Preview: No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 6 Nebraska

By Andy Vance on February 17, 2019 at 7:00 am
Are you not entertained?

Senior Day is here.

Four wrestlers will take the mat in St. John Arena for the final time Sunday, for one last battle in front of the home crowd. Three of them are among the top wrestlers in school history, two transferred to Ohio State in search of better training and tougher competition, and one is an NCAA Champion.

11-4, 5-3 Big Ten Conference

2:00 P.M. – SUNDAY, FEB. 17


For the three senior captains – Myles Martin, Micah Jordan and Joey McKenna – Sunday presents an opportunity to add another victory in a season in which they've lost just two matches among them. For Te'Shan Campell, the meet is an opportunity to earn a signature victory in a season marked by splitting time with redshirt freshmen in two different weight classes.

By the numbers, the senior class has had an impressive run:

  • Seven All-American honors
  • 374-77 (.829) career record
  • 276-55 (.834) record as Buckeyes
  • 235 bonus-point wins (63% of career wins)
    • 90 major decisions, 78 tech falls, 67 pins
  • 69-19 (.784) Big Ten dual mark

The group is also 12-for-12 in qualifying for the NCAA Championships over the past three seasons.

Sunday's dual meet vs. No. 6 Nebraska marks another kind of Senior Day this year, as the dual is the final time Ohio State will call St. John Arena its permanent home.

Next season the team moves to the Covelli Center, the new 3,700-seat multi-sport arena in the growing Athletic District. The team will also move from the Steelwood training facility to the Jennings Wrestling Facility, a training center the program bills as the best in the world.

"It is without question the greatest wrestling facility ever built," according to head coach Tom Ryan. The facility features five dedicated practice mats, a student-athlete lounge, and puts Ohio State in the driver's seat when it comes to wrestling training facilities.

"When you have a facility to the standard that this one is going to be, it screams value; it screams importance; it screams that when you come here, you are going to be treated in a first-class way," Ryan said. Indeed, the program signed three of the Top 5 recruits in the Class of 2019 due in no small part to the draw of training in the Jennings Facility.

Given the size of Covelli Arena, Ohio State will still wrestle marquee matches from time to time in the Schottenstein Center or St. John Arena, but Sunday's meet will be the last time St. John is the team's main competition venue.

The Nebraska Cornhuskers

Head Coach: Mark Manning

Probable Matchups
125 Malik Heinselman (21-5, Fr.) No. 14 Zeke Moisey (10-8, r-Sr.)
133 No. 6 Luke Pletcher (19-3, Jr.) Jevon Parrish (13-9, Fr.)
-OR- Tucker Sjomeling (11-5, r-Fr.)
141 No. 3 Joey McKenna (15-1, Sr.) Chad Red (14-9, r-So.)
149 No. 3 Micah Jordan (20-1, r-Sr.) Collin Purinton (8-6, R-Jr.)
-OR- Jordan Shearer (8-7, r-Jr.)
157 No. 8 Ke-Shawn Hayes (17-6 r-Jr.) No. 2 Tyler Berger (20-2, r-Sr.)
165 Te'Shan Campbell (9-3, Sr.)
-OR-Kaleb Romero (8-6, r-Fr.)
No. 6 Isaiah White (14-5, Jr.)
174 No. 18 Ethan Smith (14-7, r-Fr.) No. 9 Mikey Labriola (19-4, r-Fr.)
184 No. 1 Myles Martin (15-0, Sr.) No. 4 Taylor Venz (17-4, r-So.)
197 No. 2 Kollin Moore (14-1, r-Jr.) No. 11 Eric Schultz (18-7, r-So.)
HWT No. 18 Chase Singletary (16-5, r-Fr.) No. 7 David Jensen (13-3, r-Jr.)

Sunday is Nebraska's first trip to Columbus since 2016. The two programs don't have a ton of history and Nebraska leads the series 8-4. The Buckeyes have the edge since the Huskers joined the Big Ten however, winning three of five meetings since 2011.

Nebraska won three of its last four dual meets including a win over Minnesota last week. The team's losses on the season all come against top opponents: Penn State, Iowa, NC State and Wisconsin. The NC State and Wisconsin meets were each decided by a single point.

The individual matchups are pretty interesting on paper. By rankings alone, Nebraska could be favored in as many as five matches. Even so, Ohio State fully expects to dominate the matchup, as its heavy hitters should pile up plenty of bonus points and young Bucks like Malik Heinselman and Ethan Smith could easily earn upsets over ranked opponents.

Notable Nebraska Wrestlers

157 Pounds: No. 2 Tyler Berger

Berger is Nebraska's top-ranked guy, and has wrestled a stellar campaign against what may be the deepest class in the Big Ten this season. The two-time All American has eight bonus-point wins in dual meets this season, and already has victories over Top 5 opponents Hayden Hidlay and Ryan Deakin.

The match is just the latest battle in Ke-Shawn Hayes' brutal gauntlet this season. After moving up to 157 pounds the junior has faced the toughest schedule of any man on the team: 10 of his last 12 matches have pitted him against Top 20 foes.

Hayes and Berger met earlier this season at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, a decision Berger won 6-3. The Buckeye has the talent to manage the upset which would be his first win over a Top 5 opponent this year.

184 Pounds: No. 4 Taylor Venz

All four upper-weight battles Sunday feature ranked vs. ranked combatants, and 184 is the marquee match of the night. Myles Martin is the undisputed No. 1 man in the class, and Taylor Venz would like to be the first man this season to put a dent in the former NCAA champion's armor.

History isn't in his favor.

The two wrestlers have met twice, both times at the Cliff Keen: Martin won via tech fall in the 2017 tourney, and via an 11-5 decision in the most recent edition. According to WrestleStat, Martin is 30-3 against common opponents, while Nebraska's redshirt sophomore is just 23-12.

Martin put on a takedown clinic in a 20-7 major decision at Purdue to start the weekend, and it seems likely that he'll take a similar approach Sunday in his final home match as a Buckeye.

165 Pounds: No. 6 Isaiah White

Ohio State started the season with a number of questions about its roster, from the decision to burn Malik Heinselman's redshirt through to Campbell's move up to 174. Redshirt freshman Ethan Smith ultimately won that job, however, and the starting spot at 165 is the last position on the roster with any lingering uncertainty.

When it was clear that Smith was the better option at 174, Campbell dropped back down to 165 to face an embattled Kaleb Romero. While classmates Smith and Singletary have struggled against the top wrestlers in their weight, both men have earned spots in the Top 20 nationally and have won far more bouts than they've lost.

Romero on the other hand is just two wins above .500 in his debut season, opening the door for Campbell to earn his old job back. He'll likely start Sunday given the Senior Day festivities, giving him another shot to even the score against a familiar foe.

Campbell and White have met three times previously: they split a pair of matches at the 2017 Cliff Keen, and White won the rubber match at the 2018 Big Ten tournament. All three outings were decisions in which the loser scored just a single point.

What To Expect

The Penn State dual was a reminder that how a meet sketches out "on paper" doesn't matter much, but Sunday's opponent isn't a dynasty riding into town on a 55-meet win streak. By rankings, Nebraska should be favored in five matches though WrestleStat gives Singletary the edge at heavyweight.

Heinselman seems like a strong contender to pull off an upset to start the afternoon off on a high note for the home team and the next three bouts should bring bonus points against overmatched opponents. It's reasonable to think Ohio State could have a double-digit lead after the first four matches.

Hayes has his work cut out for him at 157, but Friday night's win over Griffin Parriott should serve as a confidence booster. Campbell, likewise, faces an uphill battle, but he knows he can beat White – provided he can break his own tendencies and take some shots in the match.

As with 125, Ethan Smith feels primed to pull off an upset if he can leave a heartbreaking loss to Dylan Lydy in West Lafayette. His matches against Myles Amine and Mark Hall proved that he isn't afraid of the best in the business and fellow redshirt freshman Mikey Labriola isn't the caliber of wrestler he faced in either Amine or Hall.

From then on out, it should be all Ohio State, as Martin and Moore are simply better wrestlers than their opponents, and Chase Singletary has a very winnable match-up with a Top-10 foe.

Action starts at 2 p.m., and streams live via BTN Plus.

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