Wrestling in primetime on national television is becoming commonplace for Ohio State's wrestling program, as the Buckeyes wrestle in their second primetime dual of the month Friday night in Madison. The No. 4 Buckeyes square off against the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers in the UW Field House at 9 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.
8-2, 1-2 BIG TEN
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
9 P.M. – FRIDAY, JAN. 18
UW FIELD HOUSE
|BROADCAST: Big Ten Network|
The Badgers are feeling their oats after dumping then-No. 2 Nebraska 25-18 just five days past. Ohio State's last outing was a 22-13 drubbing of then-No. 24 Rutgers back home in the Covelli Center.
Both teams field a half-dozen ranked combatants and a rich history of outstanding wrestling tradition. Friday night's dual meet will be a battle from top to bottom.
Ohio State is one of just three teams in the country with a pair of top-ranked wrestlers, with Luke Pletcher (141 pounds) and Kollin Moore (197) both standing atop their respective weight classes. Wisconsin's Seth Gross is the top-ranked 133-pounder in the country, so true freshman Jordan Decatur will have his work cut out for him in just his second week as a starter for the Buckeyes.
Decatur and Rocky Jordan will both be men to watch in their first road duals at new weights; Decatur after taking off his redshirt, and Jordan after bumping up from 174 to challenge Gavin Hoffman for the starting spot.
Another spot to watch for Ohio State is 157, where Quinn Kinner is listed for the first time as a possible starter alongside incumbent Elijah Cleary. Kinner has been all over the scale this season, starting as a would-be 141-pounder before Luke Pletcher decided he wanted to move up, then trying to cut down to 133 and realizing it was too deep a cut to sustain.
He'll now take a run at injecting some life into a middleweight spot that has been one of three clear holes in the lineup for Tom Ryan all season long. There are no good options at 125, where Malik Heinselman simply needs to regain his confidence and wrestle to his talent; but at 157 Kinner could be the answer to heretofore lackluster results, as could Jordan at 184.
The Wisconsin Badgers
Head Coach: Chris Bono
|125||Malik Heinselman (9-9, So.)||Eric Barnett (8-3, Fr.)|
Jordan Decatur (9-2, Fr.) -OR-
Dylan Koontz (8-8, r-So.)
Kyle Burwick (8-2, Fr.) -OR-
Dom Dentino (2-6, r-Fr.) -OR-
No. 1 Seth Gross (17-1, r-Fr.)
|141||No. 1 Luke Pletcher (16-0, Sr.)||No. 4 Tristan Moran (14-2, r-Sr.)|
|149||No. 6 Sammy Sasso (14-2, r-Fr.)||No. 13 Cole Martin (10-5, r-Sr.)|
Elijah Cleary (11-7, r-Jr.) -OR-
Quinn Kinner (5-4, r-Fr.)
Garrett Model (7-9, r-So.) -OR-
Drew Scharenbrock (17-7, r-Fr.)
|165||No. 13 Ethan Smith (12-7, r-So.)||No. 4 Evan Wick (17-2, r-Jr.)|
|174||No. 9 Kaleb Romero (11-2, r-So.)||
Tyler Dow (7-9, r-Fr.) -OR-
Jared Krattiger (6-10, r-Fr.)
|184||Rocky Jordan (20-4, r-Fr.)||No. 13 Johnny Sebastian (7-3, r-Sr.)|
|197||No. 1 Kollin Moore (16-0, r-Sr.)||
Peter Christensen (6-5, Fr.) -OR-
Taylor Watkins (4-12, r-Sr.)
|HWT||Gary Traub (16-2, r-Jr.)||No. 5 Trent Hillger (15-3, r-So.)|
Wisconsin comes into Friday night's dual 8-2 on the season, with both losses to Big Ten foes. Although the Badgers are loaded with talent, they've already faced prohibitive NCAA-title favorite Iowa, and dropped a tight meet against Minnesota in Minneapolis a week ago.
Since taking the helm in Madison after the 2018 NCAA tournament, Bono has brought a new sense of excitement to the program. In his first season as head coach, Wisconsin went 9-6 in dual meets, picking up conference wins against Nebraska on the road and versus Illinois at home.
His team qualified six wrestlers for the NCAA Championships last March, and coached his first two All-Americans at Wisconsin as sophomore Evan Wick took fourth place at 165 pounds and freshman Trent Hillger finished in eighth place at heavyweight.
Perhaps as importantly, he's shown serious recruiting chops, bringing two-time All-American and former NCAA Champion Seth Gross with him from South Dakota State. Bono (and Gross) turned the Jackrabbits into serious contenders in the Big 12 over the six years prior to his moving to Madison.
133 pounds: No. 20 Jordan Decatur vs. No. 1 Seth Gross
Jordan Decatur had a wild first week as a starter, weighing in three times in his first week with a win at the F&M Open tournament and splitting a pair of decisions in dual meets vs. Arizona State and Rutgers. Cutting three times in a week showcased the challenge the one-hour weigh-in presents for Decatur, who is one of the denser 133-pounders in the class.
Upsetting an NCAA Champion like Gross is a tall task. The bigger question isn't if Decatur can steal a win, but how he looks against the toughest competition he'll face all season. He was gassed late in last Friday's meet vs. Rutgers, but he should come into this match fresh and with another week of nutrition and conditioning to take some of the sting out of the cut.
If he holds his own against Gross, his potential to make the podium in March is clearly there.
141 pounds: No. 1 Luke Pletcher vs. No. 4 Tristan Moran
NCAA.com called this "the matchup of the dual." Pletcher is the undisputed No.1 in the class ever since knocking off then-No. 1 Dom Demas back at the Michigan State Open, and he's handled every guy he's faced since with relative ease.
Moran, meanwhile, earned Big Ten Wrestler of the Week honors last week after beating No. 3 Mitch McKee of Minnesota in a 7-6 decision and No. 9 Chad Red, 9-4.
Tristan Moran of @BadgerWrestling earns #B1G Wrestler of the Week honors after earning a pair of ranked victories, including a win over a top-3 opponent, in Wisconsins duals against Minnesota and Nebraska. #B1GWrestle— Big Ten Wrestling (@B1GWrestling) January 14, 2020
FOR MORE: https://t.co/trTGctcW4t pic.twitter.com/3rBRzSN4Bl
Against seven top-25 opponents this season, Pletcher has outscored the competition by a combined score of 103-41. In other words, he’s just a quarter-point per win shy of averaging a major decision vs nationally-ranked wrestlers.
He is hitting bonus in better than 62 percent of his matches, with a pair of pins, a pair of tech falls, and a half-dozen major decisions to his credit. This match should be straight fire.
GAR-EE, GAR-EE, GAR-EE
Heavyweight Gary Traub was the media darling of the week, with outlets across the country catching the Gas Tank Gary Fever. The Buckeye Big is 16-2 on the season, but has yet to crack the Top 25 despite his stellar record.
Part of that is because he's come up short against the toughest competition, dropping close decisions to Pitt's Demetrius Thomas and Arizona State's Tanner Hall. The fan-favorite has another shot to earn some national love as he stares down No. 5 Trent Hillger.
Hillger finished on the podium at the NCAA tournament a year ago, but has dropped decisions to No. 1 Gable Steveson, No. 2 Tony Cassioppi and No. 4 Matt Stencel already this season. If Traub can get his offense going, his irrepressible attitude and drive to win could be enough to win the match, and potentially the meet (depending on where action starts).
Ohio State comes to Madison on a three-meet win streak versus Wisconsin, and holding a 6-2 record against the Badgers since Tom Ryan came to Columbus in 2006. Overall, the Badgers own a 29-22-1 advantage in the all-time series which started in 1925.
This is a meet they think they can win against the Buckeyes.
On paper, this match comes down a lot like the Arizona State dual did: with both teams winning five matches, and bonus points – or even criteria – making the difference. That makes it critical for Ohio State's wrestlers to be smart, holding Wisconsin's best guys to decisions instead of majors, or to focus on getting majors or techs themselves instead of settling for decisions.
That happened against the Sun Devils, giving the Buckeyes their best win of the season.
Action from Madison gets underway at 9 p.m., live on the Big Ten Network.