For one final time, the wrestling mats will be rolled out on St. John Arena’s hardwood for redshirt-senior and returning Big Ten Champion Logan Stieber as he looks to lead the Buckeyes to their first Big Ten team title since 1951.
Stieber (21-0), who became Ohio State’s second three-time Big Ten Champion last year, is looking to continue his winning ways by earning his fourth title, coach Tom Ryan said.
“It’s fitting that his chance at it will be at home. Who could write a better story?” Ryan said.
No OSU wrestler has ever achieved four conference titles, and Ryan said Stieber is in a class by himself at 141 pounds, marked by his No. 1 seed for the conference championships.
“We all love storybook endings. That’s what we want for him as an individual and as someone who is leading this team,” Ryan said. “Hopefully we write this last chapter the way we all have envisioned it.”
Stieber and the Buckeyes are set to take to St. John Arena for the Big Ten Championships, scheduled to run Saturday and Sunday.
Even more important than the individual accolades, Stieber said he wants nothing more than for his team to share a championship.
“Anything can happen, but if we can perform to our seeds, we will have a chance to win the team title and that’s always the main goal,” he said.
“The Big Ten is a crazy tough conference, so to finish off four Big Ten Titles would be pretty great.”
The event itself — because there are 10 teams in the top 25 competing — is a gauntlet. And the tournament being in Columbus makes it even more special for Stieber and his teammates.
“The Big Ten Championship is a fun event: it’s really tough, but also really exciting,” Stieber said. “It’s a tough weekend, every round is a challenging match and is often a guy that’s in the top-10 and is an All-American caliber wrestler.”
Johnni DiJulius (23-4), the fourth-seed 133-pounder, said he can’t wait to finally see the full lineup that has been put into the making for quite some time, go out and compete at a high level.
“It’s exciting to get the full lineup back. We’ve battled injuries all year and it’s been rough at times, but that’s what the sport is,” the redshirt-junior said. “This is what we’ve prepared all year for and it’s exciting that we are ready to go at the right time.”
Redshirt-freshman Bo Jordan (16-0) also received a top seed for the tournament, but he said although it’s a nice gesture, a seed isn’t going to win him anything.
“It feels great being the No. 1 seed on paper, but it doesn’t mean much because I still have to go out and wrestle the matches,” Jordan said.
The Buckeyes (13-4, 8-1) are tied for second in the Big Ten. Their only conference defeat came against No. 2 Iowa.
After the loss to the Hawkeyes, OSU ran off nine straight dual-meet victories before being knocked out of the National Duals by Lehigh despite being favorites. Ryan said he believes that being the favorite can sometimes hurt them as a team and said his team is now in the pack chasing Iowa.
“Being on top sometimes isn’t the best place to be,” Ryan said. “We learn a lot more when we’re down and right now we are on our knees. Teammates felt like they let each other down at times. Now the question is, what do you need to do to correct it?”
The Buckeyes have lost close matches that they were expecting to win, but that hasn’t changed their mindset, Ryan said.
“I feel really good about ourselves,” Ryan said. “Nothing has changed except that we have four losses. We’ve been through a year of adversity, but now there is a sense of getting the job done.”
The Big Ten Tournament is set to begin Saturday at 10 a.m.