaTo ran into perhaps the most talented young wrestler in the field, Daton Fix. The incoming Oklahoma State phenom already has three world championships under his belt, taking Bronze at the 2015 Cadet World and the 2016 Junior World championships and this summer's gold medal at the Junior World Championships.

Tomasello said ahead of the match that keeping an aggressive pace and taking a lot of shots would be critical to upending Fix and their two matches certainly fit that billing. Both wrestlers took their shots early and often but it was Fix who narrowly won the first bout, 8-7, after a coach's challenge erased Tomasello's last-second takedown.

In the second match of the finals, Tomasello kept things fairly even midway through the second period, 3-3, but it wasn't enough to overcome a pair of takedowns in the final minutes with Fix emerging the 7-4 victor.

Prior to running into the future Cowboy buzzsaw, NaTo put on a clinic as the top seed with tech falls of 12-1 over Gage Curry of American University and 10-9 over Timothy Lambert of Nebraska.

While things were hard fought for NaTo, they were really frustrating for Myles Martin who once again fell to Iowa graduate Sammy Brooks. Brooks seemed to have Martin's number last season with victories in their dual-meet matchup and the Big Ten Championships in Bloomington. Things were no different at the U23 trials as Brooks earned his World Team spot with decisions of 9-5 and 13-8.

Martin is one of the more exciting wrestlers in the country to watch as he maintains an aggressive pace throughout matches, shooting early and often and making opponents beat him with their own offense. That aggressive approach played into Brooks' strengths, however, as he managed to convert a number of Martin's shots into cradles and exposures, racking up points in bursts in both matches.

While the Buckeye leader never gave up, his frustration was apparent late in the second period of the second match as he gave up two points to Brooks after taking a swipe at his nemesis. The match was out of hand at that point and his final takedown made the final score look closer than it was over the last 60 seconds.

All in all, it was a good day for the Buckeyes though Tomasello and Martin are undoubtedly disappointed with their second-place finishes. The two upperclassman gained additional freestyle experience in a solid field, acquitted themselves quite well against two of the best wrestlers in the country and saw their newest teammate earn his spot on the World Team.

If anyone had any doubts that Ohio State will be an NCAA title contender this season, Sunday's performance by all three starters should clear things up a bit.

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