Cody Cousino / Multimedia editor
The march to a season with individual and team national title hopes starts Thursday for the No. 5 Ohio State wrestling team, as it travels to Davidson, N.C., for its first dual match of the season.
The Buckeyes, which have made appearances at the Eastern Michigan Open on Nov. 3, the UB Invitational in Buffalo on Nov. 4 and the Michigan State Open on Nov. 11, will put their national ranking to the test against the Wildcats.
And while OSU came in first place at the Buffalo Invitational, Buckeyes coach Tom Ryan said some early season inexperience is showing.
“Obviously it depends which weight class you are talking about, but overall there’s a lot of work to be done and it’s a good thing it’s November and not March,” Ryan said.
Some younger wrestlers, however, might be excited for the challenge.
Redshirt freshman Kenny Courts, winner of the freshman and sophomore division of the 184-pound weight class at the Michigan State Open, is ready for the trip.
“This is going to be a good experience, it’s good for growing,” Courts said. “By the end of the season I have a lot of experience and put it all together for a big tournament.”
Davidson is a team that has already won three dual matches against Spartanburg Methodist College, Belmont Abbey and Anderson University.
Philip Elias, a 125-pound sophomore, has one of Davidson’s best records this season, 5-2, and scored 5.5 team points for the Wildcats at the Wolfpack Open on Nov. 11.
Redshirt senior Nikko Triggas, who placed fifth in the 125-pound weight class at the Michigan State Open, will be taking on Elias in the meet.
“They are supposed to have a decent 125-pounder, so I’m not looking over anybody and just got to get prepared for the match,” Triggas said.
Another Davidson wrestler is 184-pound junior Scott Patrick, who currently holds a 9-1 record. He placed fifth and scored 18 total team points at the Wolfpack Open.
“Although Davidson doesn’t have the support we have from an athletic department standpoint, we know that the nice thing about wrestling is you can field three or four tough guys in a lineup of 10 people,” Ryan said. “So we are certainly not taking them lightly.”
Ryan said the Buckeyes’ goals are the same as any other match.
“We want to see guys wrestle hard, build leads, get out and score points from the bottom position, make sure we aren’t giving up any points from the riding position,” Ryan said.
Another challenge both teams will face is a weigh-in process one hour before the match to see if the wrestlers are eligible at their respective weight classes. Triggas said one-hour weigh-ins are much more difficult than tournament style.
“Tournament style there’s a two-hour weigh-in, you give your body a little more time to recover, you can cut weight a little bit easier,” Triggas said. “With a one-hour weigh-in, literally you step on the scale and (wrestle) one hour from then … your body is not ready at that point.”
Ryan said the team is going to leave Thursday morning and drive more than six hours to Davidson, N.C., in a bus that will allow them to lie down and relax. They will arrive at the campus at about 3:30 p.m. and compete at 7 p.m.
“It’ll be a challenging day for them in a lot of ways even before the competition. These guys are ready for it,” Ryan said. “Hopefully, for lack of a term, it’ll toughen them up a little bit.”
The Buckeyes will then travel to Blacksburg, Va., on Friday for a match with No. 12 Virginia Tech at 7 p.m., and finish the week with their home opener versus Pittsburgh Sunday at St. John Arena at 2 p.m.