Photo courtesy of the Ohio State Athletic Department
Ohio State wrestling coach Tom Ryan and his team learned a lot about themselves this past weekend.
After a road trip where the Buckeyes (7-2, 1-2) suffered back-to-back losses against Nebraska and Minnesota, Ryan said he feels that his team got a taste of what it’s like to wrestle away from home in the Big Ten.
“We learned about the intensity that is required to win matches,” Ryan said. “We learned about the excitement in Big Ten wrestling.”
But rather than dwelling on the first two setbacks of the season, Ryan said he sees it as a teachable moment.
“I mean, at each weight class, you know, it was an opportunity to learn and get better, whether it’s single-leg defense, single-leg finishes, overall conditioning, (or) the mentality needed of constantly attacking your opponent,” he said.
Still, that doesn’t mean Ryan is pleased with how his team wrestled this weekend
“Across the board, in every weight class, I think I graded the team in each match, and we had one ‘A’ among the 20 matches that were wrestled. Most of them were ‘C’s’ and ‘D’s’ — it wasn’t a great weekend for us,” Ryan said. “We saw some people get exposed in areas that we didn’t think were an issue.”
OSU will have a chance to rebound from its back-to-back losses against a Purdue team (6-5, 1-1 Big Ten) that has struggled as of late.
The test against the Boilermakers, who lost their last duel to Illinois, 24-9, could offer an opportunity for a young OSU team with seven freshman starters to demonstrate their ability to handle adversity for the first time this season.
Ryan said there are a couple of ways to do that.
“You always keep it real with them,” he said. “You really try to paint a picture for them of what it’s going to be really like being a Big Ten wrestler going from a high school program to a Big Ten-caliber program.”
Like Nebraska, Minnesota and much of the conference, Purdue, as a whole, will have more experience, top to bottom, than OSU has to offer.
Ryan touched on the matter concerning Johnni Dijulius, a freshman, who lost to Minnesota’s Zach Sanders, the nation’s top-ranked wrestler in the 125-pound weight class.
“He felt a fifth-year senior, bigger and stronger (with) more years of experience, a pace of wrestling that he’s never experienced,” Ryan said.
Part of it, Ryan said, is getting the young guys to understand the difference in competition in the Big Ten versus what they might have seen at the high school level.
“It’s clearly the best conference in the country, and many people with the credentials that our guys have come to the Big Ten,” Ryan said, “so every school’s loaded with these guys so now you’re competing against somebody at your caliber.”
It’s pretty simple what OSU must do to be successful against Purdue, though, Ryan said.
“We just got to get back on the attacking,” he said. “You know, the bottom line is wrestling our match, our style of wrestling, making sure these guys are trying to score points all the time. Make your opponent work in every position, whether you’re cutting him or you’re on top or bottom, whatever it is, make him work and build your lead, you know, attack more than your opponent.”
Like this past weekend, OSU will face Purdue without redshirt junior C.J. Magrum, the 11th-ranked 184-pound wrestler in the country.
Meanwhile, freshman Craig Thomas, who weighs 165 pounds, has filled the 184-pound starting spot the last two matches.
“Whether we’re wrestling Iowa or Purdue or Oklahoma State, you simplify how you win wrestling matches and that is usually the guy that’s willing to give more,” Ryan said. “So, we got to be the guy that’s willing to give more, we didn’t wrestle that way this weekend in every weight class.”
OSU wrestlers were not available for comment.
OSU has won the past four meetings against Purdue, outscoring them 126 to 28.
They’ll look to make it five in a row Thursday at 7 p.m. at home against Purdue at St. John Arena.