Kyle Snyder had the weight of the team on his shoulders, with the Buckeyes down by four coming into the last match of the night. The best pound-for-pound wrestler on the planet needed a major decision to end Penn State's 42-match win streak.
Things didn't go according to plan.
It's been a long time since Snyder gave up a takedown to a college wrestler, but No. 6 Nick Nevills managed to do it Saturday night in front of more than 6,500 Penn State partisans. Snyder responded as you'd expect, and took Nevills down six times during the match.
But it wasn't enough. Nevills' pair of takedowns, one each in the first and second periods, kept the match just close enough to seal the victory for the home team. Penn State extended its streak of dual-meet victories to 43, and the Buckeyes drop their first meet of the season.
Penn State came out swinging.
Not known for their lightweight wrestlers in recent years, the Nittany Lions sent out an aggressive grad transfer in Cason Kuhn at 125 pounds, and got the home crowd on their feet in a hurry. He managed three first-period takedowns on No. 4 Nathan Tomasello to lead 8-7 after the first period.
Tomasello took over from there and cruised to a 21-12 major decision. A Luke Pletcher decision at 133 gave the Buckeyes a 7-0 lead heading into the most dangerous part of Penn State's lineup.
It turns out that Ohio State could have used more than a single bonus point in those two matches to win the meet.
At 141, Joey McKenna squared up against a highly-touted young wrestler in No. 6 Nick Lee. Lee, described by analyst Rob Dougherty as "a young Zain Retherford," showed why he's so well respected keeping things incredibly close against the more experienced wrestler.
The match finished 7-6, but McKenna's 7 points were enough to snatch the upset, and leading 10-0, it looked like Ohio State had a chance to upset the most dominant wrestling dynasty in decades.
Starting at 149 pounds, Penn State fields five straight defending national champions. Jason Nolf sustained a knee injury last weekend at Rutgers and won't wrestle again until the postseason; without him, the Lions won four of those five matches and the home team was back in command.
Zain Retherford performed every bit as good as advertised at 149. While Ke-Shawn Hayes managed the first two takedowns of the match, that was all he could do against one of the best wrestlers in history; the tech fall cut Ohio State's lead in half.
Micah Jordan, facing unranked Bo Pipher instead of defending champion Nolf, answered with a tech of his own and Ohio State led 15-5 at intermission.
From there, Cael Sanderson worked his magic and his big guns won big. Vincenzo Joseph earned the major decision over Te'Shan Campbell, Mark Hall manhandled Bo Jordan in the third, and Bo Nickal outgunned Myles Martin in a match between two former NCAA champs.
Nickal's major decision at 184 proved to be a critical bonus point for the home team, which led 16-15 going into the final two matches of the night.
At this point, Ohio State felt pretty good about its chances, fielding the number one wrestlers in the country at both 197 and heavyweight.
Things didn't go according to plan, to put it mildly.
Kollin Moore, facing unranked Anthony Casser, looked flat from the get-go. The Big Ten television crew referenced the humidity in the Rec Hall earlier in the meet, and perhaps the conditions sapped Tom Ryan's heavyweights, or perhaps practice this week took too much out of the big men... in any event, Moore seemed to be working from behind for seven minutes.
The match was actually scoreless at the end of the first period, but Casser earned a takedown early in the second to take the lead, and he never looked back. Moore, in an uncharacteristic result, failed to score a single takedown en route to dropping the 6-3 decision.
As with Myles Martin, it was his first loss of the season.
And with the huge upset, Ohio State needed a major decision to tie the score, which should have given the Buckeyes the win on criteria.
With the best wrestler on the planet, fresh off a second-consecutive Yarygin Grand Prix championship, anchoring the lineup, Ohio State liked its chances to get the major. No. 6 Nick Nevills wasn't having it.
In a takedown heard around the world, Nevills got in deep on a shot and managed to score the first two points of the match. He would add a second takedown in the second, and those four points kept things too close for the Buckeyes to finish the upset, despite Snyder's six takedowns in the 15-10 decision.
|125||No. 4 Nathan Tomasello, major decision over Carson Kuhn (21-12)||4||0|
|133||No. 2 Luke Pletcher, decision over Corey Keener (5-4)||7||0|
|141||No. 11 Joey McKenna, decision over No. 6 Nick Lee (7-6)||10||0|
|149||No. 1 Zain Retherford, victory by tech fall over No. 7 Ke-Shawn Hayes (20-4)||10||5|
|157||No. 5 Micah Jordan, victory by tech fall over Bo Pipher (24-9)||15||5|
|165||No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph, major decision over No. 14 Te'Shan Campbell (12-3)||15||9|
|174||No. 2 Mark Hall, decision over No. 3 Bo Jordan (6-4)||15||12|
|184||No. 1 Bo Nickal, major decision over No. 2 Myles Martin (10-2)||15||16|
|197||Anthony Cassar, decision over No. 1 Kollin Moore (6-3)||15||19|
|HWT||No. 1 Kyle Snyder, decision over No. 6 Nick Nevills (15-10)||18||19|
Ohio State has little time to reflect and regroup, as they head to Ann Arbor next Sunday to face That Team Up North, ranked No. 7 in the NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll. With the win, Penn State locked up at least a share of the Big Ten Dual Championship, their sixth conference title in seven years.