Ohio State welcomed top-ranked Penn State into a sold-out Covelli Center on Friday with an upset in mind.
However, the dual between the No. 5 Buckeyes and No. 1 Nittany Lions ended with the same result as many of the program's past matchups: With Penn State on top.
Ohio State won only two of its 10 matches in Columbus – a pin by Malik Heinselman in the opening bout at 125 pounds and a 6-3 decision by All-American Sammy Sasso at 149 pounds. Several other Buckeyes, though not able to claim victory, performed admirably.
Here's a recap of those matches:
Heinselman, the No. 10 wrestler at 125 pounds, started the dual with a bang for Ohio State as the senior wrestler pinned Gary Steen after 1:56 of action in the first period. The pin quickly put six team points on the board for the Buckeyes and allowed them to take an early 6-0 lead. Before his pin, Heinselman also added a takedown and a four-point nearfall.
125 |— Ohio State Wrestling (@wrestlingbucks) February 4, 2023
MALIK WITH THE FALL AT 1:56 #GoBucks pic.twitter.com/LgJvISEYn5
Jesse Mendez, the co-Big Ten Wrestler of the Week heading into the dual and No. 9 wrestler at 133 pounds, had one of the toughest assignments for an Ohio State wrestler on Friday as he battled top-ranked Roman Bravo-Young on the mat.
The Crown Point, Indiana, native battled hard through the first two periods against Bravo-Young and trailed by three points, 4-1, headed into the third. That's when Penn State's two-time NCAA champion took over and overcame Mendez with an escape, takedown and riding time point to claim his 47th consecutive victory and cut Ohio State's lead to 6-3.
At 141 pounds, No. 19 Dylan D’Emilio – one of the hottest wrestlers in the NCAA heading into the match – faced No. 5 Beau Bartlett in the center circle. He looked poised to stay hot with another victory, but Bartlett had other plans, and the Penn State grappler squeaked out a 3-2 decision over D'Emilio after seven minutes of action.
Bartlett took the match's first points with a takedown in the opening period. D'Emilio cut that lead in half with an escape to start the second. In the final frame, Bartlett extended his lead to 3-1 before he was dinged for a stall. All D'Emilio needed was a takedown in the final moments to tie the bout, but Bartlett fended him off well to beat D'Emilio 4-2 with an additional riding time point.
At 149 pounds, No. 3 Sammy Sasso battled No. 13 Shayne Van Ness in the center circle. Sasso, who is notorious for close finishes against ranked opponents, allowed Van Ness to secure a takedown midway through the opening period. However, Sasso entered “Savage Mode” from that point forward, securing two escapes and two takedowns on his way to a 6-3 decision.
With the win, Sasso claimed his 19th victory of the year and continued his dominant stretch as of late. He also put three points on the board for Ohio State and gave his team a 9-6 lead over Penn State after four matches.
No. 3 Sasso holds it down at 149 #GoBucks pic.twitter.com/69w7obltP6— Ohio State Wrestling (@wrestlingbucks) February 4, 2023
The final match of the first half was between No. 25 Paddy Gallagher and No. 9 Levi Haines at 157 pounds. Haines took control of the bout early against Gallagher and led 6-2 midway through the second period by virtue of three takedowns.
In the third frame, things got ugly for Gallagher, who let Haines put on a takedown clinic in the final minutes. The Penn State wrestler would cruise to a 14-2 major decision that put four points on the board and allowed the Nittany Lions to enter the break with a 10-9 lead.
Carson Kharchla, the No. 12 wrestler at 165 pounds, battled No. 8 Alex Facundo in the first match after intermission. A back-and-forth battle between the wrestlers, both Kharchla and Facundo took shots in the first two periods, but only Facundo scored as he earned an escape and a point from Kharchla using an illegal move.
In the third, Kharchla escaped to start the period and cut Facundo's lead to 2-1. He continued his offense from that point forward but was unsuccessful in his attempts to earn points. Even more, Kharchla's final takedown effort left him vulnerable, and Facundo capitalized with a takedown of his own to come away with a 4-1 decision over Kharchla.
At 174 pounds, No. 7 Ethan Smith faced No. 1 Carter Starocci, who had not allowed a takedown yet this year. A clear underdog in his home arena, Smith performed well in his bout with the top-ranked Penn State wrestler.
In an active first period, Starocci secured two takedowns on Smith, but the Buckeye answered with two escapes. At the start of the second, Smith claimed his third escape to cut his deficit to 4-3. He continued to battle in the third and trailed by only two points, 7-5, midway through the period. However, Starocci took control from that point forward and dominated the rest of the way to an 11-5 decision.
Starocci's victory extended Penn State's lead to 16-9 over Ohio State.
In the eighth match of the night, No. 5 Kaleb Romero met Penn State's third and final No. 1 wrestler in Aaron Brooks. Like Smith before him, Romero performed well against his top-ranked opponent but lost a narrow 3-2 decision.
Near the end of the first period, with the match tied at 0-0, Romero required injury time after his finger slammed into the mat during a takedown attempt. After a brief meeting with the team's trainers, he returned to the mat.
Brooks scored the bout's first points at the start of the second period with an escape, and at the beginning of the third, Romero tied the match up at one with an escape of his own. As the clock winded down, Brooks viciously took down Romero near the edge of the mat to take a 3-1 lead. A Romero escape with 23 seconds remaining made things interesting, but any hope for a Romero takedown evaporated as Brooks danced around the circle until the clock hit triple zeroes.
Ohio State assistant coach J Jaggers tossed the Buckeyes’ brick with 13 seconds left for the referees to review a potentially illegal move from Brooks, which would have awarded Romero a point to tie the match, but the challenge was unsuccessful. Romero dropped the 3-2 decision, allowing Penn State to take complete control of the dual with a 19-9 lead.
With two matches left, No. 17 Gavin Hoffman took on No. 4 Max Dean at 197 pounds. The wrestlers were scoreless for almost the entire opening period until Dean turned the tide with a last-second takedown to take a 2-0 lead after the first. In the second, Dean closed the door on Hoffman, pulling off his patented bow-and-arrow maneuver to perfection and pinning Hoffman to give Penn State another six team points to lead 25-9.
The dual was closed out at heavyweight between No. 18 Tate Orndorff and No. 2 Greg Kerkvliet. In a match that was dominated from start to finish by Kerkvliet, Orndorff stood no match for the Penn State wrestler.
Near the start of the first, Kerkvliet took down Orndorff and didn't let the Buckeye back up for air. That was the story of the match, as Kerkvliet went back to that well frequently in the seven-minute bout, compiling 2:44 of riding time in a 9-0 major decision to give the match its 29-9 final in favor of the Nittany Lions.
The Buckeyes will look to get back on track when they travel to Evanston, Illinois, to face No. 15 Northwestern at 3 p.m. Sunday. The match will be streamed live on BTN+ with live updates provided by Ohio State's Twitter account (@wrestlingbucks).