After what coach Tom Ryan called a “humbling” start to the season, the Ohio State wrestling team looks to change its fate as it faces off against Big Ten foe Michigan State on Sunday.
MSU comes into the dual boasting a 7-1 record with its only loss being to three-time defending national champion Iowa. But though the Buckeyes will enter the match with a discouraging 1-5 record, they have defeated the Spartans four of the last five matchups and expect to continue the trend this season.
“Win. It’s fairly simple,” said redshirt junior Zach Stolarsky of his expectations for the dual.
The Buckeyes are looking to gain momentum heading into the heart of the Big Ten schedule.
“We want to establish ourselves clearly as one of the top teams in the Big Ten,” Ryan said.
Some say the match could be close and come down to bonus points.
“There’s going to be some key matches, and then there’s going to be some mismatches where we should get bonus and maybe they should get bonus,” captain Ian Paddock said.
Bonus points are scored by wrestlers who earn a major decision, technical fall or pin fall in a match.
The dual will also have a lasting impact on the Buckeyes at the Big Ten tournament in March.
“It’s a Big Ten dual, so Big Ten seedings in place and can affect your spot in the bracket for the Big Ten tournament. So it’s an important match for us,” Ryan said.
The Buckeyes have lost three matches to No. 5 Penn State, No. 1 Cornell and unranked Northern Iowa. The team is looking inward to rebound from the recent defeats.
“It’s been a humbling year. We are coming off four Top 10 finishes in a row, and it’s a young team with a lot of injuries,” Ryan said. “We’re trying to make sure guys stay positive.”
The team met after its most recent defeats at the National Duals to discuss how to rebound from the losses.
“We talked and we said we have to come together as a team and have fun,” Paddock said.
The dual will also serve as military appreciation night, and the team will wear camouflage singlets with a red Block “O” on the left side and the word “courage” written in red on their backs.
Although the dual is listed as a home match, it will be held at West Holmes High School in Millersburg, Ohio — captain Colt Sponseller’s high school. The dual is sold out, and the team will be looking to feed off the environment.
“It’s going to be a real exciting crowd being sold out (at a) high school where one of our captains went,” Stolarsky said. “They’re going to bring the energy there, so we’re going to bring it too.”
Ryan said he also expects the crowd to play a key role in the match.
“It’s going to be a heck of a dual,” he said. “Hopefully the sellout crowd is the difference.”