As the Ohio State wrestling regular season winds down, the competition continues to ramp up.
The No. 4 Buckeyes are set to take on the the No. 21 Purdue Boilermakers in their last meet at St. John Arena on Friday before heading to Piscataway, N.J., on Sunday for a match with Big Ten newcomer and 22nd-ranked Rutgers.
OSU (9-3, 5-1) is on a season-high five-meet winning streak, despite dealing with multiple injuries to key wrestlers.
Sixth-ranked 149-pounder Hunter Stieber (1-2), is listed as day-to-day with a left elbow injury. Stieber, a redshirt-junior, missed a majority of the year with a right elbow injury before returning against Penn State, where he injured the opposite arm in a win. Coach Tom Ryan said he has not ruled Stieber out for the remainder of the season, though.
“He will be back. We don’t know when, but when he is ready to get back out there, he will be in the lineup,” Ryan said. “All focus is getting him in good enough condition and healed up enough to compete.”
Redshirt-sophomore Nick Tavanello (285) is also day-to-day with a knee injury that he, too, suffered against Penn State. Ryan is hopeful that he can return in the season finale against No. 2 Minnesota on Feb. 6.
Ninth-ranked Josh Demas (157), a redshirt-senior, is questionable to return for Friday’s meet because of a concussion, and junior Mark Martin (174) is probable as he recovers from a lower leg injury.
The Buckeyes who will be on the mat this weekend will be led by redshirt-senior Logan Stieber. Logan is currently ranked No. 1 at 141 pounds and will be competing in his final dual meet at St. John Arena for OSU.
The three-time defending national champion has had a storied career, including a 17-0 record this season and a 107-3 overall campaign. His .973 winning percentage is the highest recorded in school history. Last weekend, Stieber added two more pins to his name and said he wants to put on a show for what will be an emotional night.
“It’s going to be sad wrestling my final dual meet in St. John Arena,” Stieber said. “It’s been a long and fun journey.”
Freshman Kyle Snyder (197) said he wants to go out and wrestle well for the seniors.
“It should be exciting, especially for Logan being his last (dual) match as a Buckeye at St. John Arena,” Snyder said. “It should be pretty awesome to watch.”
Snyder is currently ranked fourth in the country, leads the team in major decisions with 11 and said he isn’t afraid of the potential tough opponents ahead.
“Purdue is a good team with a few individuals who are wrestling pretty well right now, that should be a good dual,” he said.
“I could have a kid that’s a top-15 in the country, which will be good for me, as well as Rutgers, who has a guy in the top 20. If they wrestle those guys, I’ll be ready.”
Last season, the Buckeyes found themselves in a dogfight against the Boilermakers and ultimately pulled out a 16-15 win. Redshirt-junior Kenny Courts (184) said he believes the team’s camaraderie has helped it succeed in close matches and has been the difference so far this season.
“As a team, we are looking great,” Courts said. “I really like the environment and how much we have bonded and the hard work we have put in has paid off.”
Courts also said this season has more meaning to it than previous years did because the team has a shot at a national title.
“It’s more entertaining when you’re excited for the next person to wrestle, and coming into the match, that helps when you are not focused solely on yourself and everyone is excited for each match,” he said. “Everybody is tough on this team, and with the competitive nature we have in our workouts, it makes it that much easier to cheer on your teammates.”
Courts said seventh-ranked 125-pounder Nathan Tomasello, a redshirt-freshman, and the fire that he brings to each meet are crucial because he is the first to wrestle most nights.
“He goes out, and whether or not he is supposed to win the match or not, he always wrestles hard and that gives the team a confidence boost for the rest of the night,” Courts said.
OSU’s match against Purdue is set to begin at 7 p.m., with Sunday’s dual with Rutgers to begin at noon.