There will be a new No. 1 at 141 pounds Monday.
After wrestling one of the toughest schedules in the country this year, No. 1 Luke Pletcher came up short in his toughest match to date, falling to No. 2 Nick Lee in Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center Saturday night. The match would end up being a harbinger of things to come for the Buckeyes, as the Nittany Lions won their fifth dual in a row against Ohio State, 20-16.
Pletcher took command of the match early, looking as crisp and aggressive in the first period as he has all season. Lee, as is often the case with Penn State wrestlers, never backed off and pushed ahead after scoring takedowns in each of the final two periods and riding Pletcher out.
Each team would win five matches on the night, but three bonus-point wins in a row from 165-184 gave the defending national champions too much of a cushion for Kollin Moore and Gary Traub to overcome.
Gas Tank Gary had the biggest win of the night, as he showcased the third-period heroics on which his legend is built against a much larger and much-higher ranked Seth Nevills.
Traub is not only a fan favorite, but now he has the signature win that has thus far eluded him despite having won a truckload of bouts this year. His win over Nevills pushes him to 20-6 on the season, and No. 1 in the hearts of Buckeye fans everywhere.
Malik Heinselman and Quinn Kinner took care of business in "must-win" matches, much to their credit. Heinselman faced an opponent who was one match better than .500, and wrestled smart and finished his shots. Kinner came out against NCAA qualifier Brady Berge, and even though he looked to be giving up a little mass, finished strong with a third-period takedown for the victory.
Heinselman and Kinner may have secured their spots in the postseason with their wins. Head coach Tom Ryan said earlier in the week that how they wrestled at Penn State would play a huge role in deciding who gets the nod in Piscataway next month at the Big Ten tourney. Both men will wrestle – as will Dylan Koontz and Elijah Cleary – at the John Carroll Open Sunday to give the staff one last set of data points as they decide their final starters.
Sammy Sasso again needed sudden victory to win, but as a wise man once said, "A win is a win in The Ten." Sasso should come into the Big Ten tournament as the top seed after finishing the regular season 21-2, and riding plenty of momentum.
Moore likewise won his match as expected, putting a major decision on Shakur Rasheed. Rasheed has been banged up this season, but he held Moore to the major, sealing the dual for Penn State. Moore is the only Buckeye to finish the regular season undefeated, and he will be the top seed in the tournament at 197.
Penn State packed the Bryce Jordan Center for their biggest home dual of the season, with 15,995 on hand. According to wrestling announcer and podcaster Jason Bryant, it was the 5th-largest crowd for a dual meet in NCAA history, and the 3rd-largest indoor crowd (all three of the top indoor crowds happening in the BJC).
|125||Malik Heinselman, decision over Brandon Meredith (5-3)||3||0|
|133||No. 4 Roman Bravo-Young, decision over Jordan Decatur (10-4)||3||3|
|141||No. 2 Nick Lee, decision over No. 1 Luke Pletcher (8-4)||3||6|
|149||No. 1 Sammy Sasso, decision over No. 17 Jarod Verkleeren (3-1, SV-1)||6||6|
|157||Quinn Kinner, decision over Brady Berge (4-3)||9||6|
|165||No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph, major decision over No. 14 Ethan Smith (13-5)||9||10|
|174||No. 2 Mark Hall, victory by FALL over No. 7 Kaleb Romero (0:46)||9||16|
|184||No. 7 Aaron Brooks, major decision over No. 12 Rocky Jordan (15-4)||9||20|
|197||No. 1 Kollin Moore, major decision over No. 18 Shakur Rasheed (14-6)||13||20|
|HWT||No. 23 Gary Traub, decision over No. 13 Seth Nevills (5-4)||16||20|
Jordan Decatur did his job at 133, holding likely NCAA finalist Roman Bravo-Young to a decision. Ethan Smith, Kaleb Romero and Rocky Jordan, on the other hand, ate a pair of majors and a fall in Penn State's sweep starting at 165; five bonus points, in other words, in a meet decided by four points.
The biggest story of the night, undoubtedly, was Lee's win over Pletcher. It's a match that could be replayed twice more over the next five weeks, presuming they're seeded 1 and 2 in both postseason tournaments.
Ohio State's regular season now finished, those tournaments are the only focus for the team moving forward. Iowa appears to be a lock for the NCAA title, and Penn State looks like a solid bet for second place, but the Buckeyes have every expectation of bringing home yet another team trophy... not to mention hopes of seeing at least three men wrestling on the last day of the season.
The Big Ten Tournament is March 7-8 at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J., while the NCAA Wrestling Championships take place March 19-21 from U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.