Ohio State came to Pittsburgh with three wrestlers seeded No. 2 in their respective weight class. The seeding committee got it right, as all three finished as runners-up to the NCAA Champion.
Joey McKenna, Micah Jordan and Kollin Moore wrestled fantastic tournaments for the Buckeyes, advancing farther than any of their teammates, including four-time All American Myles Martin who finished the tournament in 3rd Place at 184 pounds. All three finalists are now three-time All Americans.
When he left sunny winters in Palo Alto for the colder confines of Columbus two seasons ago, McKenna did so because he one a big goal in mind: winning an NCAA Championship. The four-time conference champion and three-time All American fell short of that goal Saturday night inside Pittsburgh's PPG Paints Arena before a crowd of 18,950 fans.
He faced defending national champion Yianni Diakomihalis of Cornell, who won the 141-pound crown a year ago in Cleveland as a true freshman. Diakomihalis won a 7-5 decision in the final event of the dual-meet season, and he followed suit in his second match against Ohio State's senior captain.
McKenna appeared to have the edge early, scoring the first takedown of the match. After trading escape points the score was 3-1 in McKenna's favor at the start of the final period. In the final seconds of the period a wild scramble ended up with a takedown in Diakomihalis' favor and an escape to McKenna, leaving the score a 4-4 tie at the end of regulation.
Ohio State threw the challenge brick, arguing that Diakomihalis did not have control. After review the call on the mat was confirmed. Professional MMA fighter and four-time All American Lance Palmer summarized how Buckeye fans viewed the call:
McKenna just got hosed.— Lance Palmer (@LancePalmer) March 24, 2019
Diakomihalis came up on the right end of a scramble in Sudden Victory, winning his second title and leaving fans of both wrestlers to hope they'll meet often in freestyle competition in the years to come.
|Rd of 32||No. 2 Joey McKenna, victory by TECH FALL over Grant Willits (Oregon State), 20-5||2.5|
|Rd of 16||No. 2 Joey McKenna, major decision over Kaid Brock (Oklahoma State), 14-1||2.0|
|No. 2 Joey McKenna, major decision over Mitch McKee (Minnesota), 11-1||2.0|
|SEMIFINAL||No. 2 Joey McKenna, decision over Nick Lee (Penn State), 4-3||1.0|
|FINAL||No. 1 Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell), decision over No. 2 Joey McKenna, SV-1 6-4||12.0 (2nd Place)|
A match later, Micah Jordan faced familiar Big Ten foe Anthony Ashnault of Rutgers. The Scarlet Knight held a 2-0 record over The Mongoose going into the match, and he came up big in the final installment of the trilogy.
Jordan got the first point of the night when Ashnault was penalized for hands to the face, and that was the last time he would lead in the match. Ashnault scored the first takedown of the match early in the second period after Jordan opted to start in the neutral position, and he rode Jordan for the duration, taking a 2-1 lead and 1:43 of riding time into the third.
Feeling the need for a takedown, Jordan went optional start to open the third, ceding the escape point and giving Ashnault the 3-1 advantage.
It looked like a smart decision for a moment, as he scored a quick takedown to tie things up, but Ashnault would respond with a 4-point move to put the match out of reach for The Mongoose. As with McKenna, Jordan caps his career as a three-time All America placer.
|Rd of 32||No. 2 Micah Jordan, victory by FALL over No. 31 Shayne Oster (Northwestern), 3:37||3.0|
|Rd of 16||No. 2 Micah Jordan, major decision over No. 15 Max Thomsen (Northern Iowa), 17-4||2.0|
|No. 2 Micah Jordan, decision over No. 10 Pat Lugo (Iowa), 10-3||1.0|
|SEMIFINAL||No. 2 Micah Jordan, decision over No. 6 Austin O`Connor (North Carolina), 7-4||1.0|
|FINAL||No. 1 Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers), decision over No. 2 Micah Jordan 9-4||12.0 (2nd Place)|
In the final bout of the night, Kollin Moore faced his Big Ten nemesis, No. 1 seed Bo Nickal, the two-time NCAA Champion at 184 pounds from Penn State. Nickal won each of the first two meetings, the dual meet in Columbus and at the Big Ten Championships in Minneapolis earlier this month.
The third time wasn't the charm for Moore, but he wrestled arguably his best match of the trilogy, keeping the score tight into the final frame. He looked as though he had a solid shot to score, but Nickal shrugged off the takedown and answered with one of his own in short time to put the match out of reach, and to secure his third and final NCAA title.
Moore will be one of two returning All Americans on a young Ohio State roster next season, as McKenna, Jordan and Martin will graduate and move on to the next phase of their careers. Martin said earlier Saturday that he would continue to train at the Ohio Regional Training Center, so he will be an ongoing training partner for Moore as he enters his senior campaign this fall.
|Rd of 32||No. 2 Kollin Moore, major decision over Brett Perry (Buffalo), 12-3||2.0|
|Rd of 16||No. 2 Kollin Moore, major decision over Jake Woodley (Oklahoma), 14-4||2.0|
|No. 2 Kollin Moore, decision over Tom Sleigh (Virginia Tech), 17-11||1.0|
|SEMIFINAL||No. 2 Kollin Moore, major decision over Preston Weigel (Oklahoma State), 12-4||2.0|
|FINAL||No. 1 Bo Nickal (Penn State), decision over No. 2 Kollin Moore, 5-1||12.0 (2nd Place)|
Ohio State may not have achieved its most lofty goal, but when half the roster finishes on the All America podium and three stand as national runner-up, it's hard to call the season anything short of a success.