The Ohio State wrestling team is set for its final home match before the Big Ten Championships, meaning the final regular season home match for three-time national champion Logan Stieber.
“It’s going to be exciting. It’s crazy how fast it goes,” Stieber said. “It probably won’t hit me on an emotional level during the match, but might creep up a few days after, when you start to realize that’s it’s over.”
The Buckeyes have won seven straight matches and will look to use that momentum when it hosts third-ranked Minnesota at the Schottenstein Center on Friday.
No. 4 OSU (11-3, 7-1) was a favorite to win the Big Ten at the beginning of the year, and despite suffering numerous injuries, it still sits just one match behind No. 1 Iowa.
The Buckeyes are set to honor the senior class before the dual, including Stieber.
The redshirt-senior (141-pound weight class) is 18-0 and 108-3 in his OSU career and will be wrestling for the final time inside the Schottenstein Center. Stieber said he is hoping to go out with an impressive performance against fourth-ranked Nick Dardanes.
“It’s going to be a tough match. Every time I face one of the Dardanes brothers, they’re really tough and hard to wrestle,” Stieber said. “I need to be on top of my game to get the outcome I want. It should be a good match.”
Along with Stieber, redshirt-senior Josh Demas (157), who went to high school at nearby Westerville North, is also ready to compete at a venue he is familiar with.
“It’s exciting being back at the Schott,” Demas said. “I’ve always done really well there, so I feel like I have a slight advantage in a familiar place that most of us (in high school) made a name for ourselves in the state tournament.”
As for his top-ranked opponent, Dylan Ness, Demas said he knows enough about the senior to know what it will take to win.
“I’m excited for the match, He’s a great wrestler. We used to wrestle together in high school and are still really good friends,” Demas said. “It’s going to be a contrast of styles, but I’m ready for anything.”
The Gophers (10-1, 6-1) will bring some of the top-ranked grapplers in the country to Columbus, including seven ranked wrestlers, five of which are in the top 10.
OSU coach Tom Ryan said his team knows just how crucial each match will be.
“Minnesota is one of those teams in which you better have your big boy pants on when you wrestle them,” Ryan said. “They should bring out the best in our guys as competitors, it’s going to be a great dual. There will be a lot of excitement as it’s in the Schott — that will be headlined with some really big matchups.”
The “premiere” match of the night, as Ryan put it, will be at 197 pounds between OSU freshman and third-ranked Kyle Snyder and Minnesota’s Scott Schiller, who is ranked sixth in the country.
Redshirt-freshman Nathan Tomasello (125) is hoping for a strong showing to send the seniors out on a good note.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Bo Jordan said. “I can’t imagine being in the Schott, I feel like we will get an awesome atmosphere … Hopefully we will tear it up on Minnesota for the seniors.”
Going up against a team like Minnesota could be the extra motivation the Buckeyes need heading into the post-season, Demas said.
“It would be a huge win for this program if we could beat Minnesota. We are on a roll right now, and a win against them would prove that we are a top contender for a Big Ten and national title,” Demas said.
Former Ohio State football player and current Houston Texan John Simon will be an honorary coach for the dual.
Seniors Demas, Derek Garcia, Ray Gordon, Randy Languis, Stieber, and redshirt-juniors Drew Stone, Craig Thomas, Kyle Visconti and Kosta Karageorge, will be honored before the match begins at 7 p.m.
Karageorge will be honored posthumously after he died in late November.