Friends, wrestling is back.
The Buckeye wrestling program kicks off its 100th season – and its first season in the new Covelli Center – with a home dual versus the reigning Pac-12 champion Stanford Cardinal. Sunday's meeting is the first in history between the schools.
0-0, 0-0 Pac-12
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
7:00 P.M. – SUNDAY, NOV. 10
According to a preseason study by FloWrestling, Ohio State has the toughest non-conference schedule of any team in the Big Ten, and one of the 10 toughest slates in the country. Stanford isn't a ranked team by the latest NWCA Coaches Poll, though the Cardinal did show up in the "others receiving votes" category in this week's release, and bring five individually-ranked combatants to Columbus.
Ohio State fields eight ranked wrestlers in the lineup, including two of the top-ranked men in the country, Luke Pletcher (141 pounds) and Kollin Moore (197 pounds). Pletcher made a splash last weekend in East Lansing, upending then-No. 1 Dom Demas of Oklahoma in the tournament's championship bout.
“Luke looks really good at 141,” Ohio State head coach Tom Ryan said. “We saw him this summer at U23s…he looked really good at 143, so we felt pretty confident that he’d wrestle well there.”
Pletcher's decision to move up a class for his senior season opened up an interesting opportunity for redshirt freshman Quinn Kinner, who made his debut at Michigan State wrestling at 133 pounds.
"He decided to go down to 133 [after] he lost his wrestle-off at 141 to Luke," Ryan said. "He did a great job; he was disciplined, making the weight and had a ton of energy. At Michigan State he had six matches and to cut that kind of weight and have that kind of energy was a good sign."
Kinner's strong showing means the Buckeyes have the option of giving true freshman Jordan Decatur a year to mature rather than burning his redshirt this season.
"The NCAA rules are tough. We’re trying to get some leniency; we want to get the same thing football has where you can put them in four times," Ryan explained. "So, the thinking was let’s not wrestle Decatur in the starting lineup yet, because we don’t know what’s going to happen yet."
Since Kinner already redshirted, he's a logical fit at 133 and can move back up to 141 next season with Decatur in at 133. Ryan said Decatur would have wrestled at the Michigan State Open as an unattached entrant, but didn’t because of an injury.
One true freshman who had a great weekend in East Lansing was Carson Kharchla. The Olentangy Liberty graduate won the 165-pound bracket as an unattached wrestler, but won't see the starting lineup at Ohio State this season if things go according to plan.
"Carson had a great weekend," Ryan said. "We knew how good he was coming in; he’s lived up to that, from the timeless principles standpoint. He lives clean, he trains hard, but we’re still going to keep him in a redshirt."
Ethan Smith took third in the same bracket Kharchla won, but Ryan said he's still the starter at 165 moving forward.
"Ethan had a disappointing first match; didn’t feel great, his first time down to weight at 165, so that cut was a little challenge for him," Ryan said. "He didn’t wrestle well in the first but came back and took third. We’re happy with the way he came back, so he’ll be at ’65 and Carson will be a redshirt."
The Stanford Cardinal
Head Coach: Jason Borrelli
Borrelli has been the head coach at Stanford nearly as long as Tom Ryan has been calling the shots in Columbus. He enters his 12th season as Stanford's head wrestling coach as the winningest coach in Cardinal history, with 106 dual-meet victories.
|125||No. 21 Malik Heinselman (3-3, So.)||
Jackson DiSario (3-1, Fr.), -OR-
No. 14 Gabriel Townsell (0-0, Sr.)
|133||No. 20 Quinn Kinner (4-2, r-Fr.)||Brandon Kier (5-1, Sr.)|
|141||No. 1 Luke Pletcher (5-0, Sr.)||No. 15 Real Woods (4-0, r-Fr.)|
|149||No. 5 Sammy Sasso (5-0, r-Fr.)||No. 19 Requir van der Merwe (3-1, r-Jr.)|
|157||Elijah Cleary (1-2, r-Jr.)||Tyler Eischens (3-1, r-Fr.)|
|165||No. 12 Ethan Smith (5-1, r-So.)||No. 8 Shane Griffith (4-0, r-Fr.)|
|174||No. 21 Kaleb Romero (5-0, r-So.)||
Jared Hill (0-0, r-Jr.) -OR-
Foster Karmon (3-1, r-So.)
Gavin Hoffman (1-2, r-Fr.) -OR-
Zach Steiner (0-0, r-So.)
Nick Addison (0-0, Fr.) -OR-
Colbey Harlan (0-0, So.)
|197||No. 1 Kollin Moore (5-0, r-Sr.)||No. 12 Nathan Traxler (3-0, r-Jr.)|
No. 9 Chase Singletary (0-0, r-So.) -OR-
Gary Traub (5-1, r-Jr.)
|David Showunmi (5-1, r-Sr.)|
Over the past 11 years, Borrelli has coached 26 different wrestlers to the NCAA Championships a total of 52 times. In 2016-17, Stanford set a program record with nine NCAA qualifiers.
Borrelli’s wrestlers have garnered a total of 10 All-America honors and 18 individual Pac-12 championships. Borrelli led the Cardinal to the program's first Pac-12 Championship in 2019 and was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year.
Stanford opened the season last weekend in South Carolina, with three wrestlers winning titles at the Battle at The Citadel tournament.
Redshirt freshmen Real Woods (141) and Shane Griffith (165) made their collegiate debuts with tournament victories. Redshirt junior Nathan Traxler placed first at 197 pounds. Redshirt junior Requir van der Merwe and redshirt sophomore Foster Karmon were runners-up at 149 and 174 pounds, respectively.
As many as five matches could feature ranked vs. ranked wrestlers.
Kollin Moore and Luke Pletcher should hold serve as top-ranked seniors facing younger wrestlers ranked in the mid-teens. Pletcher's match versus No. 15 Real Woods will be another good workout for the Buckeye, as Woods defeated No. 15 Sa'Derian Perry of Old Dominion last weekend in the finals at the Citadel with a 2-1 decision.
What will be more telling for Ohio State's prospects as a team this season is how well Ethan Smith and Malik Heinselman perform against ranked wrestlers. Heinselman had a disappointing weekend in East Lansing, and often looks as though he really could have used a redshirt season.
Smith should do well at 165 if he can manage the cut, and No. 8 Shane Griffith will be a strong test. Griffith, looked sharp at The Citadel, though Smith is the first ranked wrestler he's faced this season.
It is a new era of Ohio State wrestling. This is the youngest team Tom Ryan has fielded in several seasons, and the program has the opportunity to flourish in its new home with bar none the best facilities in the country.
The expectations are always high for Ohio State athletics, but this is the first year in a couple where the opening line isn't "national title or bust." Even so, the Buckeyes have the horses to compete with 99% of the teams in the country this season, and should have the building blocks to make a strong showing in March.
Pletcher and Moore are clear title contenders, and the way Sammy Sasso wrestled last weekend, he seems likely to be wrestling on the last day of the season, too. Sunday night should be a fun look at how Ohio State's other "young Bucks" acclimate themselves in new weights, and in making their first starts.
Questions abound at 125, 157 and 184, and while those won't be answered definitively versus Stanford, fans should watch those weights closely for some indication of progress and potential.
Action from the Covelli Center kicks off at 7 p.m., and streams live via BTN+.