Ohio State's starters went 12-5 overall in the first two rounds of the Big Ten Wrestling Championships in Minneapolis, placing five into Saturday night's semifinals. The team's heavy hitters recorded five major decisions, two pins and a tech fall in the early action.
Led by No. 1 seed Myles Martin, who raced out to a 25-10 blistering of Purdue's Max Lyon in the 184-pound quarterfinals, the trio of senior captains held serve, as did juniors Kollin Moore and Luke Pletcher.
Pletcher upended 4th-seeded Roman Bravo-Young of Penn State in one of the more exciting matches of the quarters, and what may be his best win of the year so far.
On the wrong side of the ledger, Malik Heinselman and Ke-Shawn Hayes dropped to the consolation brackets in the opening round, with Hayes giving up a heart-breaking late-match fall to John Van Brill of Rutgers while leading 4-2.
Te'Shan Campbell, Ethan Smith and Chase Singletary joined them after quarterfinal disappointments, as all three dropped decisions to higher-seeded opponents. All five will wrestle again Saturday night toward the placement matches and to earn automatic bids to the NCAA Championships later this month in Pittsburgh. In each case, if the Buckeye wrestles to seed, he'll snag the automatic bid.
What Went Right
The five big names from last year's star-studded squad looked every bit title contenders in their opening matches. Pletcher was the only man to post a match without bonus points attached, and fans are perfectly happy to cheer the 8-5 revenge decision over RBY.
After Bravo-Young capitalized on a reshot to lead 2-1, Pletcher really turned on the offense. Starting the second period from bottom, he escaped and then used his brute strength to lift RBY and drive him into the mat for the takedown; Ohio State threw the challenge brick and after review officials agreed that Pletcher put Bravo-Young on his back for a 4-point move.
Pletcher would work much the same move in the third period, outmuscling the younger wrestler with a lift and dump to go up 8-4. Bravo-Young would escape to add a fifth and final point to his tally, but it wasn't near enough to catch Pletcher.
With that decision and a first-round major over Paul Konrath of Indiana, Pletcher scored 20 points in two matches. To put that into perspective, his cumulative total output in calendar year 2019 was 42 points in 9 dual-meet matches. When he opens up his offense, there are few men in the class strong enough to unhorse him.
Joey McKenna was perhaps even more impression continuing his ridiculous streak of not giving up a single point in a Big Ten tournament match. He needed just :35 to pin Alec McKenna (no relation) of Northwestern, and then won an 8-0 major decision over Minnesota's Mitch McKee.
Check it out in slow mo pic.twitter.com/GLY5d7TRsU— Ohio State Wrestling (@wrestlingbucks) March 9, 2019
In six career matches at the Big Ten Championships, Joey McKenna has yet to surrender a single point. He has a combined score of 31-0 with two pins across those half-dozen matches dating back to last year's tournament... in which he won the 141-pound title, of course.
Micah Jordan picked up his 27th career pin in the 149-pound quarterfinals, thwomping Shayne Oster of Northwestern just :92 into the bout. He opened the tournament with a 17-6 major over Alfred Bannister of Maryland.
Kollin Moore looked impressive in the first matches of his 197-pound title defense, scoring major decisions of 12-3 and 12-4 over Matt Correnti (Rutgers) and Dylan Anderson (Minnesota), respectively.
The Road Ahead
Saturday night's semifinals are packed with big-time matches for each of the five men still in the championship brackets:
- No. 10 Luke Pletcher vs. No. 1 Stevan Micic (Michigan)
- No. 3 Joey McKenna vs. No. 2 Nick Lee (Penn St.)
- No. 2 Micah Jordan vs. No. 13 Brady Berge (Penn St.)
- No. 1 Myles Martin vs. No. 8 Emery Parker (Illinois)
- No. 2 Kollin Moore vs. No. 5 Jacob Warner (Iowa)
The team race may well be decided at this point, as Penn State holds an 18-point lead over host Minnesota (the Gophers have a half-point edge over the Buckeyes). The Nittany Lions placed an incredible eight wrestlers into the semifinals, compared with five each for the Buckeyes, Golden Gophers and Michigan Wolverines.
If McKenna and Jordan take care of business that changes the dynamics slightly, but this tournament started as Penn State's to lose, and aside from Pletcher's defeat over Bravo-Young, everything else went according to plan for Cael Sanderson's league of assassins.
Action gets back underway with the wrestlebacks at 7 p.m. and the semifinal round starting at roughly 8:30. As with the afternoon session, the tournament will stream live via BTN Plus and FloWrestling.
Updated brackets are available here.
(Note that rankings are FloWrestling rankings, not tournament seeds.)
125 lbs - Malik Heinselman
- Round 1: No. 20 Dustin Schroder (Purdue) def. Heinselman, MD 13-5
- WB1: bye
133 lbs - No. 10 Luke Pletcher
- Round 1: Pletcher def. Paul Konrath (Indiana), MD 12-4
- Quarterfinals: Pletcher def. No. 9 Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State), D 8-5
141 lbs - No. 3 Joey McKenna
- Round 1: McKenna def. Alec McKenna (Northwestern), PIN 0:35
- Quarterfinals: McKenna def. No. 9 Mitch McKee (Minnesota), MD 8-0
149 lbs - No. 2 Micah Jordan
- Round 1: Jordan def. Alfred Bannister (Maryland), MD 16-6
- Quarterfinals: Jordan def. Shayne Oster (Northwestern), PIN 1:32
157 lbs - No. 8 Ke-Shawn Hayes
- Round 1: No. 17 John Van Brill (Rutgers) def. Hayes, PIN 6:41
- WB1: bye
165 lbs - Te’Shan Campbell
- Round 1: Campbell def. Tyler Morland (Northwestern), D 4-1
- Quarterfinals: No. 2 Alex Marinelli (Iowa) def. Campbell, D 6-2
174 lbs - No. 14 Ethan Smith
- Round 1: Smith def. Carver James (Illinois), D 5-2
- Quarterfinals: No. 12 Dylan Lydy (Purdue) def. Smith, D 5-1
184 lbs - No. 1 Myles Martin
- Round 1: bye
- Quarterfinals: Martin def. Lyon (Purdue), TF 25-10
197 lbs - No. 2 Kollin Moore
- Round 1: Moore def. Matt Correnti (Rutgers), MD 12-3
- Quarterfinals: Moore def. Dylan Anderson (Minnesota), MD 12-4
285 lbs - No. 11 Chase Singletary
- Round 1: Singletary def. Fletcher Miller (Indiana), D 4-0
- Quarterfinals: No. 6 Trent Hilger (Wisconsin), D 3-1