Wrestling: No. 10 Ohio State Wins 7 of 10 Matches To Open the Season with a 23-12 Victory Over No. 12 North Carolina

By Andy Vance on November 7, 2021 at 4:24 pm
Tom Ryan

Ohio State opened its dual-meet season with a bang, sweeping the first six matches of the afternoon and winning seven of 10 overall for a 23-12 win over the North Carolina Tarheels. The Buckeyes looked crisp in their first outing, wrestling well on the mat after an offseason focused on getting better on top and bottom.

Starting the night at 165 pounds, fans got their first real taste of life with Carson Kharchla in the lineup. The blue chip recruit from Olentangy Liberty High School was sidelined last season due to an ACL tear prior to the season; the redshirt sophomore said last week he wasn't sure if this was "Year 3 or Year 1," but wrestled like a savvy veteran regardless.

He showed why the Buckeye staff was so eager to get the local star on the roster right off the opening whistle, scoring the first 15 seconds of the period and never looking back.

That first takedown was followed by three more; with the riding time bonus Kharchla's first dual-meet match in Covelli was a 10-2 major decision.

"I thought I did well controlling myself in the atmosphere and being able to zone out and focus on my wrestling," Kharchla said after the match. "My biggest thing is I just want to wrestle, action and moves... I don't want people to be bored watching my matches."

Ethan "Grundy" Smith moved up to 174 this season, and opened his campaign against a ranked opponent in No. 22 Gavin Kane. Kane was a gamer and the match was fireworks early, but ultimately Smith was too much for Kane to handle in a 16-10 decision.

Head coach Tom Ryan praised both Kharchla and Smith for their intensity throughout the match.

"I liked Carson scoring late and Ethan going for points late," Ryan said. "I liked the matches that cause stress and struggle because you know in quarter- and semi-final matches you're going to face stress and struggle."

Rocky Jordan would add a close decision over a ranked opponent to extend Ohio State's lead in the match, and Gavin Hoffman went off at 197 for a 14-3 major decision.

Hoffman was named Ohio State's outstanding wrestler of the match for his efforts; it was a nice way to start the season for a guy who was as highly touted as anyone on Ohio State's roster as a recruit, but who has had an up and down career as a Buckeye over the past two seasons. 

"His opponent was a counterattack person; he was looking to cut corners and slide behind our shots," Ryan explained. "So what I like that what Gavin did was that he created his own...and figured out ways to finish."

Heavyweight Tate Orndorff won a 2-0 decision prior to intermission to complete Ohio State's sweep of the first five matches. There was little in the way of offense in the match, but Orndorff rode his opponent for the entire third period to secure the victory.

"The secret sauce is being able to take yourself no opponent is going to take you to," Ryan said of the effort, praising Orndorff for not only his technical work on top but for knowing that he had to have the rideout to neutralize any risk of a late score giving his opponent the win.

After the break, three-year starter Malik Heinselman took care of business against a "tough little stud," as Ryan described Spencer Moore. Ohio State swept the first six matches of the bout, effectively putting the meet out of reach for the Tarheels.

Dylan Koontz held No. 13 Jaime Hernandez to a one-takedown advantage at 133, but couldn't get the late takedown to tie things up. It gave the visitors their first points of the night.

Jordan Decatur, wrestling at 141 pounds for the first time, looked like he had the late-match energy he was so sorely missing the last two seasons at 133. Unfortunately he didn't bring the aggression on offense that he needed to stand up to a wrestler like No. 14 Kizhan Clarke. Ryan said the true junior needs to find the belief that it takes aggression to win big matches, and the only way to do that is on the mat every week in practice.

"He needs to understand the deep value in practicing at an elite level," Ryan said. "It's all about belief systems and closing the gap between belief and reality. Aggression develops faster than passivity, but he's got to believe."

At 149 pounds No. 1 Sammy Sasso had the biggest match of the night, facing No. 5 Zach Sherman. Sherman gave the Pennsylvania hammer all he could handle, although both his points came from technical violations rather than any offense of his own.

Sasso was dinged once for an illegal cutback and then locked hands, bringing the match much closer than fans might have liked. The returning NCAA runner-up held on down the stretch for the victory, giving the Buckeyes their final win of the afternoon.

In the meet's final match, Jashon Hubbard faced No. 2 Austin O'Connor, Sasso's opponent from last season's NCAA championship bout. Hubbard came out shooting, scoring the first takedown of the night and bringing the Covelli crowd to their feet.

Unfortunately things went sideways for Hubbard in the second period; O'Connor hit a quick reversal and put Hubbard on his back, getting the fall at 3:43. Even so, Ohio State's head coach was quick with his praise for Hubbard.

"We got a glimpse out of Hubbard; that first shot was beautifully well-timed," Ryan said. "He's big at 157, so he's got to get more comfortable at the weight."

Asked if he and his staff would consider burning Paddy Gallagher's redshirt to start him at 157, Ryan reiterated the confidence he and the staff have in Hubbard, and explained that they would wait as long as necessary before making the final decision on Gallagher this season.

"If he can help us fight for a championship, then we might put him in second semester," Ryan explained. "If we're not good enough to do that, we're not going to put him in."

Knowing the elite talent Ohio State has on tap in the next two recruiting classes, a redshirt season for Gallagher may be the best long-term option for the Buckeyes.

Match Results: Ohio State 23, North Carolina 12
Wt Results OSU UNC
165 No. 10 Carson Kharchla, major decision over Sonny Santiago (10-2) 4 0
174 No. 6 Ethan Smith, decision over No. 22 Gavin Kane (16-10) 7 0
184 No. 17 Rocky Jordan, decision over No. 17 Clay Lautt (4-1) 10 0
197 Gavin Hoffman, major decision over Mark Chaid (14-3) 14 0
HWT No. 7 Tate Orndorff, decision over No. 33 Brandon Whitman (2-0) 17 0
125 No. 15 Malik Heinselman, decision over Spencer Moore (6-2) 20 0
133 No. 13 Jaime Hernandez, decision over Dyan Koontz (5-3) 20 3
141 No. 14 Kizhan Clarke, decision over Jordan Decatur (3-1, SV-1) 20 6
149 No. 1 Sammy Sasso, decision over No. 5 Zach Sherman (4-3) 23 6
157 No. 2 Austin O'Connor, victory by FALL over Jashon Hubbard (3:43) 23 12

Up Next: Ohio State travels to Tiffin University next weekend for the Ohio Intercollegiate Open tournament. The Buckeyes travel to Blacksburg, Va., on Friday, Nov. 19 to face Virginia Tech in the team's first road dual of the season.

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