Ohio State came out swinging and won running away, dispatching a second ranked, undefeated opponent in as many meets. The No. 5 Buckeyes defeated the No. 24 Scarlet Knights of Rutgers, 22-13, in the first Big Ten meet of Ohio State's dual-meet season.
Led by top-ranked senior captains Luke Pletcher and Kollin Moore, the home team won six of 10 matches, including four with bonus points attached. The meet was out of hand when local legend “Gas Tank Gary” Traub channeled his inner pre-NWO Hulk Hogan and defeated Rutgers heavyweight Matthew Correnti in the second sudden victory period.
Ohio State led 22-6, and late heroics by the Scarlet Knights' pair of top-15 lightweights were too little, too late.
The Buckeyes improve to 5-1 on the season and 1-0 in Big Ten action.
Off to the Races
Ohio State got off to a fast start, led by Pletcher at 141 pounds. It can't be said often enough: since moving up a class for his senior season, Pletcher has been the very best version of himself.
He piled up takedowns aplenty en route to another bonus-point decision, a 12-4 major and remains the No. 1 man in the country.
He's fast... pic.twitter.com/Z5bNV3oeou— Ohio State Wrestling (@wrestlingbucks) January 11, 2020
No. 6 Sammy Sasso and No. 13 Ethan Smith followed suit, each posting major decisions at 149 and 165, respectively. The momentum was only momentarily slowed when Elijah Cleary dropped a low-scoring decision to Michael Van Brill at 157.
No. 9 Kaleb Romero put the Buckeyes back on track with a dominant win over another ranked opponent at 174. His improvement from year over year is one of the big stories of the year for this team; he's wrestling with confidence and wrestling a full seven minutes.
Big Men, Big Wins
After the break, Kollin Moore did Kollin Moore things, wrestling another major decision over a ranked opponent.
Heavyweight wonder Traub wrestled the match of the night, epitomizing what Tom Ryan and his staff are asking of their wrestlers: focused effort through the final whistle. Traub was locked in a 2-2 tie at the end of regulation and, true to form this season, refused to go down without a fight.
It took the second sudden-victory period to get it done, but the effort was rewarded not only with the win, but with a crowd reaction that nearly blew the roof off the Covelli Center.
Just how loud was it, you ask? Pretty loud...
This. Place. https://t.co/FJHOHv3Oqk— Ohio State Wrestling (@wrestlingbucks) January 11, 2020
Traub went full "Feed Zeke" mode coming off the mat and flexed all the way back to the locker room. He improved to 16-2 on the season and remains No. 1 in the hearts of Buckeye wrestling fans everywhere.
It's abundantly clear that fans love Traub - the "GAR-EE, GAR-EE, GAR-EE" chants started tonight before he even came out of the tunnel, but one FloWrestling analyst said it's even bigger than that:
Gary Traub is the most beloved heavyweight in the nation— The Wrestling Nomad (@wrestlingnomad) January 11, 2020
Ohio State came into the meet feeling like they could win all 10 matches. Ryan and staff know they have talented wrestlers at every position, but continue to push to get all 10 guys giving the type of consistent, focused effort Traub showed in his win in extra innings.
In addition to Cleary's loss the Buckeyes dropped decisions at 184 and 133, and a major decision at 125. Malik Heinselman looks to be wrestling with the least confidence he's shown since arriving in Columbus, and Rocky Jordan made a tactical error in the waning seconds of the match that gave Rutgers another win.
At 133, Jordan Decatur wrestled in his second home match since taking off the redshirt, and dropped his first loss since moving down from 141. Facing a fellow true freshman who will rocket into the top 10 of next week's rankings after a huge weekend at the Southern Scuffle, Decatur looked like he was running on empty after wrestling six matches in seven days, including a pair of dual-meet bouts against ranked foes.
Ryan said after the match that Decatur was sick late in the week and the staff considered wrestling Dylan Koontz in his stead, but respected Decatur's desire to compete.
The young Buck is not the only member of the team struggling with his nutrition and conditioning in the early weeks after the holiday break and facing the one-hour weigh-in. Although Sasso earned a major decision in his match, the bout could have easily been a tech fall had he had the gas to press harder in the final period.
|141||No.1 Luke Pletcher, major decision over JoJo Aragona (12-4)||4||0|
|149||No. 6 Sammy Sasso, major decision over Gerard Angelo (16-7)||8||0|
|157||Michael Van Brill, decision over Elijah Cleary (5-3)||8||3|
|165||No. 13 Ethan Smith, major decision over Brett Donner (13-4)||12||3|
|174||No. 9 Kaleb Romero, decision over No. 19 Joe Grello (9-2)||15||3|
|184||Billy Janzer, decision over Rocky Jordan (5-4)||15||6|
|197||No. 1 Kollin Moore, major decision over No. 17 Jordan Pagano||19||6|
|HWT||Gary Traub, decision over Matthew Correnti (4-2, SV-2)||22||6|
|125||No. 14 Nicholas Aguilar, major decision over Malik Heinselman (14-1)||22||10|
|133||No. 11 Sammy Alvarez, decision over Jordan Decatur (5-1)||22||13|
Ryan said after the match that 157, like 184, remains unsettled. While the upper weight is a clear battle between Jordan and the incumbent Gavin Hoffman, 157 is a different beast entirely.
Quinn Kinner came back from break weighing somewhere in the low 160's after declaring he wanted to take another shot at cracking the lineup. Recruited as a potential 141/149, Kinner took a run at 133 after it was clear Luke Pletcher would wrestle 141 for his last rodeo.
The staff is giving Kinner time to settle in at his new weight before forcing a wrestle-off between the two.
But what about Ke-Shawn Hayes? I asked Ryan specifically about the Ohio State graduate, and he said Hayes is very much still in the mix. Coming off an injury, it's been some time since the veteran Hayes has wrestled in competition, and it's coming down to the time he's going to have to fish or cut bait.
When asked what it would take to see Hayes called up out of the bullpen, Ryan said he needed to see a consistent effort in practice so he could be confident Hayes was truly ready to take the mat against a Big Ten opponent.
Next Up: Ohio State hits the road next Friday, heading to Madison to face the Wisconsin Badgers. Wisconsin is ranked No. 8 in the country with a record of 8-1 and the match will air live on the Big Ten Network.
The Buckeyes will return to Covelli Center on Sunday, Jan. 19, to host Illinois in a meet streamed on BTN Plus.