Heading into Friday night's primetime showdown with the three-time defending NCAA champion Penn State Nittany Lions, Ohio State thought it could keep pace with the undisputed No. 1 team in college wrestling.
Penn State proved out of the gate that it is head-and-shoulders better than any other program in the country.
With the meet starting at 133 pounds, the Buckeyes appeared to be opening with three expected victories in the night's first three bouts. It didn't happen that way, as pretty much everything that could go wrong for the home team, went wrong.
Luke Pletcher opened the night vs. No. 16 Roman Bravo-Young, a true freshman who was considered questionable leading up to the match due to an injury suffered in the Jan. 25 dual vs. Purdue. He looked anything but, going toe-to-toe with the more-seasoned Pletcher and holding him to a draw at the end of regulation.
Pletcher couldn't seal the deal in sudden victory, and Bravo-Young clinched the upset in the rideouts, keeping Pletcher locked down for the duration of the second tie-breaker period. Although he was docked a point on the team score for removing his headgear, the upset in the opening match was a harbinger of things to come for the Buckeyes.
No. 6 Nick Lee pulled of the night's second upset, gassing Joey McKenna in the final minutes of the match. His go-ahead takedown came late, and McKenna didn't have enough left in the tank to get the escape to tie.
From there, the rout was on and Ohio State dropped three in a row between 157 and 174 pounds, all with bonus points attached. By the time the Buckeyes came to their next favored match Penn State led 18-2.
No. 16 Roman Bravo-Young, decision over No. 6 Luke Pletcher (2-1, TB2)
*Bravo-Young penalized one team point for removing his headgear
|141||No. 6 Nick Lee, decision over No. 2 Joey McKenna (7-6)||0||5|
|149||No. 3 Micah Jordan, decision over Jarod Verkleeren (10-8)||3||5|
|157||No. 1 Jason Nolf, victory by TECH FALL over No. 8 Ke-Shawn Hayes (21-6)||3||10|
|165||No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph, major decision over Te'Shan Campbell (11-2)||3||14|
No. 1 Mark Hall, major decision over No. 17 Ethan Smith (12-4)
*Ohio State penalized one point for throwing the challenge brick too late
|184||No. 1 Myles Martin, major decision over Mason Manville (18-6)||6||18|
|197||No. 1 Bo Nickal, victory by FALL over No. 2 Kollin Moore (1:38)||6||24|
|HWT||No. 3 Anthony Cassar, major decision over No. 16 Chase Singletary (18-8)||6||28|
|125||Malik Heinselman, decision over Devin Schnupp (7-4)||9||28|
The Buckeyes won just three matches on the night: Micah Jordan's decision at 149, Myles Martin's major over backup Mason Manville, and Malik Heinselman's decision in the final bout.
Going into the match, Tom Ryan said repeatedly that the Buckeyes were expected to win five matches, suggesting that either bonus points or criteria would decide the meet. Instead, the team suffered its worst dual-meet loss in two years. Penn State's 19-point margin was the team's biggest deficit since the Nittany Lions recorded a 32-12 victory on Feb. 3, 2017.
That meet had a few similarities with Friday's loss: Ohio State only managed to win three matches in front of a record-breaking crowd of 15,338 at Value City Arena. The 2019 edition saw a record crowd of 13,276 at St. John Arena.
Thank you, #BuckeyeNation. Your support is noticed and truly appreciated.
The largest wrestling crowd in St. John Arena history.
— Ohio State Wrestling (@wrestlingbucks) February 9, 2019
Ohio State returns to action next Friday night at Purdue. The meet starts at 7 p.m. and will stream via BTN Plus.