The college wrestling season is in its final days. Ohio State travels to Purdue Friday night with just three dual meets left in the regular season.
6-8, 2-5 Big Ten Conference
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
7:00 P.M. – FRIDAY, FEB. 15
WEST LAFAYETTE, IND.
Fresh off a lopsided loss to the No. 1 team in the country, the Buckeyes will look to the Boilermakers as a much-needed balm ahead of Sunday's meet vs. No. 6 Nebraska, the final home dual of the season. Purdue will start five ranked wrestlers to Ohio State's eight, and the visitors should be favored in eight of 10 matches.
Purdue has some solid wrestlers in its program, but is under water this season with a record of 6-8 overall, including 2-5 in Big Ten action. Wins over Maryland and Indiana happened a month ago, with losses to Michigan, Penn State, Minnesota and Rutgers coming in the weeks since.
For the Buckeyes, the focus is on getting in peak condition for the postseason. The Big Ten Tournament is just 21 days away, and the NCAA Championships in Pittsburgh are barely two weeks after that.
The Purdue Boilermakers
Head Coach: Tony Ersland
|125||Malik Heinselman (20-5, Fr.)||
Marshall Craig V (3-5, r-Fr.)
-OR- No. 19 Devin Schroder (17-8, r-So.)
|133||No. 6 Luke Pletcher (18-3, Jr.)||
Bjorn Schroder (8-7, r-Fr.)
-OR- No. 16 Ben Thornton (16-6, r-Sr.)
|141||No. 3 Joey McKenna (14-1, Sr.)||
Nate Limmex (15-11, r-Jr.)
-OR- Alec White (7-7, r-Fr.)
|149||No. 3 Micah Jordan (19-1, r-Sr.)||
Parker Filius (9-15, r-Fr.)
-OR- Austin Nash (4-12, r-Jr.)
|157||No. 8 Ke-Shawn Hayes (16-6 r-Jr.)||No. 11 Griffin Parriott (13-6, r-So.)|
Te'Shan Campbell (9-3, Sr.)
-OR-Kaleb Romero (7-6, r-Fr.)
Tanner Webster (5-7, r-Fr.),
-OR- Cole Wysocki (8-17, r-Jr.)
|174||No. 18 Ethan Smith (14-6, r-Fr.)||No. 12 Dylan Lydy (20-6, r-Jr.)|
|184||No. 1 Myles Martin (14-0, Sr.)||
Jared Florell (10-4, r-Fr.)
-OR- Max Lyon (19-8, So.)
|197||No. 2 Kollin Moore (13-1, r-Jr.)||No. 9 Christian Brunner (17-6, Jr.)|
|HWT||No. 18 Chase Singletary (15-5, r-Fr.)||Jacob Aven (9-16, r-Sr.)|
Purdue will honor four seniors at Friday's night's dual, the Boilermakers' home finale. In his fifth season at the helm in West Lafayette, Ersland appears to be on track to finish with his first losing record, having finished with nine or more wins in each of his first four.
Although the program has signed relatively decent recruiting classes in the past three cycles, the gap between Purdue and the Big Ten's bluebloods seems to be as wide as ever. Consider the team's conference losses this season:
- at Iowa, 26-9
- at Michigan, 23-9
- vs. Penn State, 30-10
- at Minnesota, 24-11
- at Rutgers, 22-15
Purdue won handily a home vs. Maryland (28-10) and in-state rival Indiana (18-11), and have a good shot to add another conference win Sunday at Michigan State.
Notable Purdue Wrestlers
197 Pounds: No. 9 Christian Brunner (17-6, Junior)
Brunner is a solid wrestler who appears to have moved up in the 197-pound pecking order after earning the 16 seed at last season's NCAA Championship. He qualified for the tournament in each of his first two seasons, but has never finished better than fifth at the Big Ten tourney.
He faces an interesting matchup in Kollin Moore, who was last seen getting pinned by Hodge Trophy-favorite Bo Nickal. Moore holds a 2-0 career record over Brunner including an 18-3 tech fall a year ago, so the question is how Moore bounces back from his most-recent outing.
It could be a tough night for Brunner.
174 Pounds: No. 12 Dylan Lydy (20-6, redshirt Junior)
This is one of two classes where Purdue is favored on paper (the other being 125 pounds, in theory). Lydy placed fifth at last season's Big Ten tournament and earned the No. 15 seed to the NCAA Championships after wrestling 165 as a redshirt freshman.
He faces Ethan Smith, one of the breakout wrestlers of the season. Smith stood toe-to-toe with Michigans Myles Amine, but got outpaced in the third period Sunday versus Penn State's Mark Hall. Versus common opponents, Smith and Lydy are both .500, and the match is definitely one where Smith can "steal" a victory over a ranked opponent.
A loss like Sunday's versus Penn State tends to elicit strong reactions – overreactions might be a better word, in some cases. What that match showed as much as anything is that Penn State is on a different level than pretty much every other program in the country, rather than showcasing some perceived flaw in the Buckeye program.
- Does Ohio State need to focus on finishing stronger in the third period? Yes.
- Does Ohio State need to continue improving on "mat wrestling" and getting more back points? Yes.
- Does Ohio State have some vulnerabilities in its lineup it didn't have last season? Sure.
But the team still has four of the best wrestlers in the country at any class in Myles Martin, Kollin Moore, Joey McKenna and Micah Jordan. The team also has some extremely talented first-year starters in Malik Heinselman, Ethan Smith and Chase Singletary.
Fans of the program should focus as much on those positives as they might the team's vulnerabilities.
Coaches Poll and RPI
Late in the week, the NCAA released the second of four coaches' poll rankings and ratings percentage index standings. The Buckeyes field a starter ranked in the Top 30 by the coaches in all 10 weight classes.
Highlighted by the Buckeye core four of Martin, Moore, McKenna and Jordan standing among the Top 3, six of Ohio State's starters ranked in the Top 10 and eight ranked among the Top 20.
In the RPI standings, five Buckeyes ranked among the Top 10 of their respective weight classes. RPI rankings require a minimum of 17 matches to be rated, accounting for Martin, Moore and McKenna's conspicuous absences from those standings.
In an interesting quirk of data, all five Buckeyes who qualified for an RPI ranking landed at least one spot higher in the RPI than in the Coaches Panel rankings. The most notable difference is Malik Heinselman, who stands No. 9 at 125 according to RPI but only No. 30 in the class according to the coaches.
RPI and the Coaches Panel rankings are merely components of the formula used to determine qualifications and seeding for the NCAA Championships. From NCAA.com:
Wrestlers in each weight class will be measured by winning percentage, RPI and coaches’ rankings to earn allocation spots for their qualifying tournaments for the championships. The coaches’ rankings are compiled by a vote of coaches representing each qualifying tournament. The RPI is calculated based on results vs. Division I wrestlers and rankings only include wrestlers that have a minimum of 17 results vs. Division I opponents.
For coaches ranking purposes, they may only consider a wrestler that has been designated as a starter at a respective weight class. To be eligible, wrestlers must have participated in at least five matches against Division I opponents in the weight class and have wrestled within the last 30 days.
The Buckeyes should largely maintain or improve their records and hopes for conference and NCAA tournament seedings in this weekend's outings.
Friday night's action at Purdue starts at 7 p.m., and streams live via BTN Plus.