Preview: No. 2 Ohio State at No. 7 Cornell in Regular Season Finale

By Andy Vance on February 22, 2019 at 12:45 pm
No. 1 vs. No. 3: It's Happening

It all comes down to this.

One last battle in the dual-meet season, and for four seniors one last dual meet as Buckeyes. The Buckeyes close the 2018-2019 campaign on the road against the top-ranked mid-major in the country, and their sixth Top-10 opponent of the season.

13-2, 5-0 Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Assoc.

6:30 P.M. – FRIDAY, FEB. 22


Fifteen ranked wrestlers will weigh in tonight in Ithaca, and the primetime battle should be highlighted by three Top-10 tilts. The non-conference clash will air live on ESPN+.

Ohio State’s four-man senior class of Te’Shan Campbell, Micah Jordan, Myles Martin and Joey McKenna were recognized last Sunday versus Nebraska for Senior Day 2019, going 3-1 in a big win over Big Red. Over their careers, the quartet has accumulated an impressive set of stats:

  • Seven All-America honors
  • 380-78 (.830) career record
  • 282-56 (.834) record as Buckeyes
  • 239 bonus-point wins (63% of career wins)
    • 92 major decisions, 79 tech falls, 68 pins
  • 75-20 (.789) Big Ten dual mark

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

Myles Martin, the 2016 NCAA Champion at 174 pounds, is one of just 13 undefeated wrestlers in Division I (minimum of 10 matches) heading into the final weekend of the regular season. He is 16-0 with seven wins over top-20 opponents.

Additionally, after recording a pair of victories over opponents ranked among the Top 12 at 197 pounds last weekend, Kollin Moore was named Big Ten Wrestler of the Week.

The Cornell Big Red

Head Coach: Rob Koll

Probable Matchups
125 Malik Heinselman (21-6, Fr.) No. 8 Vito Arujau (21-1, Fr.)
133 No. 6 Luke Pletcher (20-3, Jr.) No. 11 Chas Tucker (22-4, Jr.)
141 No. 3 Joey McKenna (16-1, Sr.) No 1 Yianni Diakomihalis (19-0, So.)
149 No. 3 Micah Jordan (21-1, r-Sr.) Jonathan Furnas (17-7, Sr.)
-OR- Will Koll (6-3, Sr.)
157 No. 8 Ke-Shawn Hayes (17-7 r-Jr.) Adam Santoro (14-8, Jr.)
165 Te'Shan Campbell (9-4, Sr.) Andrew Berreyesa (14-7, Fr.)
174 No. 17 Ethan Smith (14-8, r-Fr.) No. 14 Brandon Womack (17-6, Jr.)
184 No. 1 Myles Martin (16-0, Sr.) No. 6 Max Dean (17-4, So.)
197 No. 2 Kollin Moore (15-1, r-Jr.) No. 8 Ben Honis (16-2, Sr.)
HWT No. 11 Chase Singletary (17-5, r-Fr.) No. 18 Jeramy Sweany (11-5, Sr.)

Nestled among the Finger Lakes of New York, Ithaca is the quintessential college town. The city itself boasts a few more than 30,000 residents. Cornell University's student body top 20,000.

Cornell is an interesting beast as an academic institution: it is one of just 10 private Land-Grant Universities, and the only Land-Grant in the Ivy League. Like Ohio State, because of its Land-Grant mission, it is the home of New York's Cooperative Extension Service.

As a wrestling program, Cornell is one of the best in the sport. Rob Koll has led the team to eight top-five finishes in the NCAA Division I wrestling tournament over his 22 years at the helm, including second-place finishes in 2010 and 2011 – the best ever for an Ivy League team.

Cornell has won the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association championship 25 times, including 11 consecutive titles between 2007 and 2017. They are the No. 1 Mid-Major program in the country this season, and No. 9 overall in the NWCA Coaches Poll.

Ohio State and the Big Red have a long history, with the Buckeyes hosting Cornell for the teams' first meeting back in 1929 – a 15-13 win for Ohio State. Cornell owns a slim 7-6-1 advantage in the all-time series.

Although their meetings have been sparse over the 90 years since that first dual (there was a complete drought from 1933-97), the series has been rekindled 10 times over the past two decades. Friday's dual marks the first of a home-and-home with Cornell, according to Buckeye head coach Tom Ryan.

Cornell's current roster includes six Top-20 wrestlers, headlined by defending NCAA champion Yianni Diakomihalis at 141 pounds. His match versus No. 3 Joey McKenna is the marquee matchup on the schedule.

Notable Matches

141 pounds: No. 3 Joey McKenna vs. No. 1 Yianni Diakomihalis

Yianni D burst onto the scene as a true freshman, riding a 37-1 record all the way to an NCAA title in Cleveland last March. He became the second rookie in Cornell history to win a title, joining four-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake.

Twenty-six of his 37 victories last season came with bonus points, including nine pins and eight tech falls. 

In his impressive title run, Diakomihalis topped two-time defending national champion Dean Heil of Oklahoma State, avenged his only loss of the year by upending Missouri's Jaydin Eierman, and knocked off top seed and reigning national runner-up Bryce Meredith of Wyoming as the No. 3 seed in the tournament.

He did not, it should be said, face Joey McKenna who fell to Meredith in a 1-0 semifinal decision. Friday night's bout with Diakomihalis has the feel of an NCAA finals preview, with McKenna sitting at No. 3 and holding just one loss on the year.

McKenna has outscored his opposition by a combined score of 163-40 this season, not counting his two wins by pin. On the other side of the ledger, he has surrendered only three takedowns and a single reversal.

When asked to scout the competition, McKenna and Ryan agreed that the Buckeye shoots and finishes at a higher rate than Diakomihalis, and they feel that will be the difference in the match.

184 pounds: No. 1 Myles Martin vs. No. 6 Max Dean

This season the 184-pound class has been Myles Martin and then everyone else. One of only 13 undefeated wrestlers in D1, the 2016 NCAA champ has gone wire-to-wire at the top of the class, and will enter the postseason as the presumed top seed at both the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

Dean is no slouch, however. After an All-America finish as a freshman, Dean followed a 32-6 season with a 17-4 record through the penultimate dual of the year. This will be the second meeting of the two upper weights this season, as Martin recorded a 17-7 major decision over Dean at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational early in the season.

197 pounds: No. 2 Kollin Moore vs. No. 8 Ben Honis

Ben Honis' career hasn't been as distinguished as Kollin Moore's, but he appears to be wrestling his best season as a senior. A two-time NCAA qualifier, his only two losses this year were against Noah Adams of West Virginia... and then to Kollin Moore at the Cliff Keen in a 7-2 decision.

Buckeye Breakdown

On paper, this meet should be a solid outing in which Cornell will win a few matches, but the Buckeyes simply have more, better talent. On paper the Big Red have the advantage at 125, 174... and 141.

Savvy fans will recognize 141 as a toss-up, and 174 as an upset that young Ethan Smith can use to improve his postseason seeding.

A week ago the same could have been said, perhaps, about 133: that Cornell could look to steal a match there against Luke Pletcher. Pletcher completely opened up his offense against Nebraska, however, and acknowledged Thursday that he had been in a slump over the first six weeks of 2019.

He appears to have put that behind him, and will look to make it definitive with a big win over a Top-15 guy.

Both 149 and 157 are sure wins for Ohio State, and Te'Shan Campbell should pick up his 10th win of the season over a true freshman at 165. Tom Ryan said Thursday that Campbell will be the 165-pound starter for the final month of the season owing to his experience in the postseason, and to the fact that NCAA Tournament will happen in Pittsburgh, the senior's hometown.

Ohio State's upper weights should all hold serve, and the Buckeyes ultimately win at least six matches, and perhaps as many as eight or nine. analyst Shannon Scovel calls it 21-9 Ohio State, not counting bonus points, and that feels like a reasonable outcome.

On the other hand, WrestleState's algorithms don't like the Buckeyes much in this matchup, handing the home team victories at six weights, including upsets at 133 and 197.

That seems a bit far-fetched, but in either event action gets underway Friday night at 6:30 on ESPN+.

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